Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bagful of thanks


“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver." ~ Maya Angelou

On May 2, 2008, after composing a letter (and, eventually, editing it into a forum post), I sent out an email to a selected number of people who I felt comfortable with, I thought will not prejudge the contents and who I thought I might receive a reply or two from.

The long letter goes like this:
To cut the story short, I am here, now, posting out of gratitude. To those who replied, pledged and gave, it has been a humbling experience.

The kindness of strangers

Over at the forum, the threaded replies to my post have been heartwarming. Strangers (my fellow forum members) they are not, even if we "know" each other only by our nicknames — I have met one of the members in person, though — and our contacts have all been virtual discussions. Still, reading their posts made me feel that each one was sincere. Some, as per my request, have mailed me directly.

"Dr. Anonymous" of Philmug.ph, gracious donor, personally handed his 9 bags to Jod, our rep, in his office.

"FebruarySong" and "kate" have communicated privately.

"achtungbaby", "coolpix", "super_ed", "picoy", "penmanila", "treb22", "Macmon", "freelancer", "hungryalien", "rvaph", "tjgato", "assdoc", "rosea", and "bluegenes" have all been encouraging.

Thank you all.

What friends are for

Production colleague Marlette has prepared a couple of backpacks and a pair of shoes for pick-up. Marlette, thank you.

My cousin May's friend, GB, inquired about pretty much the same stuff as what Marlette has prepared to give. Friends of friends, friends of relatives have all been responsive.

To May and GB, Gerald, the recipients' organizer, said that they will welcome whatever is voluntarily and openly given.

The joys of family and hearth

An awesome response has been from cousin May dV, who decided to make her forthcoming birthday celebration a Bag Drive event.

Initially replying to say that she'll try her best to gather her collection of conference bags:
"yes, in fact i do have unused and slightly used conference bags. i will endeavour to look for them this weekend. and will ask my officemates if they would spare theirs, too."
she followed her letter immediately with an offer of not just helping with solicitations but making the drive a birthday event:
"hey manang,

i think i would like to help you with this as part of my birthday celeb this May 2008. kahit na sa pag-solicit lang ng mga bags for the schoolers..."
and eventually furnished me a copy of her birthday email:
"mga friendships & relatives,

as part of my birthday celebration this year, am helping out my 1st cousin with this BAG DONATION DRIVE. grateful if you can spare some of your (unused/slightly used) conference bags for the highschoolers/grade schoolers in Asipulo, Ifugao - click link to take a virtual trip to Asipulo.

in lieu of your birthday gifts to me (hehe), kindly give your bags to me on or before 18 May (my brithday) for forwarding to my cousin's group. they have moved their trip to Asipulo on an earlier date, on May 25, before the children get busy with their [school] pre-registration/registration activities.

warm regards,
MAYO"
Trust May to connect fast with her network, she being the clan's one-person text brigade operator for family matters such as get-togethers, crises and milestones. May took from her mother, my aunt, and took over her mom's role as the alternative cornerstone of family gatherings and goings-on when my aunt passed on.

May has been in the NGO circuit for more than a decade now. Her work has afforded her direct contact with grassroots-based communities and its members. Thus, when my letter landed in her inbox, the concept of sharing touched a chord common to both of us.

May sent my letter to her friends and the responses have been great. In particular, another cousin, Ate Candy, has sent out word, too, and pledged to include some school supplies pooled from her friends and office mates and, as of this post, has had them already delivered over to May's office: a whopping 26 bags, 54 pencils and some notepads! Wow! That's on top of the 9 bags we got from Dr. Anonymous, some bags from my colleague, and two more found inside my cabinet, and whatever else will be received on the 18th at May's party.

Ate Candy wrote:
Grabeh May! Sa bahay ko pa lang, me 12 na akong conference bags dun, pero most walang sling. I have 3 decent ones which would really be ok sa highschool student. Dalhin ko sa Kamuning.
Thanks, Ate Candy!

It takes a village

What more can I say beyond thank you to all who read and forwarded the email, read and replied to the forum post?

That I have so much to be grateful for, foremost of which is the validation that people in general are innately nurturing and caring. Second, that it takes a village to make things happen faster and in a bigger way no matter how simple the request.

Close friends and relatives can attest to the fact that solicitation is not one of my strengths. When I mentioned at the start of this post that I was worried about my email being prejudged, it was really more of a fear that my email might simply be ignored. No matter, as even when composing the mail, however, I was totally resigned to the fact that people will have one reason or other for not responding, and, whatever the reason, I would understand why.

On the the other hand, upon hitting the 'send' button, I felt some kind of liberation and sense of achievement at being able to finish the letter and actually sending it out and posting it to the forum. That both were received positively was a total bonus.

Liberation

The feeling of liberation is similar to how it felt like when I rode on the back of a motocross motorcycle last year on the descent from Pula to Lagawe on rough, narrow, steep and winding roads that turned 'round the mountain side. Dabert, of the Asipulo Municipal Agriculture Office (MAO), my knight on the not-so-shiny troublesome bike, was kind enough to accommodate my request for a ride back to the Lagawe lodge to retrieve our things so we can join the rest of the guests staying overnight in Asipulo at the JCAMPBELL Park last year.

I had fair warning that the only available ride to Lagawe was by a motorcycle in that late hour. It so happened that the only motorcycle available wasn't even Dabert's, and although he knew the bike wasn't in the best condition to make the dash to Lagawe and back, he tried. And the best of efforts he did, in spite of the fact that he felt my nervous grip around his waist a tad too tight for, like, the first 30 minutes' ride on the bike (he told me this later) and he read no real, physical sign of confidence and trust from me despite my putting up a gung-ho front. But that was just for the first 30 minutes or so, the equivalent of more or less 10 kms (or approximately the distance from the Quezon City Hall to the Manila City Hall): a coverage of just about a fourth of the entire one-way travel.

The circumstance was such that throughout this stretch, only about 12-15 percent of that initial 30-minute backride had roadside houses and pedestrians along the way. The rest of the trip was just Dabert and myself on the lonely, rough, winding and narrow downhill road with the mountainside to our right, and deep ravine to our left. No helmets and other protective gear for us both, just a tricky 2-wheel vehicle on the trickiest road there is.

After about 30 minutes and a lot of mental battle, I thought: Pirsig. Robert Pirsig. The essence of that Robert Pirsig moment: "Just let go. Whatever happens will happen, but trust that whatever happens, happens for a reason." I felt my grip around Dabert's waist loosening, slowly. When I finally let go and relaxed, only then did I feel the wind on my face and the empty space between my feet and the road (my legs were hanging from where I sat on the big bike the whole time).

The fact is, this post is not about me but about those who already were liberated ahead of me and have learned to trust.

After all, my colleagues and I are just a conduit to everyone's generosity in this effort.

Updates

We have so far received an assortment of bags. In particular, those from "Dr. Anonymous" were not just sling bags but big, sturdy, zippered tote bags. They'd be useful as personal carry-alls for those studying in other provinces and staying with relatives or in dorms.

Needless to say, we weren't prepared for the type of bags and the quantity received. May asked if we could share the other bags with others besides the kids.

Yes, we did think of other possible recipients in Asipulo: appropriate bags for the daycare center volunteers and health workers.

Our trip back to Asipulo is again moved ahead of original schedule because of the kids' participation in municipal and organizational activities. CLT, my colleague, will leave ahead of me on the evening of the 17th, bringing what she can.

I, on the other hand, have committed to be at my cousin May's birthday bag drive on the 18th, and will catch the last bus to Ifugao province right after the celebrations.

I will update this post with pictures when I come back.

To you all, thank you.

Updates-2

More from May | 6:13pm | 16 may 08:
1. Noemi Jacob - 5 black conference bags
2. Ding and Helen Espinar - 12 backpacks, assorted color/design (new)
3. Evelyn Daplas - 7 green&blue mailmanbag-type conference bags; 2 black conference bags; 1 chinese-design ladies handbag & 1 "Candies" shoulder bag.
4. May Reyes-De Vera - 3 black conference bags

more on sunday i hope... see ya!
=)
MAYO

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