I have very few friends. But the few that I have are planets: cosmic and uncontainable. The nomad whose roots originated on a huge house on the far end of a tree-lined driveway in Dumaguete, for example. He burns brighter than Mercury. The hobo from Iloilo on the other hand, wears Earth on her skin. She chases shades under trees with tens, hundreds of hands outstretched.
Compared to them, I am a lesser superhero. Because while I am selfless for family, they are to community.
Kristine Buenavista used words to navigate the multiverse. But the allegories of the village was apparent in her language, a clear expression of ardor that was impossible to escape from. So even when university education lured her to the city, she would go home on many afternoons, scribbling poetry on bus tickets. Bus windows– sometimes misty, oftentimes dusty –proved to be perfect canvasses for finger-painting daydreams.
While the rest of us, once-dreamers, settled with arses nailed to corporate swivel chairs and overseas pseudo-slavery, she went home and tended to her town.
Aware that literacy is the only way out of poverty and stagnation; that books are rabbit holes to worlds beyond rice fields and the public market; that one’s stories are another’s too; and that each of us should tell and retell them until we run out of stories to tell, she put up Trisikad Book Nook.
With a Trisikad (Pedicab) brimming with pre-loved books, she pedals her way around her little town of Barotac Viejo in Iloilo to offer free-reading and story-telling. She parks under fruit trees, in corners near markets, outside schools, and in neighborhoods where mothers sweep dry leaves on grounds and fathers till the soil for food.
She ties balloons in various hues around her rolling library to attract children, makes a signage out of an old chalkboard to beckon those who can read, and chants spiels like a master sales(wo)man– only, her goods are for free– to lure in aunties, uncles and grannies to pore over books through yellowed reading glasses.
Often, she invites friends to make the rounds with her. Fellow storytellers from nearby towns, or those who can spare weekends away from big cities. Sometimes, she hosts couchsurfers who are keen to do some volunteer work — bike around on her behalf for example; or read, write, make art and storytell.
The children in her village are the Kristines of the yesteryears: always willing, ever eager. Like her, these children lie on fields and squint against summer suns until they fill the entire sky with wishes and stories and dreams.
If the Trisikad Book Nook didn’t exist, they would read the back of biscuit wrappers, political streamers, signboards of v-hires buzzing in and out of town. They would look for other avenues as Kristine once did. But if you and I could make education a little easier for them, a bit more accessible, by helping Kristine push her trisikad, for instance, then I believe we should.
If you have loose change to spare, donations can be made through emailing patadyong (at) gmail (dot) com or antares (dot) sheratan (at) gmail (dot) com. For couchsurfers, Kristine would be keen to show you around her wonderworld.
Danilo Guillano‘s generosity is infinite. Once, he maxed out on his credit card and donated the money to charity. During a short stint in Singapore, he gave away his guitar to a random kid who wanted it. He even handed me down shitloads of sketches and artbooks– so many it was scary. I even took it as a sign of suicidal ideation and prowled on him for days on end.
For years, I palmed through the vignettes of his silence, trying to understand what I knew even then was beyond my comprehension. He was dark, deep and fleeting. He did not take much, if he ever took any at all. He gave a lot– through his music, through his art. If it would help another person more, he would empty his pockets and take the clothes off his back.
Today, he is instrumental in the operations of Pens of Hope Davao while still being active with Tsinelas in Cebu. Both organizations aim to educate as many children as possible. He has found his happy place– a bottomless venue where he can share his art and music and actually make a difference.
I’m sure he’d be glad to have more school supplies for future Pens of Hope Davao outreach programs or more hands to teach kids how to draw and write. Do consider tagging along in their school visits the next time you are in Davao, or drop a box of crayons or two in their collection centers.
If you can spare a bit more, Tsinelas could send a kid to school for forty bucks a year. You could cross an item off a graduating student’s wish list: three dollars for a pair of denim pants, for instance. If you fancy, you can trek to many of Cebu’s far-flung mountain barangays and help other Tsinelas volunteers paint a classroom or build a library– take your pick.
My hopes are fervent that for every child that is sent to school by Tsinelas and for every student that receives a free pen from Pens of Hope Davao, a bit of Kuya Dan would grow in them as well. That way, the ripple of goodwill and selflessness would roll from generations to generations until this country would be starved no more.
Danilo Guillano’s generosity is infinite. Even that is an understatement.
She and Him – Photos were lifted from Tin and Dan’s Facebook accounts.