Ignatian Build 2014

by Niko Macatangay

—— The day was Saturday, July 26, 2014. The Atenean volunteers assembled slowly at Xavier Hall just a few hours before dawn. They moved around sluggishly like pandas, filling the hall with yawns, stretching as they moved around only half-awake. The sky was still a very dark hue of blue, and visibility was low. Occasionally, the wind would whistle, sending a cool breeze to the hall, and the leaves would rustle. As the sky got brighter; the hall got fuller. They knew little of what was ahead — how Ignatian Build would unite all the volunteers, give them opportunities to forge strong bonds of friendship with other volunteers and with the kapitbahayan, and how it would give the kapitbahayan the hope they so needed — how the gloomy and lazy atmosphere of that morning would be the exact opposite later in the day. Like the heat of the sun that would beat on their skins, so would be the burning desire in their hearts to help their brothers and sisters in need.

—— The volunteers, regardless of social status, age, or nationality, contributed to the building of the GK Cabiao community. After hours of travel from their vans, the blue-clad volunteers from Ateneo step out only to be greeted by the merry kapitbahayan of the GK Cabiao community. The Taiwanese volunteers from Soochow University, all wearing red shirts, arrived shortly after. Lastly came the volunteers from Miriam College, the young volunteers from Xavier School, and a few volunteers from GK Pampanga. Moments later, they were divided into groups each assigned with different tasks such as house painting, tree planting, carrying hollow blocks to houses, mixing cement, laying the foundation for the houses, and keeping the children busy with games and stories to maximize efficiency. Freshmen and fresh graduates hoisted each other up to paint hard-to-reach areas of the houses. Filipinos along with Taiwanese volunteers went long distances walking through warm, sludgy mud carrying heavy loads of several small trees to plant them in columns. High school students along with college students carried the heavy hollow blocks to houses. Volunteers along with some of the kapitbahayan laid the foundations for the houses. Young and old kept the children of the site occupied with exciting games and amusing stories. Their cooperation could be likened to the human chains they would form to pass along concrete —strong and efficient.

—— The volunteers forged friendships with each other and with the kapitbahayan. At a glance at the volunteers, you would not only see their smiles as they worked hard in the hot sun, but you would also see their hearts — oozing with love for humanity. These hearts that took a break from studies, hanging out with friends, and even making lesson plans instead poured their time and hard work into helping the ones who need it the most. The volunteers and the kapitbahayan got a sense of each other’s identities as they worked with one another to build the community of GK Cabiao, and it was difficult for them not to gravitate toward people who had such positive energy and outlooks on life — people who seemed to share pieces of their hearts with one another. And so strangers became acquaintances, and acquaintances became friends come lunch time.

— — The Ignatian Build as a whole gave hope to the kapitbahayan in GK Cabiao. These people had no proper places to call home. They were among the poorest of the poor. To see the volunteers take the time out of their everyday lives just to help them — to provide them with a place to live — sent them over the moon with joy. To these people, the volunteers were heroes. Because of these heroes, gone were the hopeless days where they would have to sleep in “houses” without roofs. Because of these heroes, they would no longer have to live in fear of being driven out of their places of residence. Because these heroes were so alive to their surroundings and so ready to help those who truly need it, they are now in possession of a proper house with a roof — a home to call their own.

Gusto kong maging enjeneer,” a little boy scribbled down on his paper with purple crayon.
The volunteers asked the kids in the site to put down on a piece of paper what they wanted to be when they grow up. They drew pilots, policemen, and many more. The volunteers realized that by giving them the basic necessity of a home, they were also giving the children — the hope of our country’s future — a push towards a brighter future.

—— Although, at the end of the day, dark rain clouds covered the skies, the faces of the volunteers and the kapitbahayan were still bright with delight due to the success of the build. In those moments, nothing could wipe away the joy of helping brothers and sisters in need. The wind that blew colder and the rain that began dropping could not extinguish the burning desire to help the volunteers still harbored in their hearts.

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