As part of the integration we stayed with host families. We ate with them, visited the neighborhood, shared stories, and learned from them.
We arrived in the community just before the barangay elections so we had the chance to observe a covenant signing among the local candidates. They had a different way of campaigning. They did not use any campaign materials like posters or leaflets. Candidates instead went house to house, talking to the people.
The people still do the ‘taltag’– a process of pounding the dried palay with a pestle to separate the grain from its stem. Of course we tried doing it ourselves. It was hard work yet it was very fulfilling. I also helped in preparing ‘benekbek’ a local delicacy — pounded legumes, seasoned with lots of hot chili. (Kalingas are known for their love of chili.)
We also visited neighboring communities where patience for walking muddy slopes and steep pathways was much needed. It was during this hike that we learned that elementary students need to walk for one and a half to two hours to reach their school. High school students have to walk eight hours to reach the nearest secondary school.
A solidarity night was organized by the community to strengthen the camaraderie between the people and our group. It was also an opportunity for us to learn some of their dances, songs and chants that had been preserved and passed from generation to generation. Everybody was there — officials, children, youth, adult, and elders. Some had hiked several kilometers to show their solidarity.
Working for a better society
This community integration opened my eyes to the reality of what is happening to the health care system of our country. While the government spends millions of pesos for the so-called ‘War on Terror’, health services are being neglected. While the Filipino people dutifully pay their taxes, public officials enrich themselves from public funds. While many of the youth today are studying nursing to look for greener pastures abroad, many Filipinos die for lack of health care.
Adversity and harsh conditions can easily weaken a person’s determination. I am inspired by the Mabacas. They are united in working for self- determination, for change and their right to a decent life. The people’s organizations are at the forefront of community struggle, such as the Mabaca Farmers Association, Innabuyog-Gabriela, youth group, Health Committee — educating, organizing, and mobilizing the people on various issues and activities.
It was a blessed Sunday morning; the sun decided to peep through the thick clouds. It was hard to say goodbye to the people who sheltered and treated us as if we were their own children, brothers and sisters. We uttered two phrases several times that day: ‘Thank you.’ and ‘We will come again.’
As we journeyed back to Baguio City I quietly reflected on what I could do for these communities. My fellow health science students must have been thinking the same. Our trip covered several kilometers and took many hours but I did not mind. Soon we were already walking down the busy streets of the city.
The one-week integration seemed too short after all, so I look forward to joining Chestcore’s future activities. Maybe next time, you could join us too. Northern Dispatch / Posted by (Bulatlat.com)