I am not one for drama or pretense, but maybe because this armed conflict in Marawi, Lanao del Sur, Mindanao has been raging for quite longer than expected, and maybe because I have many times imagined life if we were in their shoes, that I am personally, genuinely, beset with anxiety about how people are faring over there (though I do not know anyone from the city), as well as the useless deaths that have come about because of it.
I am also always moved by the condition of our soldiers, who stake their lives just to win back freedom for the people and the community, so much so that I have been looking for ways to help them or their families, especially of those that had, unfortunately, met their demise in combat. Nothing grand, just something that my super normal self can actually do that would matter.
I then came across my friend Monique’s Facebook post about the Ogop Marawi shoebox project for our troops, and how her son Noah’s small gift had actually been received and appreciated by one of our soldiers recuperating in East Avenue Hospital. His wife had written back their thanks, and even enclosed a photo of the happy soldier showing off the box he got from them.
I thought it would be a good idea to start with this: a small project with, hopefully, a big impact to the receiver, at least. Simple, but rock.
So we put together the following requested for items and arranged them in old shoe boxes (which actually had posed a problem as I didn’t have any! I am not one to keep shoe boxes or even buy shoes that come in boxes. Too much clutter. Anyway…)
1 white tshirt
2 pairs of black (combat-boot suitable) socks
1 face towel
1 bottle of alcohol
1 toothbrush, toothpaste
1 bath soap
Note of encouragement
I had decided to bring the boxes over last Sunday, as I had seen a call for volunteers from the Meaningful Travels PH to congregate at CMOG, Fort Bonifacio from 1pm to 5pm that day.
We had been busy the whole morning with fixing up the upstairs bedroom for my mom, who finally gave in and may have hinted that she would prefer to have her own bed in my house (finally), that by the afternoon, I was too tired to go anywhere. However, with mom’s coaching (“Sayang naman kung hindi madala”), off I went at 4pm. I hoped I would still find some people at the venue, so I sped off by myself, not wanting to wait for Dani to prep and not wanting to disturb my mom’s Family Computer play in progress. (She was trying beat her Level 7 record in Jewel, so DND.)
Long story short, I get to Fort Bonifacio in record time, and I find only 2 people, Privates First Class, left packing donations.
While waiting to fill up the donation acknowledgment form, we got to chatting a bit. I learned from PFC Soniel that the young lady (whose name I didn’t quite hear during introductions) was to be sent to Marawi the following day, “ang magiting na napili”, according to PFC Soniel. I kidded him that what he was doing was also quite “magiting”. It was not easy packing donations, lugging around boxes of canned goods and crates of bottled water, after all, it is tiring work, to which he happily replied, “ok lang po yun, ma’am.”
He told me it was good I knew where this place was, and when I told him I didn’t, and just used Waze to get there, he asked where I was from and who I came with. Told him I came by myself. He then said, “Kayo lang magisa? Ang astig nyo, ma’am.”
Now this reply had taken me by surprise, and as millenials are wont to say nowadays, I was shookt. Lol.
Because here they were, trained soldiers that are ready to be shipped off to war-torn areas, ready for any possibility in combat, calling me “astig”. For driving by myself. On traffic-less C5, no less.
After a few more minutes of light and cheerful banter, I bade them farewell and wished them safety, at all times. Our young PFC gave me a little salute and shook my hand, which, inexplicably warmed my otherwise kinda half-cold, somewhat lukewarm, heart. Because at that moment, I felt I was a hero to him, as they were to me.
(You may still drop off your donations at the Civil-Military Operations Group-Philippine Army office, Lawton Avenue, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig)
To learn more about the project, please click here: Philippine Army Launches Relief Operations for Marawi
Thanks to Meaningful Travels PH (@MeaningfulTravelsPH in Facebook) for the info and mobilization, and JV Nery, who also sent over a box.