By Clarisse Inao, BA Journalism student, Bulacan State University
NOTE: This is Ms. Inao’s official entry in Wego’s Life Changing Travel Story. You can help her win the contest by liking and sharing their post about this blog through this link https://www.facebook.com/wegoph/posts/10151944302176752
I was never a fan of travelling; I’d rather stay home and read than experience the hassle of going somewhere. For me, it’s time-consuming and a total waste of energy, but I can’t believe that a mere trip for a journalism class will turn things around. Please, don’t laugh, but the place I’ve been referring to is within my province only.
I went to Hagonoy, Bulacan and I never was the same again after.
You might raise your eyebrows knowing where I went. I know it is not as extravagant or as exciting as going to Boracay, or to Bohol. There was no beach party to anticipate, no grand hotel to stay in, no selfie-worthy background to snap upon to. It was almost boring. I admit I was half-hearted while preparing myself that morning. I can’t imagine how much regret I will feel if I decided to stay home that day.
Brgy. Pugad, Hagonoy Bulacan is not a paradise. The councilor even warned us before the trip that we have to expect the worst; dirty water, garbage, clogged drainage, and every face of poverty. I felt uncertain, not knowing what to expect. When I went into the boat, all I was praying is to be back as soon as possible.
The moment the motor started, I closed my eyes and felt the breeze of the air. I smelled the sea. I smelled the coming adventure, still, I’m uncertain. When we got to the barangay, we were welcomed by old dilapidated houses, and children eyeing us in questioning looks. It was not a good first impression for me. We walked under the scorching heat of the sun, with dried fishes at the sidewalks and children following us. Half-day of not -so-good events and all I want to do is go back home.
Everything started to turn upside down when I got the chance to interview and interact with the people.
There were a lot of stories of loyalty, like how Manang Isabelita told me her childhood days and why she stayed in Pugad despite the promises and opportunities the urbanized parts of Bulacan offered. It is because of the memories that no amount of money can replace.
Stories of survival were also in every corner. How people managed to survive typhoons and floods with gigantic waves from Manila Bay hitting their barangay. How they managed to survive poverty with fishing as one of their main options to live. Accounts of red tide and the impact of climate change to their only source of living.
There was a unique story of camaraderie, how Manang Mercedes is the official burial coordinator of the barangay. Pugad is an island which is the main reason why death is more difficult to bear with no cemetery around. They have to transport the body from Pugad to Hagonoy proper by 1-hour boat ride. Manang Mercedes is well-known by rendering her service to arrange everything from death to burial process, sometimes when the family is really in need, for free.
There was Teacher Josefina who also grew up there. She witnessed how difficult it is to get education in their barangay with only elementary school for the youth; she witnessed how politicians made promise every elections to give progress in the education system, and how those promises were broken everytime. But she is a living proof that anyone can be successful as long as he dream and work enough to achieve it. She graduated and became a professional teacher, and she chose to go back to her roots and teach in Pugad.
There was a tale of faith, how the numerous personal struggles and disasters a counselor in Pugad experienced restored his beliefs in God. From a drunkard man then, he’s now a public servant serving his barangay and teaching them how to believe when life is giving you many reasons not to.
And what really struck me, is the children. Those questioning eyes I met when we got there were in reality, eyes of the young ones who were excited to tell stories to new people, eyes of the young ones who yearns for attention from us. I told them stories, but they also told them theirs. Their dreams, like finishing their education and go back in Pugad as successful individuals. Their dreams for their hometown, their wishful thinking that one day, their barangay will be more suitable to live at, one day they will not rely to those politicians anymore as their hope, that they will be the hope their town has been waiting for so long. Their hopes that someday,people will not be afraid to go there and listen to their stories, people will visit their barangay not because of requirement but because they want to witness its beauty amidst poverty.
I was ashamed of how I judge Pugad by how it looks like when I first stepped my foot on it, how I judged the people the first time I saw them. I was humbled, how I constantly complains about the number of school works I have to do when there are youth like me who wanted to learn but didn’t had the opportunity to do so. I was very proud, of how Bulakenyos even in far-flung areas showed heroism in their own ways, like how our hometown heroes did in the history.
|BulSU students on damage fishpond dike. DBalabo|
I came home that day with so many thoughts in my head. I came home exactly just like how I left it that morning; with few clothes, a notebook, a camera and some money, but I felt I brought home many more. I came home with lessons, experiences, stories to tell and a renewed perspective in life.
Funny how when I got into the boat that morning, all I want to do is go back home already, but when I got into the boat the second time around to leave, all I want to do that time is to plan when I will go back to Pugad again.