I am an agent of change; well, that is how they call us in the sector. Without anything to brag about being a development worker, it seems to be a very noble job for me, trying to be in a movement that aspires positive change in different communities. Especially in our field, environmental advocacy, we get to travel to many places like in important biodiversity sites in the Philippines or in the ancestral domains of our indigenous brothers and sisters. For every travel I make, I always dream that my humble effort will inspire change or at least empower people. I hope I am successful or we (the project team) are successful because when I look back in my past travels, I always realize that the travel itself and the people I have worked with in the community, they have been more successful in imparting change in my life than I to them or the project to their communities.
In 2005, when I am still working at the youth sector, we participated in the Big Brother Big, Sister Project of Ayala Mountaineers where we visited a small community in the mountains of Benguet. The hike was a bit long, almost thirteen hours. Being a first-timer, I was complaining a lot about the weather, the trail and the additional bags that I have to carry. But the moment I saw the vastness of the Cordillera mountains and its unending beauty, I realized that what we were doing that time could never compensate the opportunity of being there in the mountain, breathing its life, and embracing the other side of the world that remained simple and quiet. Hence, when we finally handed the school supplies to the children in that village, I could not hold my tears. I felt awful about the complaints I made during the hike. Thus, after that I told myself, I will go back to the mountains.
And I did – and I even went beyond the mountains.
In 2010, life brought me to Haribon Foundation, one of the leading conservation groups in the country. There, my journey to environmental advocacy kicked-off. In Haribon, I had wonderful times visiting our partner sites in Infanta Quezon, Mangatarem Pangasinan and various communities in Surigao del Sur. In July 2011, part of the training impact assessment that I was doing that time, I had the chance to visit Cab-Ilan Island in Cortes, Surigao del Sur. There I met the brave guardians of the Burgos Birds and Fish Sanctuary. With full audacity, the fishermen take turns 24 hours a day in patrolling and protecting the island from intruders and illegal fishers. I got so inspired by their story that I had to write about it and luckily it was published in The Manila Times the following month.
Yes, if there is one thing travelling has inspired me to do — that is writing, the beauty of expressing myself and retelling the stories of places I have visited and the people I have met along the way, about our unique islands and biodiversity, our culture and the important lessons of history. As a development worker, I love writing about how can we learn from the struggles and victories of our brothers and sisters; may it be the triumph of an indigenous leader who was able to finish college and later on decided to teach the children in his own tribe or a former illegal logger who changed his way for the environment. So inspired, a few years ago, I created this blog that features not just the beautiful sites in the country but also about some other stories that give inspiration and call action for change.
Pretty much, I can say that I have almost traveled around the country already. Most of my travels are work related, either I am doing a research project or just monitoring conservation projects that our partner communities are implementing. My travels in Marinduque or in Abra or in Palawan or in Bukidnon or in Leyte – all of those are about change. But the change that we would like to happen in the communities, no matter how small or big it is, there are no certainties about it. But one thing is so true and sure, every time I travel, I will learn something, so upfront and confronting that it immediately haunts me to do something, or change my perspective, correct my mood or affirm what I already know in the past. Travelling is about learning, and learning is a transformation that we all need to undergo to be a better person.
In the end, I learned that travelling is a journey inside and outside our being; Sometimes, I travel because I would like to change the way I look at myself. I need to see serene spaces so that I will be able to have peace of mind and go back to the idea that I am a beautiful person to begin with. But sometimes, I travel because I need to extend the beauty that I have inside and help repair the part of nature that our kind has also destroyed.
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