While most despise the presence of children caroling on jeepneys, up on the highlands of Cebu City, away from the traffic of the highway, are people who rarely get to hear that ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’. It’s easy to label those clever kids as part of a syndicate, trying to prey over the passengers but the other side of the coin tells us that without reaching their ‘boundary’ (quota) they’d be facing harsh consequences such of hunger, severe physical punishment, and extortion. There are varied sides of the story – depending on who would you like to listen to – but the sad truth remains that not everybody gets to celebrate the joy that is of Christmas. So instead of gathering people for an outreach activity, this time, the group decided to reach out and bring Christmas to their homes.
Trying to bring out SPACE in the community, the newly-organized group Bai Sibol, came up with an idea of caroling the households in the highlands of Babag Range. Yes, the renowned trail from Guadalupe to Napo before exiting to RCPI down to Busay. While this is a familiar track for seasoned and “hardcore” hikers, the story adapts a different version when you are bringing additional loads of groceries and equipment for caroling.
I never liked Babag Range. To prove that, I haven’t written anything about it on my previous hikes on such grounds. Never. Come to think of it, there’s nothing really picturesque about Babag in comparison to other practice trails and summits in the province. However, it’s different this time. Again, a different version of the story. Instead of the usual steady pace, we hiked on a normal walking speed and stopped upon reaching a household that we can dedicate a Christmas song to. It’s quite taxing – bringing two to three kilos of groceries on hand (plus our dayhike packs on our back) and a guitar (and DIY tambourine) on the other. Moreover, while we get to stabilize our breathing as we continued to ascend, we also needed to keep up with the others and sing in unison with them.
But all those efforts didn’t come to waste upon seeing the happy faces of the children we met along the way and their parents – who get hesitant when instead of receiving their cash we give groceries in return. Not only did this become a learning experience to both parties, but it became a pivotal point for some. On one household that we have caroled, we met an old man living alone in a small nipa hut. Upon hearing our greetings, he immediately refused saying he can’t give anything to us. We then shared to him our cause and sang our hearts out. It could have been a usual caroling session, but what happened next was something that made us ponder all day. We interviewed the old man and it was then we learned that his wife just passed away a week ago – the reason for his lonesome disposition. We were moved to tears. How can you celebrate Christmas when you have no one to celebrate it with?
The group encountered other heart-melting stories as the hike and carol commenced. It was already dark when reached Busay. Exhaustion was evident on everyone’s faces but not a single soul complained about the activity. Of course, there were lapses but the experiences earned were far more important than the setbacks stumbled upon. Surely, Christmas wouldn’t be the same for us this year.
I would like to thank Jeff and all other members of Bai Sibol for spearheading (again) this activity. Special acknowledgement to all those new hikers (including my brother HAHA) for finishing with flying colors the event no matter how tiresome it was (much more that we were blessed with the unexpected rainfall). And to all those who wanted to know a different version of the stories I share here in the blog, those who are organizing event on their own, those who became agents of change and goodness in their own little ways, MAY THE FORCE ALWAYS BE IN YOUR FAVOR. Keep rocking and have merry Christmas!