OUR family decided to start some projects to give back to the people of Cagayan de Oro, especially those that have very little. So, we decided to start the Lion’s Den.
The name of our group was coined from the assumption that real fear, pain, and suffering are felt when we descend into the depths of our darkness we termed, the Lion’s Den. When you are in the Lion’s Den, there is only one choice, and that is to survive.
An anonymous author wrote, “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have.”
We thought that as a family, we can become better human beings if we start listening to the fear, pain, and suffering of others, especially the unfortunate in our city. So, we pitched this idea to some friends in Cagayan de Oro, who reached out to their other local friends, and it snowballed to an army of enthusiastic young volunteers. With limited resources, all we depended on was a ton of energy from the volunteers.
Since I facilitated the projects from a distance, we decided to start with small projects. We started by providing food and taught street children in Divisoria. Then, we brought several lolos and lolas to Jollibee for a dinner party. The activities were fulfilling to the Lion’s Den volunteers, and I was equally ecstatic to see the smiles of the kids and senior citizens through the pictures the volunteers regularly sent me.
We felt the need to expand our projects. So to reach the hinterlands of Cagayan de Oro, we partnered with the outreach ministry of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Cagayan de Oro church.
So every Saturday, our team provided feeding programs and distributed school supplies including raincoats and umbrellas to children of several Cagayan de Oro barangays including Batinay, Pigsag-an, Macapaya, Macabalan, Pagalungan, Tagbocboc, Bayanga, and Tagpangi. Some of the food ingredients were donated by some local businesses, like spaghetti sauce from Ororama.
One of the leaders of the team is a famous chef, so she would prepare the food upon arrival in these barangays. These barangays were remote, but the roads were the bigger challenge. The roads were so narrow and you have cliffs on both sides. When it rained, the van carrying the volunteers would sway from one edge of the cliff to the other.
We even gathered generous physicians, dentists, and nurses to conduct a medical mission in Batinay. We did health promotion activities like blood pressure checks and distributed some medicine provided by the City Health Department of Cagayan de Oro.
We also assisted local residents with some livelihood projects, like distributing goats to Macapaya residents and young pigs in Bayanga. We also provided seeds donated by the Department of Agriculture to residents in Batinay to start a community vegetable garden. We assisted in starting a barangay sari-sari store in Pagalungan.
When my mom’s condition was terminal, she wanted to go home to Cagayan de Oro one last time, while she still had strength. Because of all the wonderful stories we received, my mother wanted to join the Lion’s Den volunteers to experience their blessed journey.
I never saw my Mom so happy playing with kids during the feeding program. It was a lasting image. The people we met from the Lion’s Den projects taught us a lot. We saw desperation, pain, suffering, remoteness. But, we were also humbled by the experience of pure joy, thanksgiving, and ultimate peace from those young faces and those towering mountains.
This experience reminded me of the words from an early 19th century philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, “Life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be experienced.”