Everybody was looking forward to this moment of gathering together and meeting batch mates for the first time. After some months in the mission area, the volunteers came together :
- To evaluate and reflect on their experiences of the first semester, as well as formulate plans to resolve problems concerning self, community, work and prayer life encountered during the first semester.
- To deepen their understanding of social issues and develop initiatives in their host communities.
- To appreciate the presence and support of God as they go through their volunteer experience.
- To spend time for rest and recreation.
On October 31, Daryl, from Leon, Iloilo, assigned in Kibangay, Bukidnon traveled to Cagayan de Oro from Kibangay, a village, up in the mountains of Lantapan town where he volunteers as a teacher in English at Xavier de Kibanagay High School. He met with Spencer, (an alumnus who was part of Batches 27-Antique and 28,29-UK) in Cagayan de Oro and they sailed to Iloilo. Terek of France (Batch 22), Isabel (from Mexico assigned in St. Martin’s School in Baguio) and Urbano (from Iloilo assigned in L’Arche Cainta, Rizal) flew in from Manila to Iloilo. Volunteers from Batad, Iloilo (Mike of Iloilo and Raven of Bukidnon), Iloilo City (Krystal, Nel of Bukidnon, Aica of Iloilo, Rachel of USA and Neal of UK), San Joaquin, Iloilo (Summer and Patch of Samar, Glezel of Bukidnon, Elvie of Kalinga) went to San Jose, Antique and met the other volunteers assigned there (Aly from Bukidnon, Daina from Iloilo, Mathilde, Geraldine and Ysaline from Belgium). These are the volunteers of Batch 30 who come from different cultures and yet having one mission as an AMA Volunteer - to love and to serve.
Everybody was excited to meet everyone in the morning of November 3 as they gathered in CasAMAdrangca, San Jose and went to San Pedro where the Midyear Sessions were held at the St. John Mary Vianney Formation Center run by the sisters of the Orantes of Assumption. The group was joyfully welcomed by Sr. Claire and Sr. Levine, two Congolese sisters who stay at the center. The sessions were held at the Formation Center and for the daily masses, the volunteers went to the St. Peter Seminary Chapel which was in the same compound. The sessions were times of looking back and looking forward, listening to each other’s stories, bonding with each other and enjoying the gifts of nature at the seminary grounds. It was a time of being grateful of one’s journey where God works lovingly in each one’s life. The AMA Staff, Ms. Gamay Solis and Ms. Ceci Pefianco together with AMA Alumni, Spencer Rosabal and Terek Ferahtia were present to facilitate and help out in the sessions.
On November 7, after an early breakfast, the AMA’s left for Kalibo, Aklan where they would be spending two days to gather more meaningful experiences. When they arrived in Kalibo after three and a half hours , they visited the Cathedral and the Museo it Akean. Then, they proceeded to the Municipal Hall to meet Acting Mayor Madeline Ang-Regalado (mother of Beverlyn Regalado-Bastareche, Batch 8). Bevs and Vice-Mayor Regalado were hosts for the lunch with the children with special needs and their families at the Stimulation and Therapeutic Activity Center (STAC) Kalibo. Everybody enjoyed the lunch because there were plenty of games for everyone. Stomachs and hearts were filled after the interaction which everyone thought was memorable. In the afternoon, the group went to Sampaguita Gardens, famous for its Precious Moments creations by Samuel Butcher and Bakhawan Eco-Park. The Eco-Park is a 260-hectare manmade mangrove forest. There are 35 species of mangroves in the Philippines and 20 species are in Bakhawan Eco-Park. The group walked through the 1.1 kilometer wooden trail which led to the sea. The walk was reenergizing and being in the middle of the forest was a fitting end to a hot day. For dinner at RML Kamayan, Vicky Borres, AMA Treasurer joined the volunteers. She came to attend the activities of the next day. At 9pm, the group arrived in the dormitory of Aklan Training Institute at the Aklan State University Banga Campus. It was indeed a long day but everyone enjoyed the tour.
The next day, each one was excited to go to another town, Balete. A year ago that day, Typhoon Yolanda devastated villages and towns in the Visayas. This day was to remember not the wrath of Typhoon Yolanda but the gifts that it had brought to the lives of the people. The AMA’s went to Barangay Calizo to facilitate the program of the day which was to turn over 37 fishing boats to fisherfolks of Brgy Fulgencio, Calizo and Aranas. These fishing boats were donated through the Marian Program of the Assisi Development Foundation. The AMA’s had a group sharing with the fisherfolks and their families. After the group sharing was a community prayer. Fr. Jenstor Sioco blessed the fishing boats which were all lined up at the riverbank. Ms. Viel Aquino-Dee and Ms. Vicky Borres of Assisi Development Foundation were present for the turnover rites. The people were happy that no less than the sister of President Benigno Simeon Aquino was present during the event.
All the ten barangay captains, the council members, a provincial board member, Vice-Governor Billie Calizo-Quimpo were present. Mayor Bobby Calizo Jr. sponsored the lunch. After lunch, some of the AMA’s rode the boats down the river. One boat with five volunteers came down and they all returned to the village wet. What an adventure ! After Barangay Calizo, the Vice-Governor invited the group to a showcase of Aklan products at Kabuhian Center. There was a group of women weavers of piña cloth. They showed finished products of pineapple fibers with intricate hand-woven designs. Aklan is famous for its piña cloth where every fiber is finer than a strand of hair. Another group was weaving nito into fruit trays and storage chests. They were beautiful creations which demonstrated Filipino ingenuity.
The group then went back to the dormitory to get ready for another long journey back to San Jose for an important part of the Midyear Activity, the Cultural Night. Although tired from the journey, the volunteers still managed to give their community presentation which lasted until almost midnight. Everyone was tired but still stayed up late to be with each other on the last night. The theme for the night was : “Many Cultures, One Mission”.The days went by fast but each one was a different person after the Midyear Activity. Each volunteer went home with more friends, more experiences, more places visited, more insights, more energy to face the challenges of the mission. Go AMA Go !