Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The things that come and go

I'M a changed person. 

I say this because in the last seven months, my life has had an unexpected turn. Putting it into perspective, there are things that I have lost, but there are also things that I have gained.

To speak bluntly, I have now said goodbye--almost--to all the privileges of the lifestyle press. Meaning no more first dibs on movie premieres, perks from retail brands, shopping sprees without spending a dime, tickets to much-awaited productions and concerts, no more lunch or dinner at fancy restaurants, and no more familiarization trips to newly opened hotels and resorts.

Of course, I do miss those things but there's one I will really long for. It's the chance to meet interesting and inspiring people in the industry, whether fellow mediamen like myself, or those whose stories are worth writing and sharing.

This has been my life in the past six years but being able to leave the scene has opened up new horizons for me. Ones that I have only dreamed of in the past.

It is finally being able to embrace the outdoor, and explore volunteerism. All thanks to my wonderful group of outdoor enthusiasts, environmental activists, and outreach volunteers, Random Act of Kindness (RAK).

We climb as one, and help others as one.
I am smitten by these kind-hearted group of Filipinos so much so that I never get tired of writing about them, now, US. Because as we say it, "Sa RAK, may tayo (In RAK, there is us)."

Yet have you ever wondered how I got into this sweet disposition?

Let me begin by saying that I have desired long ago to join a group with a cause/advocacy but have never found the time and outlet to do so.

And then, there is my friend Tupe who has been "selling" RAK to me and all its good deeds for the mountains and its indigenous dwellers. In my mind, it may just be the one I am looking for. Unfortunately, my tight schedule as a lifestyle reporter never really opened up for any of RAK's "climb for a cause" from 2015 until latter half of 2016.

Finally, I was able to join my first climb with the group in August of 2016, a month after I moved from print to online media. It was at Mt. Manabu in Batangas, which we were not able to summit due to an emergency. And then in December of last year, I was able to climb with them again at Mt. Daraitan in Rizal. It was my first serious hike and I thought all my bones would break.

From there on, I told myself, the next time I'd climb, I'd be strong.

Our March climbs. 
Today, I believe I am not just strong but stronger. This month of March, RAK has gone on back-to-back training climbs at Mt. Cinco Picos in Zambales and at Mt. Damas in Tarlac. Both mountains have been true tests to both mind and body. But I have endured.

Because I am in the company of people whose love for the mountains and the indigenous peoples, our fellow Filipinos, is so real you want to emulate it too. Nakakahawa.

There is Sir Rick, na kahit lagi kong kaasaran, is, really, like a mentor to me. Of course, Tupe, walang hanggang pasasalamat sa iyo sa pagdala sa akin sa RAK. Our trio creates whatever you see in our "fun page." Do like and follow us in Facebook.

There is Alex, the ultimate bully, who is also the group's main source of laughter. Jan, the apprentice bully, who is just as annoyingly funny.

And then the women of RAK, my idols and role models. Ate Weng and Ate Elms who are mothers and social workers. Their energy and passion are unbelievable. I want to grow older just like them. 

My ates, Daiana and Kikay who always take care of me. My little sister Coleen, our Millennial na malayo sa maraming Millennial na umaakyat ng bundok. (You know what I mean.)

Our members from the Cordillera Autonomous Region, Kits, Billy, Briget and Levis. And everyone who I meet along the way and become friends with! 

Thank you RAK for giving me a new home and family. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

27: Just As It Is

IT'S kind of scary to be spending my 27th birthday without a job. Really, scary. 

Because since graduating from college in 2010, I have spent five birthdays as a lifestyle journalist, which is equivalent to six years in the media industry. Throughout that time, I have devoted everything that I am to the job I am most passionate about: Writing. 

So to be in semi-hiatus after all those time, I do get paranoid. Sometimes, I just can't shrug off that feeling of uncertainty. What's next for me? 

But then, I look back at the last three days just before January 19 and I realize that I am blessed with many people who care about me. I am not worried anymore. 

First and foremost, there is my former editors and colleagues at The Manila Times who are are more than just that. They are truly like family to me already. On a recent visit, I am humbled and kept grounded. I will always be privileged and proud to have the Philippines' oldest newspaper as my roots. 

There are also friends I have made along the way--be them editors and reporters, sales and advertising managers and public relations officers--who are just a chat or text away. They generously allow me to contribute stories for them, even kindly offer me to write a column for them! Some are helping me find a full-time gig too. 

And despite my temporary break, many still remember my special day and send greetings and gifts. 

Not to forget my closest, fellow lifestyle journalists who just don't fail in cheering me up.  I haven't seen them in more than a month but I'm sure we can just see each other and share stories over bottles of beer. I know soon, we will cross paths again. 

Talk about paths! Well, where ever life may take me from here on, I am sure of one thing. That I will continue to write with the same ethics and diligence that I always have. 

And life being just as it is, I allow me to enjoy the rest of my free time, and more importantly, utilize it to accomplish my other personal plans for 2017, the year I turn 27, and the year of blessings from the Almighty One. 


Monday, January 9, 2017

Finding Meaning in the Mountains - Part 2

There's this much-raved about arts and music festival happening soon in a much-visited mountain up in the Cordilleras.  

It would have easily caught my interest knowing the arts and music enthusiast and nature lover that I both am but instead, I saw it in a bad light. Because I believe that the featured mountain does not need any publicity at the moment, neither droves of people going up there all at once. What said mountain needs is to actually "heal" from all the negative impacts it has received since hiking started trending among Filipinos a few years back. (Although upon research, I discovered that festival in question is organized in partnership with a foundation that supports communities through sports, arts and music. So I do hope that a big part of the profit goes to the advocacy of this foundation. Organizers have yet to divulge details about this aspect.)

On another instance, I advised a cousin to make sure that the mountain tours she had been joining observe proper hiking manners, like not leaving garbage and being considerate of the communities. The most recent climb she joined had as much as 63 tourists. That's a lot of people. 

Awareness on these matters I have developed after recently joining Random Act of Kindness (RAK), a group of mountain-loving people from different backgrounds and professions. Lead by professional mountaineers, RAK imparts mountaineering courses and ethics. More importantly, it organizes climbs for a cause

RAK actually gives back to the locals and indigenous peoples residing in remote communities at the foot or sometimes, even deep in the mountains. 

Take for example our annual Give Light and Pasko Fiesta program that took place last December 17, 2016 at Sitio Manggahan in Barangay Daraitan at Tanay, Rizal. It provided eight solar lamps to eight Dumagat families from Purok Paydas which remains without access to electricity, a basic need, as well as donated toys, clothing, school supplies and food to hundreds of locals both young and old from the sitio

"Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness." -- Desmond Tutu
To know more about the successful community outreach, you can read the article I wrote for Business MirrorAlso in the story, Dumagat Chieftain Eufemia Enciso of Sitio Manggahan expressed her gratitude. 

Dumagat Chieftain Eufemia Enciso of Sitio Manggahan
"Nagpapasalamat ako at nagpatuloy pa rin ang Random Act Kindness sa pag-aabot ng mga donasyon, damit, pagkain, laruan para sa mga bata. At higit sa lahat, ang solar lamps dahil hanggang ngayon, wala pa rin kaming kuryente [I am grateful because RAK continued its donation of clothes, food and toys for the kids. Most important, the solar lamps,  because we still don’t have electricity]."

Hearing these words, I sincerely felt that I was finally in the right place and time doing the right thing. 

Now, time to see photos from the 2016 Give Light and Pasko Fiesta: 

Let there be light! Three of the eight Dumagat beneficiaries of the lamps made by SolarSolutions Inc., a solar enterprise that promotes use of sustainable and clean energy. 

Little girls of Sitio Manggahan show off their plush toys from Jollibee, which sponsored our outreach through its Maaga ang Pasko campaign.

And of course, young boys too! Besides toys, children of the sitio and the Dumagat kids of Purok Paydas were also gifted with clothes, school supplies and snacks. 
 His cuteness caught me. And he caught me in act!
Well, he likes me! :) Kilig! 

And here's us wishing all our donors and sponsors our gratitude for making our Give Light and Pasko Fiesta 2016 possible.