It maybe very odd and crazy, but I considered summer as one of the most unexciting seasons. Since terms are usually over at summer and it’s like two dreadful months of empty pockets and vacant time, I am really not sure of what to do and like how to spend time with a lousy budget. And yes, I am not actually fond of doing chores for the family like any other teenager do, nor am I fond of attending dreadful summer clinics that can be considered a huge squander of money.

Well, that was before, since I just made this summer pleasurable and momentous for me. Yes, maybe for the most of it.

It just happened too fast and I seem not to notice that I enrolled myself for a summer class, and it was the first time I am able to do so since it’s my first year in college (and summer classes in high school before was just not so cool). I signed up for the CWTS course (the ROTC counterpart) without actually knowing what I’m going into. Since I knew that I’ll be going through it with my friends, I really just don’t care what the heck the course is all about.

To find out that part of the CWTS class was like about community service and working for others was a letdown (well the other part was like writing a book overview and an article in a Young Blood-style like this). I thought that I was in a wrong class and in a wrong place, since I just found myself being required to do Gawad Kalinga and go to a slum area to build houses for unfortunate people. I thought then that I didn’t deserve such work, because it’s too much for a kid like me. We were tasked to be under the scorching heat of the sun and work with people whom I thought I least would want to work with.

We were tasked to go to GK Barangay Escopa III to build houses. I just couldn’t believe that time that without actually noticing myself, I already started using spades to mix cement and gravel and build houses for people I barely knew. It’s a hard work and I was experiencing body pains day after day. But I seemed to appreciate the work because the people whom I thought are impossible and really scary to work with are actually kind and caring. I saw how people in this place cared with each other that they help build each other’s house and provide each other’s necessities when needed. Maybe impressions are really deceiving because behind the dirty and grubby place of Escopa are people who are willing to cooperate for the sake of the whole community’s improvement.

I was starting to enjoy the place and work and found myself being fond of eating salted singkamas and iced candy (which are sold at P1.00 each) when I realized that it’s already time for us to go and transfer to another location: The GK Brookside at Brgy. Bagong Silangan.

Since the Escopa stint somehow ignited my desire to work and help people, I didn’t find it too difficult to adjust to the new environment. After all, GK Brookside is a lot more beautiful than Escopa since it’s already an established dwelling a few years ago. But since the residents somewhat forgot to maintain the beauty of their place, we were tasked to initiate its refurbishing.

The renovation of GK Brookside made me realize for a long time since the CWTS orientation that I myself belong to a group, and the task of beautifying the assigned street made me bond more with them. I suddenly found myself making friends with classmates whom I thought I won’t we able to tie with. I met Sarah, Paul, Lindo, Joy, Marian, Rochelle and others who are also from the same college I’m into. I was really sure that for a short time, we’ve already made a bond that could survive the test of time.

GK Brookside became so special to me, maybe even more special than Escopa, because it gave me a chance to befriend and love one of the site’s residents, our host Ate Tina. I was particularly fond of her because as we were in the process of beautifying their street (which caused us a fortune, mind you), she never permitted us to go hungry. Even though we can afford better than her, she made it a point that we eat lunch even in her simple yet scrumptious meals. She is even a lot more accommodating than other people I’ve met before; she let us sleep on her own house if we felt like sleeping. She became an adoptive mother to us in just a short time that we’ve been together.

In return to her kindness and hospitality, we filled her almost empty Sari-Sari Store with items she can sell. It’s our way of helping her get through the hard life we know she is experiencing.

The flash flood at GK Brookside last May 12, 2008 was the ultimate eye-opener for me this summer since I experienced it along with the residents I treasured most. I was there and I saw the disastrous events that even I didn’t imagine to happen. Seeing the street we beautified and repaired turning into ruins were most hurting. I just thought that our efforts were just totally wasted and there is no way we are to return the things just seconds ago was there in front of me. Eventually I realized that no matter how much we’ve lost in the disaster, the bond and the relationship we’ve forged with the residents of Brookside are just enough to strengthen hopes and spark the drive to restore the lives of the people.

But what really touched my heart is that the experience showed me the concept of Bayanihan, where people helped each other selflessly in time of danger and need. I was one of them that time, and I experienced being helped and helping other people without asking anything in return. I really found the value of neighborhood love, and how the lessons of Gawad Kalinga about selfless love for the country and people are taught among the residents of the area. It’s really very miraculous and surprising that through everybody’s effort, no one lost a loved-one despite nature’s freakiest test.

I didn’t expect that doing Gawad Kalinga can change my views about some things in this world in just a summer. Though I was initially hesitant and even annoyed that we were being forced to do supposed voluntary work, later I found it as a rewarding experience and would not regret a single bit of it. GK was a reason for the many changes in my life this summer. I learned a lot of things about life and love, and for the first time in my life I felt summer worthwhile, enjoying and significant.