“If you leave everything to God, He will send you generous people who will provide you more than what you need.”
Jean was starting to get emotional as she said this, and I was, too. I could feel my eyes burning, threatening to tear up. It was impossible to not be moved. Everyone sitting around that lunch table was.
I still couldn’t believe it. I was in Batanes. I was having my first lunch in Batanes. And as if that wasn’t fortunate enough, I was having lunch with some of the most passionate, caring, and selfless people I have ever met—the advocates behind non-profit organization, Pink Women on Fire. There was Jenneferlee Navarro or Jean, the founder, and some volunteers. And I was the lucky girl who got to tag along and document this all.
This adventure started out as all epic adventures do. In the plane. It was an early flight, and I had gotten no sleep at all. The seat on the Skyjet plane I was aboard seemed to have been alerted of my sleeplessness. It called out to me. The seat arched comfortably with my back—not against it, as other plane seats would. The wide leg room allowed me to position my legs as cozily as I could, preparing for sleep. An 80-seater plane, there was an unusual, comforting quiet there. I had no chance standing against sweet, sweet slumber. I slid into unconsciousness.
It took us 1 hour and 10 minutes to get to Batanes, 10 minutes earlier than scheduled and 20 minutes faster than the usual 1 hour and 30 minutes with other planes flying to Basco. Skyjet uses a four-engine British Aerospace aircraft that can withstand cloud and wind conditions other small propeller planes could otherwise not, which is why they’re faster. They serve free refreshments and snacks, too.
An announcement over the plane’s PA system woke me up. We were on to our final descent. I looked out of the window, and that was when I knew that this journey would be unlike any other I have been to.
Cliffs. Gorgeous cliffs emphasized by massive waves crashing against it stretched out beneath us, running alongside a main road outlining nostalgic hills that gave you a glimpse of what once was a simpler, albeit happier, life surrounded by stunning nature.
Next thing I know, I was at that lunch table sharing a meal with remarkable people.
This trip almost didn’t happen, Jean told the group. There was the will, to spread hope and happiness to children in Batanes, but the resources were scarce. There were 200 kids in Mahatao, Diura Barrio, and Chavayan to be provided for, and the date was closing in, yet there was barely anything to provide.
NGOs, the will to start a change through it, are always sparked by something more intangible yet stronger than a vision. I have learned that it is faith. Faith that it can be done. Faith that a small spark of idea can truly create a meaningful ripple. And that, exactly, is what kept Pink Women on Fire going.
If there is one thing the ladies of Pink Women on Fire have learned in all their sometimes nearly impossible outreach programs, on the worst days even involving accidents, it is that nothing is in their hands. Nothing. For everything is God’s will. It is up to him alone, they would say.
“Tulog,” this is what Carla, one of the volunteers, said. “Itulog mo na lang.”
When you’ve exhausted all your efforts and there’s nothing else left to be done, the only solution is sleep, she said. And God shall take care of it. And take care of it, He did. In the morning, Carla woke up to a Facebook message with a pledge that was enough to cover for what was needed.
Pink Women on Fire’s outreach program in Batanes almost didn’t take form. But the generosity of strangers (with a dash of faith) made it happen. Kindness did.
Jean looked behind her and voiced out her gratefulness to Skyjet Airlines who partnered up with Pink Women on Fire, shipping all the cargo for their program from Manila to Batanes for no charge at all. Cheena, PR Officer for Skyjet, who was accompanying us on the trip, was smiling from behind Jean.
The morning of the outreach, we found ourselves driving out of Basco, towards the neighboring municipality of Mahatao. The moment our van stopped, our hearts did, too. Large letters spelling “LOVE” were standing erect on the field, with more than a hundred kids in pink shirts emerging from the building behind, running towards us in such huge celebration. It was like a scene from a movie. If only I had the ability, I would have put the whole scene in slow motion.
The kids eventually all fell in line, and started singing a warm Mahatao welcome song for us in that lovely, charming way that happens when children fall into a chorus.
The sky was a little overcast that morning in Batanes, yet the moment was all suddenly so bright.
The entire morning was spent laughing, dancing, and handing special gifts for the kids—school supplies, a hygiene kit, snacks, and a pair of brightly colored slippers. Jean had said that it is important to remind the children the importance of taking care of themselves, before they could care for others.
And above all, that morning induced an important discussion on dreams.
“What is your dream?” Jean asked the children. “Who wants to share it with us?” Little hands shot up in the air. One wanted to be a police, another a teacher. The other, a doctor. But despite the different professions theses kids wanted to achieve, these dreams were all tied by something they had in common—these are dreams the children wanted to reach in order to help their families.
This is the purpose of Pink Women on Fire, Jean tells me. “We are not a feeding program,” she says. “Let the government take care of that.” Instead, they are here to share happiness, even for just a day, in hopes that a little spark of joy would remind kids in sometimes less fortunate situations that they are not forgotten. Never. Not their voices, not their dreams. To remind them that their dreams are valid, no matter who they are or where they come from. To remind them that dreams can come true.
Those days spent in Batanes did more than just distribute packages. I saw something remarkable there.
I saw it in one stranger’s effort to take time off his own Batanes trip to help out, when he heard of Pink Women on Fire’s cause. I saw it in the stirring emotions of Jean whenever she spoke of her encounters with kids in some of the most remote areas in the Philippines. I saw it in Carla’s innate talent in bringing kids’ spirits up. And I saw it in people’s quick, happy glances to each other.
Keep dreaming, these looks said. No matter for yourself or for others. Keep dreaming.
As it turns out, this reminder isn’t just for the kids, entirely. In more ways than one, it is a reminder for all of us, too.
A huge thank you to the amazing ladies of Pink Women on Fire and to Skyjet Airlines for making all this possible.
All photos in this post by Joanne Tan and Nicole Villaluz.
“Reaching Out the Unreachables Through Skyjet Airlines”
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