Baliw nga ba kung ako’y tawagin? (Should I be called crazy?)

I must be CRAZY!

My life is quite perfect as anyone would note. I live at Makati, Metro Manila renting an apartment with my beloved siblings and best of pals complete with modern comfort living. I have a good paying and stress-free job. I have no major life issues or concerns for that matter. I am independent and free to do whatever I want, whenever I want! LIFE IS GREAT and FABULOUS!

Then in an instant I decided to just SIMPLY LEAVE everything I have but myself! I quit my job and disregarded great career opportunities. I left my family, my home, my friends, and my comfortable and convenient lifestyle and even not to entertain any romantic relationship at that!

Whaaat! Why? Only because I answered the CALL to SERVE as a Jesuit Volunteer Philippines (JVP) at yet an unknown destination to be with sea of strangers and even without any compensation.

Am I MAD enough?

Now here I am on this CRAZY adventure assigned at Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro as a CPA of KPLN (which is the only existing federation of the 7 Mangyan tribes) for 10 months. Although I’m still living at a First World JVP Area, it is still quite different from my known world (at Makati and Naga). A total 360 degree changed life existence! I am currently residing at Galilee house together with my JVP partner Ikay, Ate Teray (Mangyan Mission staff) and 3 Mangyan-Hanunuos. We only have 4 electric appliances namely 1-unit PC (c/o MM through my request), 1 electric fan, 1 radio, 1 VCD/MP3 player from my Kuya. I also receive a monthly allowance sponsored by Phinma Foundation (where sHLa is working) so I have to budget all my expenses accordingly. The weather here is absolutely HOT and once-in-a-while it rains. The quality of the water is not good and every time the water pump is not working, we have to make do of the water from a deep well (poso) that somewhat smells. And I have to do area visits wherein it’s another environment to be at, which is way more extraordinary. INDEED, it is an immense challenge for me to be living here!

Amazingly, I managed to adapt and adjust from all these changes and ordeals that I willingly pursued. NOW, I am accustomed not to use spoon and fork when eating and I even tried eating “sikdot” and “baboy ramo.” Imagine in almost 3 months I only ate twice each at Jollibee, Greenwich and Chowking (treats by JVP’s former volunteers & friends). I have only watched a movie once (to think that I am a movie fanatic). My ONLY shopping splurge was buying military jeans (for my area visits). I had 1 yosi stick since I arrived here. Definitely, 100% no alcohols and no gimmicks (i.e. bars and clubs)! I even find simple joy and comfort from a Choco Rio Vanilla cookie and now I appreciate the soothing embrace that the rainfalls bring. Rest and recreation for me means being in touch with nature: a clear blue vast sky, a striking view of the ocean’s horizon in front of our veranda, a bright sunny morning along the beach and the list goes on…

I’m a FOOL for LOVE!

Nothing is impossible with God’s LOVE! As a Jesuit volunteer, I am living out the 5S: Service, Solidarity, Social Justice and Simplicity under the light of Spirituality. These are the core values that guide and help me to be fervent and embrace everything that is presently happening in my life. It is no longer difficult for me to love TOTAL strangers like my batch mates, my housemates, former JVP volunteers, formation staffs, POVS and most especially the Mangyan community whom I serve. I find it a blessing for me to able to share my stories here to everyone within my reach through snail mails, e-mails, YG posts, online blogs and photo-ops uploads. I even sent more than 800 Globe and 330 Smart text messages to all my love ones and friends in just a month!

There is so much LOVE to give if we only have faith and trust in the Lord that indeed we can change the world (or our nation) towards His kingdom: loving people regardless of all things that are happening around us. Being with the Mangyans is such a WONDERFUL GRACE from Him! There’s no greater happiness one can actually endure when one receives a letter (from a new Mangyan bookkeeper) stating that she made an error on the financial report she submitted during the training and have made the necessary corrections for my verification and then I found out later she was right; when sending e-mail letters asking to sponsor a Mangyan youth for their t-shirts and books and received positive notes from friends and strangers just within 24 hours and when the reports you have been working on for almost 2 weeks helped expedite the release of the support fund, which was supposed to be transferred more than a year ago. Plus, there are bonuses of inspiring stories from my batch mates and from the Mangyan themselves who are utterly grateful of JVP’s presence in their life (since year 1984) that actually left a mark in their hearts. (Trivia: Kuya Marcol, the new bookkeeper of Alangan, was a former high school student of Ate Joy of Batch 4 who is one of the first volunteers assigned at Oriental Mindoro)

Living a JVP way of life is absolutely incomprehensible! It’s just a matter of TOTAL SUBMISSION towards a road less travelled undoubtedly bruised and stained STILL loving until it hurts. I am now even seriously contemplating of a possible year extension or renewal! (I really hope and pray my family would still support me on this.) Really I can never imagine myself not being able to live a LIFE of COMPLETE SERVICE!

Who’s INSANE then?

We are all called to serve – to share God’s love. And JVP is one of the instruments for us to answer our calls to give to those who are in need of our love.

That is why I am here! Mangyan issues are so fundamental – their distinct life existence! A mere presence of a person who cares for their plight is more than enough for them to feel the hope they seek. And empowering them to forward their cries is a source of strength and faith that they too can actually make a difference in their lives and in this world as a Mangyan. The Mangyans is just a piece of the puzzle like the other 15 areas where one or two Jesuit volunteers also currently serve and yet there are lots of people living in a community who also needs us: our love.

Yes! We are still living in such a CRAZY world – and I’m just one of those individuals who are SANE enough to see its REALITY!

Who knows you can be one too?

(August 16, 2006 (Wed), 12:44 pm at KPLN Office)
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