The Travel Teller's Project Give Back Year 4 and Experiencing Cateel (2015)

Most of us have planned notable 2015 year-enders. Be it a holiday trip to Japan or Korea, a short ride to the beach, or even a simple dinner with family/friends at a favorite restaurant, we all have that special way of celebrating the holidays and the year-end. This what makes the Christmas season (including the New Year's) the most wonderful time of the year!

As for The Travel Teller of, 2015 will not be complete without the annual gift giving activity. For him, Christmas is always the season of giving. To give back is a way to be thankful for all the blessings we have received for the year that's about to end.

This year, 2015, The Travel Teller is celebrating its 4th Year of Giving Back with its theme, 'Magpasaya ng mga Kabataang Mandaya Ngayong Pasko'.

This year's beneficiaries are students of Maylaya Primary School, Spur Dos Elementary School, Baybay Elementary School, and residents of Purok Talisay of Cateel, Davao Oriental.

If you think these recipients are lucky, we, volunteers are even luckier. We have received something this season that is beyond compare...priceless, even.

I and a few other volunteers from Cateel and Davao City were invited by the Travel Teller to take part in this year's activity. It was an exciting idea for me to be part of something altruistic. I have always liked the idea of community work and volunteerism. Growing up, my parents raised me to be a proactive member of the society, and even in my younger days I remember our family organizing gift giving activities, feeding programs and medical missions to different communities. So for me, this not something new. That was what I've thought so.

Little did I know, this experience will be extra special and...uhmmm..different.
From the day we arrived in Cateel to the day we left, I realized I will never feel about Cateel the same way again.

I used to think Cateel as a sad aftermath of Typhoon Pablo.
As we all knew, 3 years ago, Typhoon Pablo left Cateel in a devastated state. I only learned of the typhoon victims' whereabouts and the place's condition from the news and social media back then. I felt sympathy to all those affected during those trying time.

But much to my surprise, when we arrived in Brgy Poblacion Cateel, everything was, well, BEAUTIFUL. The trees were plenty, the houses were new, the fields were grassy, and the people were warm and happy. It might not seem all special to you. Moreso, you would even think 'duh, it was 3 years ago.' But to me, it was overwhelming to know people and places eternally scarred by a tragedy, but actually seeing them without any trace of such. It was amazing!

In one of my conversations with a resident there, he described Typhoon Pablo as both a 'curse' and a 'blessing.' I couldn't expound on that, but I sure understood what he meant.

That was only Day 1. Arrival. Meeting Cateeleños. Strolling around the park. Check in at Edar's Place. Dinner at VLanz Barbecue.

Cateel Centenniel Park.

Checked in at Edar's Place. Such a cute little hotel, and comfy, too.
Thank you Edar's Place for being our home for two nights.

Arrival dinner at VLanz Barbecue. The food was as welcoming as the people of Cateel.
Thank you, VLanz.

My roomies and new friends. The baby volunteers from Davao City.
Feeling bata na din ako because of them.
Having fun at the Centenniel Park.

Poblacion Church.

Town Hall.

A panorama of the Centenniel Park, at night.
Viewed from the 2nd floor balcony of the Town Hall.

The volunteers from Davao.

The #TTTGivesBack2015 team before the heading for Maylaya and SpurDos.

We gathered at the rendezvous around 7am. There we met the other volunteers. After the briefing and other customary greetings, we started loading the gifts to the service provided by the Mayor of Cateel. It was a blue dump truck. The type you use in quarries. Not only were the gifts loaded there, us volunteers also rode the truck with a full view of the mountains on our way to the students of Maylaya and Spur Dos.

The scenery is breathtaking and deserves a standing-ovation... STANDING OVATION. Well, on the way to the schools, we didn't have much choice. We had to stand the whole trip as the truck was filled with the gifts. Nonetheless, the view deserves an applaud. I even spotted a Brahminy Kite eagle with my bare eyes. It was that close. I know it was a Brahminy also because it looked like it. I experienced bird-watching in highschool along with members of the Philippine Eagle Foundation and young environmentalists, and I know a Brahminy Kite eagle when I see one.

Anyway, standing and being exposed to the  heat of the sun and drizzles of the rain on the way were nothing. Even the bumpy road and the haunting cliffs were nothing. We all didn't mind it. For me, standing in the back of the truck with all the happy new faces was one helluva great ride. What was on my mind then, was THIS IS WHERE THE FUN IS.

It was my first time riding such an awesome ride, so you could imagine how exciting the ride was for me. I'm even proud to claim I am now an expert in climbing up and down a big dump truck. Yes, I'm awesome. I know. HAHAHA!

After an hour or so, we arrived at our first stop, the Maylaya Primary School. We had a few difficulties as it was raining when we arrived, and there was no electricity. Nevertheless, the gift giving in Maylaya was surprisingly fun and successful. We had a short program where the students also prepared a surprise number for us.

As the teacher said, the song the students performed were taught by the military members. I don't know why, but I took note of that thought as I had no military friend back when I was younger. It seemed amazing to me that these kids got to mingle with them and even learn a song from them. In my childhood, I remember being afraid of them, I don't know why. Looking back, perhaps the only military person I was not totally afraid of back then was my uncle. I find it amusing how thoughtful and friendly these military persons were to the people there. I salute all of you, sirs.
Arrival at Maylaya Primary School.
It was raining, we had to transfer in one of the rooms.

The students of Maylaya performing a song taught by the military.

Gift giving.

Teacher's Kit for the teachers, of course.
Then came the best part of the program, the games and the gift giving. I was as excited as the beneficiaries for this segment of the program. It was a nice feeling to see innocent children in BIG SMILES as they received simple joys. For me, it was a priceless sight. It was enough to melt my heart. It was beautiful and heartbreaking. I wish I could be as rich as Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg so that I could give them more.

It was about noon when we left Maylaya. Then we proceeded to the next school, Spur Dos Elementary School. We rode another hour before reaching the school.

We arrived there already a bit starving as it was past one o'clock in the afternoon already, and we haven't had our lunch yet. So, before the program, we proceeded to a room at the school where the volunteers set-up a boodle meal.

There were banana leaves laid out on a long table, then rice, liempo, lechon manok, grilled fish and ginataang talong. It was not only a satisfying meal, but also it was fun. At this point of the trip, I realized how much I'm having fun without noticing it. Even in the simplest things I do I am having fun, like carrying stuffs and sharing a humble meal. Everything was fun!
Boodle fight! :)
Right after lunch and a minute of preparation, we proceeded to the prepared platform where we will hold the program for the gift giving. There we met the students of Spur Dos and their excited faces. After a few introductions and speeches, we had parlor games in the open field. We played a lot of games, but one I will never forget was my favorite Catch the Dragon Tail game. I used to facilitate this a few years back in one of my sister's adopted site before we hold feeding activities. Now, I am also facilitating this game. Doing so, I have rekindled that youthful joy within me that I seemed to have almost lost in the city.

After the games, then came the gift giving. It was as overwhelming as the gift giving in Maylaya. It had that certain healthy thump in my heart to see happy kids. I have always been fond of kids, so it was fun to see them enjoy all the things we do for them.

One kid I caught smiling at me as he was opening his gift almost sent me to tears. I had to force myself not to be emotional, though. I don't want to ruin the moment.

When your kids cry because they did not get an iphone for Christmas... Show them this! I took this vid during the Gift giving activity in Cateel. It melted my heart. There truly is greater joy in giving!
Posted by Angel Deiparine on Monday, December 28, 2015

We left Spur Dos a little late than expected. I guess having so much fun does make you forget time, but you know, time never stood still, so tuloy ang byahe. We have to carry on. So we rode again the blue truck.

This time, I wanted to be a little adventurous. So I decided to ride the truck with The Travel Teller and 3 other volunteers at the ceiling, or the top of the driver's/passengers' seat. Again, it was my first time. It was a little reckless and unsafe, but it was fun. It sent adrenaline rush all over my spine. But eventually, I had to go down. I don't think I have the energy to last the trip gripping only to a small portion of the seat to balance myself. It takes a lot of strength, you know, because the road was bumpy and had lots of ups and downs. So, at about 1/3 of the trip, I got down and sat on the floor of the truck on top of a few cartons which earlier were filled with gifts. Now that they were already distributed, the floor was spacious and I can now sit.

We headed back to Brgy Poblacion as our itinerary for the day were all ticked off. Maylaya, check. Spur Dos, check... Oh, we have one last stop before finally heading to Poblacion and rest. We dropped by Aliwagwag Falls Eco Park. A little breather for the day.

It was my first time seeing the beautiful and majestic Aliwagwag Falls. We were a little short of time to take a dip in the waters, but we sure did savor every photographic moment at Aliwagwag Falls. We took nothing but pictures, pictures, pictures.

Oh, Aliwagwag Falls, you are so photogenic, sexy and such a tease that I promise I will come back for you. I will come back to experience you. :)

After that, we went straight back to Poblacion. We went back to Edar's Place to freshen up and prepare ourselves for dinner. We had dinner at Cynthia's Economy Inn where Councilor Cynthia of Cateel prepared for us a simple banquet. A simple banquet that includes lechon... yum! hehe.. It was a rewarding meal after a long day's work.

I have to admit, I honestly needed a massage that day. But folks there has an even better idea. HOT SPRING in Baganga!

Our new friends and fellow volunteers Jylo, BJ, Ariston and Jade accompanied us.
It was around 10:30pm when we left Cateel in two motorcycles to head for Baganga. Baganga is a 45-minute ride from Cateel. It was already late, and not all the road were lit with light posts. So we had to rely on the moon for illumination, and of course, the motorcycle headlights. Surprisingly, the moon was cooperative and shove a bright light along our way.

It was beautiful: the moonlit road and the fun we had as we sped off the highway. Reckless? In my standards, a bit. Liberating? A lot. It was nice to step out of the comfort zone a little.

Upon arriving, we took a dip at the hot spring, spent a few laughter and conversations, and did a lot of singing. There was a Videoke Machine, and we were too talented to refuse the machine, ya know. It was a great night. I got to know these people I am with. All of a sudden, they were no longer strangers. They were friends.

As much as we would like to stay for the night in Baganga, we had to get moving and go back to Poblacion, Cateel. So around 12:45am, we left Baganga and headed for Poblacion. We had to make a few stops a long the way as it was raining. We had to stop in the middle of nowhere and rest on a hut to wait out the rain. After the rain ceased, we continued our trip until we had to come, again, to a complete halt as one of the motorcycles got a flat tire. It was a bit worrisome, and our new friends had to make a lot of calls for a rescue car. They finally contacted a friend, JM, to rescue us. But we had to wait for him.

So to kill time, we did a lot of talking. We talked about politics, and about crimes. Small talks, eh? It was almost natural that we talked about this, really. I'm a law student and they were criminology students, it was our common point. However, we had to stop talking about that stuff, eventually. The law was beginning to give me a major headache. lol. So we had to talk more about other stuffs. We joked more and even bullied each other a little more. Sealing the friendship, I guess.

It was fun talking to them. I also got to know them and picture out their life in Cateel. The stuff they went through and things they are trying to achieve. Honestly, they were fun to be with. I bet I'll be seeing them around as some of them are studying in Davao and also, I intend to visit Cateel again.
All the talking was an effective tool to kill time as we never noticed we were already standing in the middle of the street for more than an hour already. Then, JM arrived and we all headed home.

We arrived in Cateel around 3am. We wanted to have more chitchats over coffee at a bakeshop but I and my friend, Aldwin, have to pack our bags. We had a 3:30am call time at the terminal for our van bound for Mati. So, we have to bid goodbye to our new friends.

We didn't have any sleep at all. So we decided we just have to sleep during our travel to Mati.

In sum, it was a great experience. Tired, we were. BUT FUN, we had!

So, there.
We left Cateel with a lot of things to think about. It was a little sad that we only get to participate in two of the gift giving activities. But nevertheless, it was a humbling experience.
I have realized a lot and I am thankful for a lot of things I experienced.

I brought with me moments from Cateel that are priceless. I brought with me a humbler heart and a wiser mind, all of which came from the little and big things I did in the dainty little town of Cateel. The little sacrifices were a cheap price to pay for all the things I have gained during this trip. It was life changing!

Indeed, most of us planned great 2015 year-enders, but mine, you see, was not at all REALLY PLANNED but it was, nevertheless, GREAT.

There were a lot of spontaneous things along the way. But ONE thing is for sure, it was a MEMORABLE year-ender for me, EVEN BETTER THAN WHAT I HAVE PLANNED AND HOPED FOR MYSELF.

It was a great experience to cap off my 2015. Oh not just yet, the Mati Trip most likely sealed the HAPPY 2015 YEAR END but nonetheless, THANK YOU CATEEL. I'm looking forward for next year. You will forever have a place in my heart.


~Angel :)
PS. I will be posting my about my short Mati Trip in the next article.

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