Manila volunteers head to the mountains for back-to-school activity


“The road was never easy…” goes the song that the teachers of Gadang Elementary School sang at a short program during the Lapis Para sa Batang Eskwela (Pencils for the Mountains) back-to-school activity led by Thomson Reuters Extreme Adventure Team (TREAT) and Manila Volunteers Council (MVC). The lyrics were spot on, for everyone who attended the program had their own sacrifices—the children who take 30-minute treks across mountainous terrains every day to go to classes, the teachers who have to contend with limited books and equipment, and the Manila employee-volunteers who traveled overnight for 13 hours to bring school supplies to the kids.

On June 7th, 33 volunteers from TREAT and MVC went to Kapangan in Benguet, a fifth-class municipality 173 miles north of Manila, to distribute basic school supplies: notebooks, pads of writing paper, pencils, erasers, and sharpeners. This marks the third year they have come bearing sorely needed materials, this time to more than 350 public school children studying in two of the farthest communities in the municipality.

The volunteers and their haul of 35 boxes of school supplies left Manila on a Thursday night and arrived in Baguio City, a tourism and commercial capital in northern Philippines, at around 5 a.m. Friday. The schedule was earlier than last year because it has started raining around lunch time until early evening for the past two weeks. The volunteers were advised to be ready for the rains and the cold weather.

Going to two community schools involved some trekking and a lot of walking, but the volunteers were too excited to be exhausted. Although the activity proper lasted for just over two hours, the volunteers agree that the trek and the uncomfortable overnight trip was nothing compared to the priceless smiles of the school children.

And that rain that poured like clockwork for two weeks? It decided to take a vacation and allowed both the volunteers and their beneficiaries to enjoy one of the last few days of summer.