A challenge will not be a challenge unless there is enough difficulty to meet the criteria. When we were invited by SwimBikeRun.PH to be an exhibitor for their July 28, 2019 triathlete event were a bunch of go getters with a mission. That means, we HAPI Central Luzon has to plan and to deliver what we were asked for. This is a new partnership and a lot of dynamics are in play.
See our group consist of 3 sub-groups, the mothers, the tadpole’s (these are the young learners from my group, ages 4 to 11) and the swimmers (also part of the scholarship program but informal in nature, ages 12 to 50, and whoever cares to participate). Usually, in a traditional set up each group have tasks to perform and a deadline to beat.
This invitation is not new to us, with the exception of the event crowd and setup which is different from what we are used to. Harvesting our produce is a challenge in itself, usually end of July is the time where most produce have been harvested and sold to the city by now. To retain freshness of the produce, vegetables and fruits have to be harvested exactly a few hours before the event day.
The process is simple enough; we asked whoever has the available products, we then pay for it and harvest it, in the time we asked for.
Hence, July 27, 2019 is the busiest day for all of my swimmers. The day prior is the only day I will be available to discuss with the folks how and how many we are intending to buy from them. See, just because it is an ancestral land it does not mean that trees and animals does not have a specific ownership. It is a tedious process and we cannot blame the locals if they will not give you their product without paying for it. They have been taken advantage of many times over anyway. I together with my mother’s will then hunt for our chosen products and I will choose which is best to offer to the event. Frankly, I really do have some qualms but I shall not say it out aloud. My group should not hear my thoughts of negativity at all for it is only a few hours away. But I was petrified how the group shall be accepted nor how shall our products be scrutinized. We have been to several events and usually the treatment of both our group and products are borderline unpopular unless of course it is in a market known for indigenous people products showcase.
Our group is considered the most shy of all indigenous groups in the Philippines, so making sure that my swimmers will be at ease during the event is my priority. I have given them precise instructions where will I pick them up and how. Geographical location from farm to market is really a nightmare. Our group have to travel about 30kms radius just to pick and harvest the products that we will showcase. The vegetables and fruits have to be packed according to size and weight (mind you, our team have a different weighing scale) and this has to be within 24hrs or less before the event day. Once the products have been, harvested and packed, they have to bring them down to the jump off point, travel time is about an hour and a half trek time and cross the 500 mtrs hanging bridge. They did that until 10pm and made sure that the everything shall be ready when I arrived from my trip in Manila.
The traditional heavy traffic in Edsa were really my bane, it took me hours to get to Pampanga, had to meet a friend who was insistent that she wanted to come and be the photographer, (maybe coz she noticed that I always forget to take photos), so the assigned photographer/the childlike friend of mine, Maria Juana, who happens to be a HAPI co-convenor was picked up at around 10:30pm. I called my brethren to inform them, that I shall be on my way to pick them up at 2am since we have to be at Fontana Grounds by at least 3am. Initially, I thought that it is best for me to bring MJ to Fontana and maybe get a few hours of rest before picking my team. Realizing, that time is of the essence, we just forego the idea and went ahead to the pick up area.
We arrived at around midnight, but having a crazy friend with me, I initially thought it would be fun if we trek together and picked up my team but she is not used to pitch black excursions, she keeps on asking me for a flashlight. Realizing that I may have a liability on my hand I suggested that I should bring her to the hanging bridge instead since it is just a short trek. Halfway through the bridge, I then again thought I really must bring her back up since she does not believed me when I say that there is a snake hahaha
At about 3am my team have started arriving, imagine a slippery mountain trek without light to guide them, you will be surprised that Tatay Roger was able to carry in his head 50kilos of chesa and guyabano.
No sleep and a cheery disposition, we hauled our products in the transport service and head our way to SBR Triathlon. The set up was made easy as were provided for of what we need and we were guided by nonetheless our host, SBR Brand Manager and HAPI CFO Dwengster Bulaclac.
We did hear a few comments from the participants that they think we were at the wrong event. It does not matter though, because as our HAPI CFO have said, we are creating awareness, business is secondary.
We really did not mind as there were also positive shocked queries on why we participated in such an event, maybe because they cannot wrap their minds that we are really out of place as an exhibitor of locally produce vegetable and fruits in a triathlete sports event.
I am personally grateful for MJ for calling me out, see all our cash went to purchasing our products, transport service and our meals. I am overwhelmed to note that our HAPI founder, Ms. Marissa Torres Langseth offered allowances and reward for all the hard work of the team.
That part of the experience, I shall not take for granted. It is difficult for us that although we sold a few of our products, the feeling that we are unappreciated is likely to linger and my team will feel negatively every time there will be an invite for similar event.
Showing kindness is humane. And time and time again, from the leadership of our HAPI founder and CFO, humanity is not lost.
Hopefully, there will be other SBR who made it their social responsibility to create Indigenous People awareness in their events. Slowly, it will catch up and we will not be looked upon as “we do not belong”.
Thank you SwimBikeRun.ph for the opportunity and kindness. Being kind is HUMAN. Appreciating and respecting different culture is the HUMANIST in you.