It’s still the same me…. only different.

Hooray!

Today is my mom’s 51st birthday! Last night, we surprised her with a half roll triple chocolate cake from red ribbon, a balloon, a greatest-mom-ever pin and a video of us three sisters congratulating our mom and wishing her a happy birthday. That was last night though.

Today, on her actual birthday, we did something different. Of course, we start the day with the annual evening mass. Once every year, our whole family attends the evening mass to start the celebration of our mom’s birthday with divine guidance and blessings. Although this year, my eldest sister failed to accompany us (she had to attend the mass at an earlier time because she is working earlier) it was still fun.

It was decided some time yesterday that me, my younger sister, my mom and my aunt would be volunteer for today’s event, Pagdamay. It is a repacking of goods job for the victims of the recent landslide from Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City in the Philippines. My mom said, we can’t do anything for those who have died — they’re already dead anyway, but we can do something for the people they have left behind or the people who have survived. One good trait of the Filipinos that have retained over the years — a trait that we did not get from the colonizers, is resiliency. We are the kind of people who no matter what kind of calamity strikes us, even if we are faced with the most difficult problems, still manages to smile and move on. It is times like these when we don’t need to be as rich as those who own big buildings or malls or banks to help people. We do not do this for publicity as well, unlike those who are either in politics or in the entertainment industry, we just help because someone is in need of us.

After hearing my mom’s proposal for today’s activity yesterday, my sister and I agreed immediately. No questions asked. We didn’t ask where are we staying or will there be food or transportation expenses provided — we just agreed (with the thought of helping people.)

After my 19th birthday last July, I promised to my self that I will do something worth while before turning 20. And since this opportunity showed up, I never once thought of saying no.

Sorting.

We arrived late though since we had to take a bath after the mass. When we got there though, we found out that the packing hasn’t started yet — we even get to attend the orientation.

When we finally started, I was assigned to making sure that each 10 body soap will be packed together with 2 toothbrush for adults and 3 toothbrush for kids.

At that time, we were all moving so fast that even though we started behind schedule, we have almost finished the quota bags packed for the whole day in before the first break time (my estimation is less than two or three hours.) I was so engrossed in packing that my younger sister is sneering at me for asking her to hurry up on her job (giving me the toothbrushes) that the only thing that stopped me from working is when the toothbrushes for adults ran out of supply. I didn’t notice it until I stood up that my knees are hurting — heck, I couldn’t even stand properly. They told us to take a break so we did.

Break time.

This first break time is unofficial. We just gave ourselves a break. After all, we did manage to almost finish the quota bags for the day before the first break time.

During that time, I was really really thirsty. But to not show my eagerness to openly to the public — since in front of them I might act whiny, I went with my younger sister to the toilet to freshen up ourselves. On our way back though, I keep glancing at the water dispenser to check for water. Alas, I am not so lucky.   There is no water in that ONLY dispenser so I turned around and headed straight to our room where I found my mom still sorting children’s under garments.

Sorting (Part 2).

This time, I sorted the undergarments for children. I was in charge of making counting and making sure that every bag would include 1 small sized, 1 medium sized and 1 large sized undergarments. It is much easier from my first job and since I’m not doing anything at that time, I decided to help my mom. Before I knew it, we were done.

Packaging aka Planting.

It is an inside joke among us those who are in room one that our style of packaging is very tiring because we looked like we were planting rice seeds “palay” while packaging.

This is me while I was making a way and remembering the last bag that I distributed the undergarments I was sorting earlier.

I managed to finish 5 columns with 20 bags per column, that meant I managed to fill 100 bags. Later that day, I sorted undergarments for adult men and distributed them as well in other bags. I also helped in closing and finishing the packaging of the bags by adding the mosquito net.

I managed to get a lot things done in less than 6 hours with the help of a lot, of course. Our room barely left any work for the afternoon shift volunteers. Apparently, most of those who worked in that room have the same excessive amount of eagerness to help as I am.

All in all, I had fun with this volunteering to help stuff. I am looking forward for more. I felt bad though that my friends weren’t there with me when most of them texted me that they’ll be there (apparently, I had to tell them that we were finished for the day and that there’ll be other opportunities.) I really am looking forward for more jobs like these. If I my skills, strength or knowledge could be of good use for a good cause, even without promising food, snacks or anything, I would still probably volunteer.

Final words.

I had so much fun that I almost blurted out, “I want to celebrate my next birthday like this as well.” It’s a good thing I held back doing so though, because that would mean that I’m asking for another calamity like this to strike, which I definitely am not. I am praying for the people of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City who have lost their lives (loved ones, livelihood, priced possessions) in that land slide and heavy rain. And remember, even though we don’t know you, we already love you. Because, during times like this, we are supposed to hold hands and face this calamity as one country.

Me, my sister, my aunt, my mom and her co-workers after a tiring volunteer work.
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