It was my first time to be in Tacloban, Leyte and how ironic to note that I went there not to enjoy the scenery of the place or appreciate the architecture of San Juanico Bridge, but as Guruji says, to pour forth into action the inner joy to serve.
I went on a sunny Friday weekend from Manila, together with several BeST teachers who happen to be my work colleagues. I kept my expectations low of the place, because the footage I got from the news is that the place is still in disarray and there’s still so much things to do in terms of relief and needs.
This is the worst place I have seen after a typhoon, to think that it’s been three weeks since Yolanda struck the city. The air in some area still stench of dead animals and unaccounted humans. Garbage and wastes littered the streets. There’s a semblance of normalcy in the city because local residents are doing what they can to move on—busy with cleaning and sweeping the streets, fixing roofs, laughing from their different experiences. But the fact remains that the trauma from what happened still lingers.
I am a volunteer for Art of Living Philippines, an international NGO dealing with stress elimination and inner peace. We were sent there to do Breath & Sound Therapy (BeST) for Yolanda survivors. It is a sound and breathing technique for kids and adults that can help them cope with trauma, so they can go on with their lives normally.
We were divided into 3 groups so we can maximize coverage of the area. My first BeST salvo was in the morning of Saturday, November 30. We went to Barangay Anibong, a seaside community that was heavily affected by the typhoon. Residents were temporarily housed in a school. We went there around 10AM, and a group of volunteers from a local hospital is doing a medical mission. They are using the stage of the school so we have to make use of the flat ground fronting the stage for the BeST session. With sun shining brightly, and no shelter to cover from, we have to make use of the tiny shade from the stage so we can start with the games first. Initially, I started the program with 8 kids joining, but when the Tree Pose game started (a balance game, like mountain pose but standing with one leg), more kids joined. They were smiling and enjoying the fun, even if some of them are in direct sunlight. The best thing about this group is that they are very easy to follow instructions. When I say that they will close their eyes while saying OM, they follow. Very well behaved.
My second lead of the BeST was in the afternoon in Redemptorist Church. Most of the evacuees were sent home when we got there, so we have to make do with the remaining kids who are still there. We did our BeST inside the church. I have to keep my tone a little lower because some adults are praying inside. I started with exercises and stretching, telling them that this is just the same as what they do prior to flag ceremony in school (maybe, some of them missed going to school now). It’s good to know that most of them are laughing while doing it, a reassuring sight for a teacher to see.
I am reminded that to give without expecting anything in return is the true nature of divine love which we all should aspire. The unexplainable feeling of happiness that I felt from seeing kids laughing while they are doing the activities, and thanking us when we are to leave, is a momentous treasure that I will keep for the rest of my life. Teaching BeST connects me to these kids, and makes them a part of me. This connectivity dissolves barriers that separate our happiness from their happiness.
I commit myself to doing more of this in the future, amidst busy routines, because it breaks my boundary of what love truly is; that loving every human being unconditionally is our true Self.
My perspective of things gets deeper as I practice seva regularly. As the famous saying said, we come to realize that the true measure of our lives is not how much we have gained for ourselves, but how much we have given to others.