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I am Gabriel Gonzalez, a chef/restaurateur, scholar and philanthropist from New York on a mission to inspire others to travel, see the world through your own lens and socialize with the amazing community of the world.
In 2016, I launched a project aimed at three primary goals, namely;
1. The interplay of social dynamics (socio-economic, religious and linguistic ) with groups of volunteers locals and foreign [traveling to various parts of the Philippines] and locals [Filipinos] who receive them as guests, communicate and interact on a specified travel time;
2. Integration to local or indigenous communities [or families] and understanding of various practices, customs and traditions;
3. Providing sustainable medical and educational support to marginalized indigenous communities through local and international aid.
We are currently working with several international NGOs and local government units to mobilize outreach which include free medical, dental and educational assistance to those who need help the most.
Since December 2016, we have been going back to the Cordilleras and launched an Outreach Program which aims to help the indigenous people of the region thru healthcare (feeding and medical) mission, educational mission and volunteer work.
Currently, we have been to over 50 schools of the Benguet, Kalinga and the Mt. Province. I am very passionate in educating the youth to empower and better their lives in the future. I am looking for volunteers for the schools and communities.
The people of the Cordilleras are one of the most hospitable people of the Philippines. I spent almost two weeks to trek the mountains of Tinglayan to meet Whang-od, the most celebrated and oldest living tattoo lady of the Buscalan tribe. Getting a tattoo from her is spellbinding; to be a part of this thousand-year old tradition of the Kalingans is one of the highlights of my trip to the north.
Since the project is growing, we are also visiting indigenous communities in the nearby provinces of Mt. Province, Ifugao, Apayao, Abra and Benguet. We are going to schools to provide educational assistance.
The aim of the Educational Mission is to introduce the students to different subjects outside the regular curricula and integrate to their current lessons. Here are some example topics/activities that can be covered:
- Arts & Crafts, Music, Dance, Theater & Drama
- Campus Journalism & Photography
- Information and Communications Technology
- Sports, Games, Board Games, Storytelling
- Cultural Exchange, Educational Film Showing
- Teaching Communicative English
- Teaching Major Foreign Languages
- Culinary Arts
- Care for the Environment
- Nutrition, Health & Wellness
*️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️ Music, Sports and Arts Teachers are desperately needed to most schools;
*️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️ Muralist/Painters to help beautify the school walls and surroundings;
*️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️ Website Developer/Blogger who can help with optimizing the project website and social media accounts.
Other Volunteer Work we can offer to the communities include the following:
- Livelihood Programs
- Mural Paintings
- Caring for the Elderly and PWDs
*️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️Handymen/Home Builders/Engineers to help rebuild/renovate dilapidated classrooms, libraries, bathrooms and other school facilities.
Babysitting / child care
Cooking / shopping
Help with Eco project
Help in the house
Help with Computers / internet
The Cordilleran Region is known to be enigmatic and exhilarating with its amazing mountains and terrains; to meet its people is even more magical. They are often called “Igorots”, originally coined during the Spanish colonization era which means “of the mountains”. Infamously, the people of Kalinga are known to be "head-hunters" due to the clan and tribal wars prevalent to the cultural practices of the pre-colonial era. With more than a month traveling to the region, they are more than “mountain people”—they are one of the most hardworking, most modest and kindest people of the Philippines.
The Cordillerans are one of the most hospitable people of the Philippines. I spent almost two weeks to trek the mountains of Tinglayan to meet Whang-od, the most celebrated and oldest living tattoo artist (100+-year old) of the Buscalan tribe. Getting a tattoo from her is spellbinding; to be a part of this thousand-year old tradition of the Kalingans is one of the highlights of my trip to the north.
The Cordilleran mountainous charms and many customs are not just fascinating; they play a pivotal role in their daily life. With my several visits, I met like-minded Cordillerans who showed me the need to help their people in all aspects and forms. Education, [as indispensable as it is], is still served on a mediocre and destitute platter in areas like Basao, Belong, Dananao, , Sumadel (Tinglayan), San Francisco, San Pedro (Rizal), Mallong, Lacnog (Tabuk) and Chapyosen (Bontoc).
Making a difference to the world is quite a long shot as we are confronted with so much chaos and evil in the world. But I believe, with small acts of kindness, we can pave the way for genuine reform in the most diminutive spheres of influence we have. I reckon to ask help in behalf of these communities, as we’re mobilizing a medical and dental outreach program with these villages in the next coming month and educational assistance programs and workshops to schools.
VOLUNTEERS and WORKAWAYERS would be helping us in the following:
HEALTHCARE MISSION: Assisting doctors, nurses and social workers in conducting physical check-ups and providing free medicines and supplies to the people. Volunteer doctors and nurses are most welcome to join the team.
Assisting in Feeding Programs to qualified communities and schools.
EDUCATIONAL MISSION: Assistance in providing school supplies, backpacks, shoes/slippers to the students, cleaning up the surroundings, setting up of libraries, teaching to the students in a wide array of fields and providing training sessions to teachers and adults.
VOLUNTEER WORK: Volunteers may also help in farming, construction/renovation, painting of murals, and caring for the elderly and people with disabilities.
English, Spanish, French, Tagalog, Hebrew
Local families serve as hosts with humble homes but filled with love. There is electricity and water, but there is no Internet due to poor infrastructure or lack there of. Food is prepared by the hosts, the community is basically agricultural so there's enough crops, vegetables, rice and fruits.
Being with full-blooded Cordillerans allowed me to immerse to the culture completely and reckoned with their beliefs and traditions. These people have a lot of great things and sceneries to offer, like their fantastic brewed coffee, haven of organic produce, the Sleeping Beauty mountain, the Chico river, Paradise Falls, Kabayan mummies, Sumaging caves, Batad, Maligcong and Sagada rice terraces and most significantly, their genuine hospitality.
The Kalinga province and Bontoc are generally warm and temperate. It can get colder at night in the villages. Bauko in the Mountain Province and various villages in Benguet are colder than Kalinga as temperature can drop to 10 degrees celsius from November to February.
It is imperative to dress appropriately when meeting the local people, visiting schools and communities. Generally, the people of the Cordillera are conservative. Codes of propriety apply particularly in the manner of dressing. Various places in Benguet and the Mountain Province are cold so you know the proper clothing to bring.
Infrastructure is one of the major issues in the Philippines. Going to the remote villages in the mountains of the Cordilleras requires a great deal of patience and will. Transportation is not always available and arranging it to the locals can be challenging. In some cases, schedules would change for the teachers' and hosts' convenience and work (farming, etc); request of community leaders or people to participate in their event or activity; typhoon, and other extenuating circumstances which we do not have any control of. As volunteers, you may also be ask to visit another school or village because the community people want to meet and interact with visitors.
The Filipino culture is known to be extremely warm and laid-back. This translates to every aspect of life including time. Please be reminded that bus or jeepney trips don't necessarily leave on time as indicated to the schedule, and people always arrive minutes late for a meeting. It is good to note these things to have a better idea of how most Filipinos (including the people of the mountains) handle time. Again, this is cultural and not to waste someone else's time.
Given that we are visitors in this area, we ask that volunteers be respectful towards the Kalingan people (and Cordillerans as a whole), their local customs and land. The Cordilleran people are generally very simple, humble and hospitable people. The can be quite timid and reserved. They offer coffee to guests as a symbol of welcoming to their homes and communities. It is a gesture of goodwill so we always have to accept their offer to drink and dine with them in their humble abodes.
Taking photographs and videos of the community and the activities is allowed but we encourage volunteers to ask permission and use discernment when photographing certain scenes.
SMOKING AND DRINKING
These communities are quite remote and rural. The culture is conservative and very simple. Smoking and drinking are NOT encouraged during the volunteer period. We don’t want negative impressions from the local people as volunteers (Filipino and foreigners). It is also discourteous to our hosts and could also have lawful implications if police notices such
inappropriate behavior. We are dealing with the students and young people and it is NOT the kind of example we
want to give these kids.
We came here to help out and not to party. This is not a ‘Backpackers’ Meet-up’. There will be a time to smoke and drink during the R&R time after all the activities. An exception is when locals invite you to smoke or drink as form of welcome, occasion, community gathering or local wine tasting.
We encourage everyone to be inside the host’s house at 7:00 PM. In case you need to buy some supplies, find a signal or be outside at night, please let me or the host know so you can get a companion.
These villages are safe but we are visitors and wandering on your own is not smart and irresponsible. Please be quiet from 9:00 PM onwards because these areas are very rural and agricultural. Most people are farmers, they have to sleep early after a long day’s work and wake up early again to tend to their farms.
We should not be a cause of disturbance of peace because of drinking, playing music or partying in the mountain region of the Philippines.
As much as we are going to the Cordilleras to deliver assistance to the communities, we are also there to learn from the Cordillerans and their way of life. We would like for volunteers keep an open mind, be curious and make an effort to engage with the people around them. Throughout our stay, some things may not go according to plan. This is life! We ask
volunteers to be flexible and quick to adjust if such situations should arise.
Since one of the major goals of this project is ‘cultural immersion’, it is imperative for volunteers to learn and adjust to the local culture. Filipinos, particularly the Cordillerans are generally reserved and shy. But when contact is established, they are very warm, friendly and hospitable. This means you have to understand how to dine with them (sometimes with bare hands), accept all offers of food, coffee or local wine and alcohol, visit various houses in the community, attend celebrations (outside of the schedule or plan), meet and greet people in the community-- can mean long hours so be prepared to be engaged with this indigenous culture of the region.
LEAVE NO TRACE
The Cordilleras is a very beautiful place and we intend to keep it that way. Be mindful of your trash and your impact on the environment.
We encourage volunteers to bring back whatever trash they produce, especially non-biodegradable materials.
It is generally safe to visit and volunteer in the Cordilleras. However, due to the remote location and outdoor setting, please take extra care of yourselves.
We also ask that volunteers be mindful of their personal belongings.
This is a unique and enriching experience that we hope you will never forget.
Smile, enjoy yourself and make the most out of your time! :)
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
More than two
Maximum 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week
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