When people think of Bohol, the very first images that usually come to mind are white-sand beaches, Chocolate Hills and tarsiers, but as with everything else, there is so much more to Bohol than the classic tourist traps. More than the wondrous sights filling the small island, the heart of any place lies in the people that give it life – the kind of heart that we, the participants of the Rurals Service Project 2017 (RURALS) sought to explore and discover.
Loay, Bohol is a poster village for rural towns. It is small and serene with little cottages and colorful houses dotting the wide expanse of green. The air was fresh and cool even when the midday sun raged, and all over the little village, the voices and laughter of little children ring loud like bells.
It was perhaps the children that truly allowed our RURALS experience to become fruitful and alive.
Teaching the doctrine classes to incoming grade 4 – 6 students was perhaps one of my most memorable experiences during that week. I stayed in a tiny classroom filled to the brim with kids of varying ages. The expressions on their little faces ranged from excitement to anxiety, boredom to enthusiasm. For the first time in my entire student career, I could fully appreciate what it truly meant to be a teacher especially to younger children, and it both awed and terrified me.
As much as I would have loved to claim otherwise, I mix with little children about as well as oil mixes with water – my experiences are limited and my patience is thin. What is so wonderful about the RURALS however is that you are never alone. In that room filled with children, I taught the value of the Ten Commandments with three other volunteers, Gernhie, Kaye and Marianne, and where I cowered from the challenge, they stepped up and captured the hearts of the children wonderfully.
In the seven days that we stayed to teach and learn more about the students themselves, I will never forget the ease with which our young pupils accepted us as a part of their lives even if it was just for a little while. Throughout all of the storytelling and little beaded bracelets and necklaces, they made a little space for themselves in our hearts and there they would stay even after any number of years would pass by.
More than mere memories however, the RURALS allowed us to leave an even more tangible mark on the school we visited and the children we taught. We were granted the privilege of painting one of the newly built classrooms of the elementary school. Bright yellow with green windows, the classroom is light and open – a space meant to help the children learn as best as they can.
Looking at the yellow walls of the classroom after we were done is definitely one of my proudest moments. For many of us, that was perhaps the first time we had done physical labor of that magnitude, and I will never claim that it was easy. Climbing up and down scaffolding and ladders, looking up for half the day, endless paint splatters – each stroke was hard work and for all the challenges we faced while painting that classroom, it was always worth it.
The Rurals Service Project was an eye-opener. It was so much more than just giving back to the community – it was all about learning to find our own joy through serving others. It was getting out of our comfort zones and learning more and more about ourselves each time we give a part of our hearts away for the sake of the people around us. The RURALS was about meeting people and making friends with like-minded individuals – with others who are just as dedicated to service.
The more time I spent in Bohol, the more I grew as a person. I managed to be a part of its people.
The RURALS opened my eyes to realities that had always been there, but I had been too sheltered to see. Now, there is no ignoring the truth of the world around me. Now that I know of the hardships many of my fellows face every day, all I can do now is move forward and try to do my part to make my society just a little bit better may it be by participating in other outreach activities or even just seeing the people so many others have pretended to never see. The RURALS taught me that there is always more I could give to the community, and more importantly, that I am not and will never be alone in my mission.
So I will give more of myself – more until there is nothing left for me to give.
- By ZcheriAyn Margaret V. Suazo -
ZheriSuazo, a grade 12 student from Ateneo de Cebu, is currently part of the KALFI LEAD program in Banilad Study Center. Her first summer activity is the Rural Service Project in Loay, Bohol with other student volunteers.