It’s been two years since our last post. Since then, we’ve witnessed and undergone changes that initially seemed very confusing and extremely complicated—and painful.
As the pandemic wore on, we gradually took to new routines and strategies to be productive and relevant, at a time when basic survival was utmost in everyone’s mind. We did our best to ride the physical, mental, and emotional seismic shifts, which we could never have imagined a decade ago, when Woods and Books was just a whiff of an idea.
We linked up with the Share Kindness Project, another all-volunteer group based in Iloilo City. Share Kindness Project, led by John Garingalao, donates and delivers books, school supplies, toys, and snacks to remote areas south of Iloilo Province. They usually hold their gift-giving program in the mornings, then hike around the countryside later in the day.
“You can either hike up a hill or bathe in a pristine river or waterfalls. When you merge charity work and nature appreciation all in one day, it’s like experiencing the two most soul refreshing and fulfilling activities,” says John.
We continued to gather books and learning materials, holding them ready for delivery or pick-up the minute health and safety protocols loosened up. People were restricted from traveling anywhere, except to do essential work and buy necessities. Apparently, for some in our Philippine network of literacy advocates, books are essential items, pandemic or no pandemic. Our partners came, they picked up, they delivered!
Somehow, despite the months-long delay in shipping and delivery, we were still able to connect books to children across the Pacific Ocean. This was the case of books donated by Ray Doromal and his neighbors who live in St. Louis, Missouri. Little did they know that after five months, their books would end up in the same town in which Ray’s father was born. We’d like to think that Woods and Books helped Ray pay it forward!
And so, “pivot” became the buzz word of private, government, and non-government organizations and agencies. So, we pivoted.
For instance, aside from donating books, we let our precious Li’l Creatures, lovingly created by volunteer Mitch Coronel Espinosa, go to children who needed comforting. We had originally thought of selling our Li’l Creatures to raise funds for our Basa sa Bata (Read to a Child) program, but they had to go where they were most needed.
Volunteer Kara Gabrielle Gengania created our virtual booth for the University of the Philippines Alumni Association in America, and volunteer Dot Llariza-Tome facilitated the process, donating part of the registration fee as well. Thanks to other donors—Marijo Jesena, Nevelee Paloma, Alvin Jison, Geraldyn Lee—all UP alumni, we were able to make it to the deadline and had our maiden attempt at a virtual presence in an exhibit.
Volunteers Nizza Ann and Neil Regalado, decided to take baking seriously while on lockdown. We also linked up with Second Spring by cousins, Cynthia and Tina. Cynthia is a painter; Tina, a poet. Both are warriors determined to live meaningful lives. View their creations and read their stories on Facebook@haikusandflowers.
Meanwhile, the rest of us did the best we could under the circumstances.
We took our shots…
We took the fruits of nature and gave them to others…
We took up new hobbies and new housemates…
Island creatures that we are, we took to the sea…
We took to the streets…
We took in art and made our own art…
And, in May of 2022, we took a stand and voted.
Throughout this pandemic period, we often don’t get what we need or want. But, we make do and do our best.
We shall be even better in the days, weeks, and years to come. We are certain of that because we refuse to let this pandemic rob us of the three things that continue to move Woods and Books from a whiff of an idea to a reality: Faith, Hope, and Love.