(Photo credits: Rowell Clenuar)
At the end of 2017 I met Travel 29, a professional photographer, on Facebook. He was looking for a promising place to feature in his travel page, while at the same time doing an outreach program as part of his annual mission. Without any second thought I recommended “Binabaje Hills” (recently known as The Alicia Panoramic Park) for travel feature and Brgy. Cambaol,(where the hills are located) for his outreach, with the approval of the local tourism board.
On January 2, 2018, after many cancellations, Travel 29’s team arrived, carrying with them no less than 5 sack bags of gifts for the children of the community. With the participation of the local barangay officials we went to the community excited and hopeful that every one of the children would get their gifts.
The introduction was followed by the the giving of gifts. The children looked curious and excited as they waiting in line for their moment. I felt excited for them, too. It was a great relief that all of them had their share of the gifts! We even had some spare ones for our guide’s kids.
Some of the kids told me that this was the first time they had this kind of activity. I felt very humbled and thankful to all the organizers and volunteers of Travel 29 for choosing this place.
I was moved and honoured to be part of the “Project Happiness” made by a group of passionate and generous people. The new year had begun with a perfect example of love of one another through giving and sharing of blessings. A small act of kindness that touched the children’s hearts.
Those cute little faces of happiness are truly priceless!
The rain was falling slowly as we ended the activity and bid goodbyes to the community and to the children. Minutes later, we were getting ready to hike and camp out on the Alicia Hills. But just then and there a hefty downpour began, and we decided not to advance and wait until the heavy rain subsided. An hour later our prayers were heard – the skies open up and the sun slowly showed.
Finally, everybody was good to go! Patience is a virtue, indeed.
The trail was muddy and slippery, and a member of the group decided to turn around, feeling his own safety was at risk. We felt sad for him but nonetheless agreed to let him go in the company of a guide.
The rest of us eventually made it safely to the top. There, we were greeted by a magical sunset while setting up our tent.
The night crawled in and a cool mountain breeze set in as well. We camped a few meters away from the DENR cottage, on a bushy flat area where camping fires are not allowed, for they might cause grass fires.
I enjoyed a meaningful evening of talks with Rowell (Travel29 content creator) together with the Alicia Trail guides. We all shared different funny stories which made us all feel more alive in the middle of the hills. It was a night of laughter and building new friendships.
I learnt many things from Rowell, especially about travel and photography. I felt very privileged for being able to share in his interests and passion. He also told me about his next travel feature and outreach program in Bohol, which I hope to be able to join.
When the morning came I felt body pain everywhere. I hadn’t had enough sleep because I was worried that the strong wind might blow away the tent – and us inside of it! But as the sun shone, the cloudy landscape surprised us and we were offered a dreamlike view with clouds kissing the green hills. A beautiful art of nature, a moment I wished would not end.
Sadly, it was time to go. Going downhill the slippery path was even more challenging than going up, but it didn’t stop us from enjoying each other’s company. The muddy trail provided a little adventure to all of us but of course we all help each other to get down the hills safely.
Travel 29 summarized the whole activity in the following 1 minute video.