The Road to Five Hundred Seventy-Three
We say “feeding” but we think of nourishment beyond what the stomach needs. When we think of “the future,” our minds reflect on every step, every journey, and every road that led us to where we are and where we want to be.
There were roads we never thought we would pass again, let alone lead us to this: our largest feeding program to date – Five hundred seventy-three Aeta children of Nabuklod, Florida Pampanga. And the road to serving 573 kids took “three decades, four years and a day.”
THREE DECADES. It has been over three decades since I last saw an Aeta family before moving to Manila for college. For decades, I kept the dream of one day going back to reach out and help the Aeta families in my hometown.
I remember growing up and seeing them every first of May which is our town’s “fiesta”. They would come down from the foot of Mt. Pinatubo where they live; little children in tow, and babies wrapped in a clothing that is tied around the mother's chest. They speak a dialect I never understood but find fascinating.
They don’t read, don’t write. And, what for us, is common food such as fried chicken, hamburger, a pie and juice – to them is a feast they’ve never experienced – until the day our roads met. Mine as I go back to serve as an advocate and a mother continuing my daughter’s legacy. While theirs, still the same road they walk barefooted when I saw them last… Our paths have crossed once again. Three decades in the making but a lifetime worth of special memories.
A DAY. We only had a day to serve 573 children. But what does “a day” mean to them? It meant having to experience “a feast” and open presents. It meant slipping on to new slippers to protect their feet from the steep and rocky road they travel on everyday. It meant being remembered and cared for. A day with us meant “the future” to them. One where we, as an organization, plan to be part of. And we will be.
The “road to five hundred seventy-three” was rough and challenging at best. A road less-travelled but ultimately rewarding when you think about it. The look of bliss and utmost appreciation on the faces of those children are just too beautiful to bear. Those smiles that shake you to your core and you find yourself overcome with the need to hold their hand and promise that you’d stay in their life...because they are worth it.
The road that led us to 573 beautiful souls is a journey that was set in heaven. A longtime dream that was granted by Him who is neither early or late in blessing His children.
It took three decades, four years and a day. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.