That was my first reaction when I stepped down from the jeepney. It was a sight to behold. I was so excited when I turned my head, following the horizon from west to east (since we were in south). Mountains, and a big body of water before me. Boats of fishermen. The breeze blowing my hair like crazy. We arrived at 7:30 in the morning–it was cold, the sky blue, the clouds so puffed. Yes, the nature-lover in me was excited.
But we do have a saying not to judge the book by its cover, ‘no? Because when the community “spokesperson”, Tatay Seseng, introduced us to the place, I was really ashamed of my first reaction. The situation there was nothing close to ganda. The beauty was deceiving: the fishermen caught barely anything from the lake, and the settlement near the lake suffered so much from the disaster that is Laguna Lake. Yes, ’twas maganda, but that was the case more than 15 years ago. When we went closer to the water, it looked like flood water to me.
This was also my reaction when I arrived at my foster home with Ate Amy, Ate Nette and Ate Adeth. ‘Twas a very spacious home, much like our house in Batangas. Because it was cozy and very family-friendly, I thought my foster home would be the kind of family who can get by more than everybody else in the place. Again, looks were deceiving, because that family, while all three of them have jobs, were actually just getting by one day at a time.
And yet they opened their homes to us, gave us the best of their households, and treated us as their own sisters, a part of their family.
That’s love right there. Love so pure, so unadulterated, asking for nothing in return. And I was so privileged to have experienced it during the weekend.
So much in me has changed because of that immersion. For one, I now find it very shameful to be complaining about the petty things when there are others who are still thankful with what little they have.
I also appreciated my family more. They’re not perfect, but they’re my family, and while I know I love them, expressing that love is much more important. Because really, we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. But we know that today, we can live. And we can always live our everydays to the fullest.
When you come back from an experience such as this, the tendency is to pressure yourself to do something. But I like what our formator wanted us to do first: let it sink in. And never, ever forget. Because one year from now, when I’m no longer a student, when I already have a voice that can be heard, I can actually make a difference for Barangay Caingin.
Maybe an article or two. Maybe financial help. Maybe prayers. But I know there’s so much we can do if we actually want to do something. And I guess that’s what the immersion was all about. Not so we can fulfill a requirement. Not even to brag about our capability to help. But to experience reality right before our eyes, that which we can feel deep down, sinking through our skin and bones. Reality that will awaken, and not just for a moment, but for good.
For now, I will pray. Because prayers are most powerful when it comes from a heart that is faithful. And I know that through prayers, the changes we want to see in places like these will happen.
If faith can move mountains, then it can also clear a muddy lake. If Jesus can multiply the three fishes for a multitude, then He can also multiply the fishes in Laguna Lake.
And through our faith and love, we can actually make it happen.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:2