OMG, has it been more than a week already? 😅
I remember sitting pensively inside the quiet Jaro cathedral two Sundays ago, during the 6:30am mass, after I had asked kuya taxi (who had also just told me about his life the whole trip) to bring me straight to church from the airport.
I have had so many things to cognitively process that Sunday and it was timely that I was taking a short break in the city of love (my love), Iloilo. 😊
I prayed to the Lady of Candles to grant me light, enough to properly navigate through the complex set of feelings the past days have brought.
After a grueling set of weeks doing urgent work things, and beating deadlines, and joining sports activities for Labor month on the one side, and (also) doing some singing gigs on the other (haha), I received a message from my friend (the ever famous) Roy of MHPH, introducing me to Mr. Rex Dayao of Unilab.
We were informed that they were bringing to Sugbu and replicating the amazing Kalinga projects they ran in Davao and Manila, and they were looking for volunteer facilitators.
I was thrilled to hear that we had something to do for the Cebu group as we had been struggling to hold meetings the past months due to everyone being really just busy with life. (Sidenote: that is, honestly, the struggle for volunteer groups – to organize and to sustain the fire.)
So with a few hands up, wanting to be volunteers, and then some realizing they won’t be available on the dates of the activity, we were down to two (very handful) volunteer facilitators for MHPHCebu – Mary & I. Cris was also free but he was also a Unilab Ideas Positive Alumni, so he was going to represent the latter.
I was unable to join both the preliminary meetings and the orientation, and was only able to watch the Kalinga video Sir Rex sent us (which had me crying) so I knew I was in for some ride.
” I waited inside the room, taking in whatever I could, and growing overwhelmed as the number of people increased by the minute.
There were habits of different shades and colors.
I assured myself, that nothing could go wrong as I had been very used to seeing nuns and brothers and priests in my life.
I came from a Salesian family, and my parents are both catholic school teachers, so I was confident I could do my job just as well.
But boy, I was swept off my footing without warning, and I’m quite sure that no amount of interacting with religious people in my whole life could have prepared me for what was to transpire.
Father was right, the room was so full of love, weary, but overflowing with a love so powerful, it heals.
I had to cry for a few stolen minutes while the lights were off and they were showing a video on the big screen because I had to be professional in dealing with everybody. 😬
I’m usually good at compartmentalizing my own feelings while doing facilitating jobs, but today was one of those days when I was overcome by a mysterious sort of energy.
It was warm and powerful, and disarming.
Wala jud ko kapanukad 😫 (I was not prepared, my goodness) they say in Bisaya.”
This was what an unfinished note in my phone said on May 24.
And ahhh, what can I say?
I actually had the time of my life talking to the participants. And perhaps the best takeaway I had from the nuns and brothers and priests is that love takes many forms.
Funny how, of all places, this was where I’d meet love again. Although, of course, this is that kind of love I cannot run away with and marry. 😅
But yeah, indeed, love is different when it comes from a position of charity.
Imagine the depth of compassion you’d need for you to be able to love without affinity. For you to be able to love the unlovable, the dejected, the different, the persecuted, the sick. And for you to be able to love those who don’t even know how to help and love themselves.
And how to sustain that kind of love that has sprung mainly from a divine call to duty (to your God and your vocation) is beyond me.
As I was given an opportunity to speak and wrap up the sharings by echoing the points discussed in our group, I was deeply moved by the faces of everybody in the room intently listening to me. It was a powerful moment and I felt the graciousness of the good Lord upon me. If anybody noticed, my voice actually gave that away. Haha.
And I have that moment forever singed in my head – the nuns and brothers and priests I used to wistfully listen to at school, all lovingly listening to a lowly person like me talking.
After that, I bought coffee, went home, and immediately fell asleep (soundly). Haha. I skipped work that day, knowing fully well how I had to double up on work when I went back, and I was exhausted, but I guess that did not matter much because my heart was overflowing, and I knew that was what’s most important.
The second day was different.
I was feeling very prepared as we have had a sort of a dry run of the activity the day before, as Sir Rex had called it.
But you know what they say about being very well prepared – there is no such thing. 😅 Haha.
The minute the room filled up with people, there were over 240++ of them, compared to the 50++ groups from the other day, my heart was swelling with a different kind of energy.
All activities started with a mass and I have to say that the Camillians officiating the mass was nourishment (and a kind of renewal) for the soul, really, and I had caught myself in deep thought as I listened to Fr. Dan say the homily for the two days.
It’s really true what they say, that faith is an essential component of our culture, and as much as we want to be scientific with so many things (one sister working for MH patients would agree with me when I say this) we actually need a multidimensional approach to dealing with societal concerns, even at an individual level. Kalinga tapping into this is ingenious and very well thought of.
Anyway, so cut to the part of the program where the volunteer kids distributed roses to the carers.
Have I mentioned how I was feeling overly prepared? 😎
Well, there was no preparing for anything.
It was an overwhelming sight, to see mothers, fathers, siblings, health workers, carers, silently crying and smiling at the same time as they each received roses. It was a crude human experience for me. It was such a moment of grace. 😭
And so I’ve gathered how love is different when it comes from a good place – when you know there are minimal and manageable problems around you, when your finances are stable and your career going fine, when your family is healthy & doing well with their lives.
And love is different too, when it comes from a difficult place —
A place so full of questioning- “Why my child, of all people?”
Of struggles – “I had to give up my job so I can take care of my child.”
Of fear and loss- ” My first child did not make it, so I’m doing my best with my second child who is also sick, I could not imagine losing both of them.”
Of sacrifice – “I am disabled, mam, but I have to take care of my 5 kids, I had to let my husband go because he was such a burden and a problem himself.”
Of regret – “I should’ve been careful with my life choices, but what can I do, I got sick too. My advocacy now is to help those who are in the same position.”
It is a pure kind of love (for family & God); faithful, to a point of reckless abandon. Like the love of a helpless little child to his mother and father — grounded on genuine faith, and exhaustive trust.
Faith is a mystery. Love is too.
If you’ve ever had a God experience ever, I’d say that that is the nearest thing I could ever think of comparing the two days to.
And honestly, this whole volunteering work is exhausting, and you don’t even get paid for all that you do. (Well maybe save for some really nice tokens from Unilab 😁). But why do we keep doing this?
I ask myself that question, every time. And I had to ask the good Lady of Candles too.
She just answered me with a warm rush of blood all over my body, on a gloomy Sunday morning in Iloilo. And I was reminded of how God always stirs my life to places where I can be filled with divine wisdom and grace.
Thank you, universe. 😊
In an effort to help others be renewed, I found my own peace, and healing, and renewal too.
Oh, faith is such a mystery.
And love is too, definitely.
The Kalinga (KAagapay sa PagLINGAp) is a program conceptualized by Unilab Inc.’s External Affairs and Social Partnerships Department in partnership with the Camillian Fathers Order of the Infirm for Carers of the Sick.
It aims to:
- Provide carers a venue for spiritual and psychosocial nourishment and self-renewal
- Increase awareness and commitment among partners and relevant organizations regarding the importance of caring for the carers
They have run the program in Davao, Manila & just recently, Cebu.
Special thanks to Ms. Claire, Sir Rex, the Unilab Team, & the Camillians for the program. I do wish it becomes a project of scale. 😊💚