Charm sketches for the 2014 holy week

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By Robert L. Domoguen

Mountain Light

Monday, April 7, 2014


I WOKE at 4:00 a.m. fighting sleep that would not let me get up. I won the fight thanks to a cell phone alarm that would not give up. Good gracious, I left the equipment high on the cabinet. I simply would have turned it off if it was within reach beside the bed.

A couple of minutes later, I heard the car stop by the house. Our driver made sure, I know, he was around with a honk, repeated twice. Minutes later, he called. I was already out and we left to fetch Dr. Inez Gonzales of Benguet State University (BSU). If we leave Baguio before 5 a.m., we intend to be in Bangued, Abra in four hours. We will just be in time for the graduation program of our farmer-students who completed a six months long, "School-on-Air (SOA) on Roots and Tuber Crops, our True Highland Treasures," aired daily over DZPA, from Monday to Friday, 30 minutes before noontime.

The graduation ceremonies was about to start when we arrived at the Provincial Capitol in Bangued. I was still nauseous from the lack of sleep and the long drive. My mind was drifting on air and the limbs are quite numb.

Crislyn Balangen, my young staff, approached with a smile that made me more conscious about my being here. "Sir," she greeted, extending the list of graduates, their names, ages, gender, and the barangays and the municipalities where the graduates come from, all typed in a six pages bond paper. To make sure, she also told me, "there are 116 graduates out of 120 enrolees, who will march on the stage today." I pocketed the papers, just as she expected. She will come and remind me what I need to know and do as the program proceeded.

Crislyn manages the affairs of the CHARM2 Project Information and Knowledge Management Unit (IKMU), reason why she smiles on such moments and events like this. I allow her that privilege including the kind of work she does in planning and tracking the IKMU year, and in making me do my work. It is actually a role she took over from Mitch Harmony Mendoza, who was transferred to the office of the Project Manager early this year. These kind ladies knew the scenario of our activities and make sure the details get acted on well.

Today, I had fun seeing Crislyn playing out a brand of service we previously talked about. "Our team must be able to function in a way where each could easily take over another's role any given time a member is out." I had fun teasing her on stage about the things she does, while we distributed the certificates to the graduates.

I was in that teasing mood, when, "Pacita Vidal, from Bila-bila, Sallapan," was called to the stage. She stood and proceeded towards us aided with a walking cane. Her left leg is on prosthetics.

From a teasing mood and trying to make sense of my left from the right, still trying hard to be awake, instantaneous thoughts flooded my mind. A scene I witnessed a couple of years ago suggested repetition here. I determined to act on the same scene and discover something else the character of that scene enjoyed.

On stage Pacita (34), married to a farmer, both with a child, and now a special SoA graduate, collected her certificate. She shook hands with the guests on stage. When she came to where I stood, she extended her hand as she did to the other guest.

When she came to my corner, I surprised her by grabbing both of her shoulders and positioned her on my right breast as I put my right hand around her shoulders, a perfect pose, and the camera clicked. It was a recording of a very important moment in this event for me. Only after this act, did I hold her hand in a firm handshake. She was bewildered and I did not let go, looking her in the eye, until we both understood what was going on. Two steps away from the stage, she smiled as she walked towards the crowd.

I caught you there Secretary Proceso Alcala. That scene, an Alcala act, came to mind at this time and playing it my way makes it mine too. I enjoyed copying it, even repeating it twice on stage today with lola Severina Boleza, also a graduate from Bila Bila, Sallapadan, 74 years old. I went to fetch and walk with her towards the stage when it was her turn to receive her certificate. After shaking hands with all the other guests on stage, I held her by the shoulders and we had a long handshake, a gesture, I hope will give this accomplishment, its well "prized" meaning.

Indeed, it is, if I must elaborate further. After the graduation program, I asked one of the SoA broadcasters and field implementers why they enrolled old Severina in this course. His response was not what I wanted to hear so she called our community mobilization officer (CMO). I simply told the CMO straight: "You enrolled Madam Severina because it is easy for you to reach her in her house when it was time to validate what she learned.

"Ni sir met," (Why sir?), Ms. Teresita Andallo, our CMO responded, her voice told me she was hurt. She explained that she hope Lola Severina will prove to be one of our best graduates, with a story of a man, with both feet amputated and unlearned. This man participated in a program that taught him how to read and write. Since the Bible sustained his interest to learn more from reading, he is now a lay chapel minister in the community. He read much on the Bible and he is now serving the community well, Ms. Andallo explained.

I just had good impressions about our special SoA graduates and I wanted to know we shared the same insight about their accomplishments with their active participation. I talked to Lola Severina, after lunch, to conclude the message for this wonderful event.

"Learning is always fun," she said, "especially when we do it with and for the young. I would have wanted to give way to the younger generation but they did not like me to relinquish my position as President of the women's club. Your radio program is help me to continue learning." This is now the second course she completed. The first was on coffee production.

"I am a mother of five children," Lola Severina continued. Three of the children migrated to Canada. Completing the SoA courses are "ammunation" or stocks of information she uses when she tells stories or share advise to the young women, even sons of the village on their farming activities,

Both Pacita and Severina may have disabilities but in the words of our co-partners in Abra, "they are community movers," in their own right. In fact, their special awards say so. Pacita was given a SoA "Cassava Award." For Severina, the eldest SoA graduate award.

The Cassava Award, represent for Pacita, the rest of her kind and marginal communities, a deep rooted existence with fruits and products important to survival in their kind of environment. Severina is a gem to the mind, a voice and a source of inspired inspiration. They both tell us that in our highlands, if we truly care, no one is a spare and all resources are "integrated" for quality community survival.

I think I do not have to repeat the same Alcala plot for emphasis anywhere, hereabouts. In another place, a scene may instantaneously emerge, another CHARM2 Project stage development plot in our myriad of social and geographic landscapes.

I slept while the car speeded on the highway on our way back home. I dreamt seeing myself waking up to call on my cell phone. Yeah, there are those times when you cannot sleep over something even when you are really sleeping. May the holy week make a holy year for all of us, filled with inspiring and meaningful stories that color our world, the details, of which make our individual and community life in the highlands truly fun.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on April 08, 2014.

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