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It was an early morning flight, the first one headed for Busuanga in Palawan that day. I woke up early and made sure I get to the airport on time. But there’s one thing I was not sure of - I didn’t know what to feel. Probably because I didn’t know what to expect. I also only knew one person in the group I will be spending three days with. But like I always say to myself when faced with the unknown - just embrace it and enjoy the ride.
I knew we were going to Banuang Daan Elementary School in an isolated barangay in Coron – an island famous among nature lovers and adventurers. Admittedly, I am not a nature person. I don’t have any regular physical activity and would often stay indoors to watch TV, tinker with my phone or read a book. But I looked forward to join the trip. My desire to personally deliver the the School-in-a-Bag and meet the children of the school was greater than the personal inconveniences my mind was throwing at me.
The three-day trip turned out to be one of my best experiences to date.
It was my first time in Coron and the place was so beautiful! I haven’t been much around the Philippines and am also guilty of choosing international destinations when traveling. This trip changed my view. I wouldn’t hesitate to visit again and also explore other places around the country.
The Smart team was very hands-on with all the details of the turnover activity, and this actually impressed me. It may be work for them, but I saw they were enjoying what they do. I felt their passion and it was so inspiring.
The boat trip to Cabugao (also a recipient of a School-in-a-Bag kit) and Banuang-Daan where we were to deliver the bags wasn’t exactly the smoothest ride. It started calm, peaceful and relaxing but as soon as the boat reached the open sea, it was a different story. We were met by strong winds and big waves. I couldn’t remember a time that I was that happy to wear a life jacket. That’s when it struck me that these places were really difficult to reach and the children living on these islands really needed the help we were bringing.
To get to Banuang-Daan’s dock, we had to walk through waist-deep water. I was spared the first time since I had the bag (haha) which shouldn’t get wet. Going back to the boat after the bag turnover, I was more than happy to wade through the water. It was part of the experience.
Upon reaching the shore of Banuang Daan, I could hear faint music as we started our walk, which became louder and louder as we reached the school grounds. It was touching because I knew there was no electricity in their community, yet they worked hard to make the atmosphere festive! They decorated a small community center and turned it into a stage. The teachers and children were all smiles welcoming our team. I was all smiles as well and my heart was swelling. All because of the bag, they prepared all these.
They even prepared a program, and the day just got better and better! The teachers said their speeches and the children happily presented their dance numbers. I really felt gratitude in their every word and action that it almost brought me to tears. Good thing I was able to hold it back when it was my turn to speak too. I would like to think I was able to capture everything I felt inside at that point in time – I was amazed at the beauty of the place, thankful to Smart for bridging me to them, overwhelmed that the bag I sponsored is our family’s gift and that it may help them get closer to their dreams and be successful in life.
It was heartwarming to see the children excited to use the tablets and other gadgets that came with the bag. Most of them were seeing gadgets for the first time. The sight made me even more grateful of what I have, what my family has. It’s so easy to take these things for granted since we have easy access. The curiosity and wonder I saw in the eyes of the children were so beautiful.
Banuang Daan Elementary school may have been blessed that day with the School-In-A-Bag gift, but I would like to believe that I, too, was blessed to experience and be reminded of life’s lessons in kindness, gratitude and humility.
This trip started with my uncertainties, but in the end, I understood exactly how I felt.
I left Banuang Daan with a happy heart.
The School-in-a-Bag contains a solar panel for electricity, a laptop, five tablets, a mobile phone, a pocket WiFi with starter load, LED TV, and learning modules. If you, your company, or organization is interested in donating a School-in-a-Bag to a remote schools, visit www.smart.com.ph/learnsmart or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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