Adventures that Matter with Mad Travel
I have always wanted to make a difference. I did humanitarian services, conducted an outreach program and served for an organization without expecting something in return. Just like how my parents are telling me, I have to do good and never stop doing good. And so I did.
Over the weekend, two weeks ago, I was invited to join a familiarization tour—MAD Travel: Tribes and Treks Tour— a volunteering activity at Yangil Village, an Aeta community, in San Felipe, Zambales. At first, I thought it was just the usual familiarization tour I had been to, but to my surprise, it was not. It was a volunteering activity. When I found it, I was very excited. I have been on many trips but had never tried to do volunteering and to have fun at the same time.
The night before I left Manila for Zambales, Danica, a MAD Travel intern, Lauren, a balikbayan volunteer from New York, and Raf, the co-founder of MAD Travel and The Circle Hostel (hostel info), picked me up at Malinta Exit. While in the car headed for Zambales, Raf provided me a heads up regarding what the tour is all about. The information he shared made me more galvanized. I couldn’t contain the thrill I felt.
After a 3-hour drive, the four of us finally reached The Circle Hostel—a shared hostel room with rustic feels. It was 1 AM. The night was long. We rested to get some sleep so we could have the energy for tomorrow’s activity.
The sun came up, we took a bath and had our breakfast, then prepped up our stuff. We were ready for the meaningful and remarkable, something of our own making. Before we left the hostel, Raf shared an overview of what we were going to do. As all of the volunteers had no questions, we headed to the Yangil Village.
From The Circle Hostel to Yangil, it took us a 30-minute drive. Upon reaching the place, we were warmly welcomed by Chief Ten, the leader of Aeta community at Yangil Village. After that, the 1.5-hour trek on soil with lahar began.
While walking on the dry land, we were amazed by the view. Mountains on the left, mountains on the right, big cogon grass side by side, and sandy soil where our feet were set. Everything seemed picturesque. While it looked beautiful, it was dead. The soil lost its ability to grow crops when Mt. Pinatubo erupted on 1990. I observed that the trees up on the mountains were little by little deforested due to illegal logging. Some of the locals cut the trees to burn it into charcoal and sell it to market so they could provide their family needs. It was awful and shocking at the same time.
The government needs something to do with it. They should have been providing a livelihood program for the locals so that the environment could have been maintained. So as a result, the locals would not have acted illegal.
While on our way to the plant nursery, we crossed 4 rivers. We soaked in the 4th river to refresh for a while. Right after that, we went to the nursery directly. We got the seelings to transfer and plant them to the side of the mountain. There were almost hundreds of seedlings planted. We were all tired but we felt accomplished at the same time. Seeing the trees we planted down the mountain was beyond happiness. Thinking we had done something great that day was something to be proud of ourselves. The joy we felt was incomparable.
After an hour or two of planting, we trekked again to the village. We came at lunch time to the village; the locals gave us delicious lunch and crispy fried thin-sliced cassava paired with lemon grass tea. They welcomed us enthusiastically just like how their leader warmly welcomed us. The smiles on their faces made me more comfortable to be talking to them.
After the delicious lunch, they performed a courtship dance and traditional song number which I, personally, enjoyed the most. Delving into the culture and involving myself to how they do, how they act, and how they live their life interests me so much. They event taught us archery and toured us around the village, specifying medicinal plants which could cure for particular diseases.
This MAD Travel journey was one of the most life-changing travels I have ever had. This opened my heart, my mind, and my soul. It taught me to fulfill my desire to make a difference. It gave an opportunity to have a better understanding and new perspective to see the world. Realizing that I could change someone else’s life gave them the hope to achieve their dreams, and hopefully, in doing this kind of activities, I could reach my own, too.
MAD Travel was the pioneer in sustainable eco-tourism. So if you want to rebuild the rainforest, help the local community, have some fun, meet new friends, and discover the culture of Aeta people, you can book at www.madtravel.org.
Disclaimer: This trip is hosted by MAD Travel.