It was the seventh of May 2004 when I experienced the happiest day of my 16 years. Although maybe you won’t think it is happy once I told you. However, I don’t care what you think. What I care most is that I am able to share this experience of mine because I don’t like to keep it to myself.
I attended the Summer House Training, a.k.a. SHOUT, last May three to nine. We lived in one house in St. Michael Homes in Novaliches for the span of one week doing the chores ourselves, listening to the talks and workshops given to us. We also had activities outside with the SHOUT brothers such as the Amazing Race on Wednesday, Gawad Kalinga (GK) day on Friday, Lord’s Day on Saturday, and the Mass and Praisefest on Sunday. Among these activities, the GK day was the most special of them all.
Our group was in-charge of the housekeeping, so we had to be the last one to go out of the house and make sure that the rooms were clean and orderly. We rented a jeepney to transport all of us to the site. We had a ration of a 300ml-bottle of water, which they said should last for the whole day, but it turned out to be for only up until before lunch.
When we reached the place, its like from the artificial, I stepped in the real world. Just like other places, the unfortunate is near the fortunate ones. I saw their houses made of plywood and galvanized iron sheet or most commonly known as yero. Their roofs were being held into place by old tires and hollow blocks. We were yet to arrive in the site itself. I later learned that that area is still under negotiation.
We were oriented about Gawad Kalinga Brookside. How it started, who started it, who were the donors, etc. I was in awe with their joint efforts. I realized that the unity of everyone would bring out the impossible. Moreover, I was walking and looking around their chapel amazed by its structure. It was so extraordinary. The pieces of furniture, including the altar, the chairs, the chandelier, and the candleholder, were made of the natural form of wood. You could see the branches of the tree formed artistically. The wall was made of tree branches that were aligned perfectly. I could feel the aura of nature. I could also feel, in every step I made in the floor carved with huge leaves and railroad track woods, the joy of the people who acted as one in building such magnificent structure. I later learned that a popular Japanese designer who is renowned worldwide designed the chapel, for free!
Our group was divided into two. I was included in the group who was tasked to flatten the road for the concrete tiles. From the start, I knew it would be difficult, especially under the blazing rays of the afternoon sun, but never did I complain about it. I wanted to be part of the change that will happen in the lives of the families living there. In this way, I thought I could help shape the society I’m living in.
It was a tough job, all right, because we have to transfer soil to the other side, also removing the stones and broken hollow blocks. It was so dusty, especially when they run the machine that would flatten the soil. It’s like having brown fog. At first, it seemed impossible for there was this big lump of soil in my area and it did take time to remove it. We had to break it into pieces, then shovel it, and put the soil in a pail for transferring. The brothers did the shoveling while we, the sisters, relayed the pail to the spot where we’ll dump it. We wanted to have fun and try new stuff that’s why we tried to rake and shovel the soil into the pail. There was less work and more laughter so the brothers took both materials from us.
We resumed after lunch, this time all of us were working on the same road. It became more systematized. The brothers did the shoveling while the sisters lined up for the relay of the pails full of soil and rocks. It was wonderful. The spirit of teamwork possessed everyone. We did not mind the scourging hot sun, our vinegar-like smell, our drenching shirts, and most especially our sore red hands. Nobody complained, no one was forced to do what he or she was doing. We all did it wholeheartedly, just to finish their dream community.
In the process, my friend Aida, YFC club president of Philippine Science High School, and I were singing baby shark, an action song. We were singing and dancing while we relay the soil and rocks. It so happened that there were two children named Willprime, 8, and Steven, 10, talking about animé, specifically, Flame of Recca, in front of us. I butt into their conversation and asked their names. At first they were shy but as time went by, they were singing and dancing baby shark with me. Their laughter melted my heart, especially Steven for he is not an ordinary ten-year-old child. He has a hump on his back and he only stands about more than three feet tall. His voice is like an elf’s, so little yet so high pitched. I could see hope in their little ways, teaching the song to their other playmates. They were very happy children, so innocent, amidst the noise and the dirt, and the chaos that is outside their little community.
Joana, a teenager of that community, showed us around. We roamed around the whole site and greeted the mothers that we passed by a happy day. It was a perfect community where all families and every individual were living in harmony. If only the whole world will be like that community, no children would be seen crying.
At present, Gawad Kalinga has more than 270 communities all over the world. In October 2, 2003, it envisioned GK 777, which stands for Gawad Kalinga building 700,000 homes in 7,000 communities, in 7 years. It continues to give hope and lift up the dignity of these poor people which was taken away by their racist neighbors. Several peoples are pulling their resources just to help. Like me, they want to help shape our society. I believe that, like me, they experience extraordinary joy every time they see these people smiling and laughing their hearts out. Just like me, the day they became a part of those people’s lives is the happiest day of their life.