Touching hearts and changing lives: The Haduan outreach experience

TO BRING together people who are accountable in ensuring that the rights of the vulnerable sectors are being promoted and protected is already a little victory to start with in reaching out and helping our indigenous brethren.

This is how the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) champions the cause of the indigenous peoples (IPs) — by bringing together its attached agencies for an Asean-Gender and Development Information Dissemination, Medical Services and Outreach Program to the Aetas Maganchi of Sitio Haduan in Mabalacat City, Pampanga.

The purpose of the activity, which is an initiative of PCOO Assistant Secretary Ana Marie Banaag, like any other outreach program, is always noble and primarily aims to benefit the recipient community.

Its purpose is to share knowledge about gender equality and sensitivity, women empowerment, impact of Asean in the lives of IPs, children’s rights, as well as the distribution of relief goods, slippers and clothes.

Everyone was so thrilled to hike the mountains to reach the community. The 30-minute walk upland is a bit exhausting, and passing through the hanging bridge made up only of old wood is really a challenge that one has to conquer, if he or she wants the group’s mission to be accomplished.

Each one is excited to bring in their donations, their medical expertise, their stories and games for the children, their information on proper hygiene; because we all thought that the Aetas in the sitio would be the ones to benefit the most from this outreach.

What no one in the group probably thought of is that in doing this activity, we will also benefit as much as the IPs will. Probably not in terms of financial or material aid like the ones that we gave them, but actually more than that because of the sense of fulfillment that we felt in knowing that we were able to make them happy.

Seeing the smile on the children’s faces, and their eagerness to learn and participate in the story telling session is surely enough to warm our hearts. Every giggle they make while they play games is reflected with smiles on the faces of all the agencies who participated in the activity.

The song that the children sang to thank all those who participated in this outreach really touched everyone. Knowing that we made them happy in the little that we gave them is worth the hike.

But more than the way they positively responded to our activity, what I have been very thankful for as part of this is the realization that I am beyond blessed. If they can still smile and not worry about life despite the little that they have, why can’t we do the same? Why can’t we live in simplicity like our Aeta brothers and sisters? Why make things so complicated out here when we can be like them who enjoy the simple things like the beauty of nature and the company of each other?

I’ve never thought that I would one day go out of my comfort zone, outside my usual dealings with government agencies and the media, outside the bounds of our office, to do something challenging but great, and at least even for a day be a sort of a fairy-god mother or even Santa Claus to kids I didn’t even know.

After the activity, even after the kids have already forgotten the story we told them, or even consumed all the candies that the group has given them, I’m quite certain that we have made a lasting impact on the lives of one another. (PIA)