Simple Acts of Kindness Can Travel - Camotes Islands, The Lost Horizon of the South

What impact can a simple act of kindness make? How far can a small gesture travel? This simple act of kindness is about:

The time I gave some small change to a pair of school kids from an island village and made their day (plus hopefully set an example for them to follow as they grow older).   

By China D

The Camotes Islands

With magical caves, enchanting waterfalls and flying fish, the Camotes Islands should be teaming with tourists. However, since the Spanish first landed in the 16th century and confused what the locals were digging out of the ground for the name of the island (potato in English) it has been known as The Lost Horizon of the South – not even many Filipinos are aware of the Camotes Islands. They’re not to be confused with Potato Corner – that is a Filipino business as well-known as Jollibee.  

Pacijan, Poro and Ponson are the three islands that together make the Camotes Islands. Situated in the middle of the Camotes Sea, they are officially a part of Cebu, despite being 63km from Cebu City. This region of the Philippines, although small, possesses a unique beauty and an ecological, as well as cultural, value that deserves celebrating and protecting. In the town of Poro, for example, they speak Porohanon, a version of the Visayan dialect which is not only unique to that very specific part of the world, but it is considered vital to the culture of the Porohanon people – and endangered.  

Small Change, Big Impact 

I was able to explore the beautiful island of Poro with a scooter or what they call Habal-habal. Another distinctive feature of these islands (and parts of Southern Philippines), a habal-habal is a motorbike for hire with a make-shift extension running across the middle of the seat. Passengers sit “habal-habal” or very close together. All over the island, its natural attractions are abundant and so are the smiles of the local people.

On the last day of my trip on Poro Island, I took a cab (which was like a small jeepney) to Poro Port. From there I’d catch a ferry to the main island of Cebu. On the way, my cab driver saw two small kids walking. He slowed down and asked them to jump in. The boy was holding a lunch box and a plastic bag full of mung bean – a typical way to take food to-go in the Philippines. The girl, which must have been his sister, was wearing her dress and equally big smile. They looked like they had just woken up and walked straight out of their house to get to school. That’s how excited they were for their classes – they’d forgotten to wash their faces. I talked to them and asked them if they are going to school. They nodded and smiled. They spoke Bisaya, so I asked them if they understood me speaking Tagalog. And they just giggled. I asked the boy about the lunch box. I was curious about the inside of it because the outside was so dirty looking. He answered, “Kanin po” – rice ma’am. Of course, it would be rice because he had his “Munggo” in a clear plastic bag for ulam.

The Poro Island kids with China  in the cab

Seeing these kids wearing clothes they must also use as pajamas, holding their old lunch box and sporting massive smiles at the thought of going to school, my mind started juggling a bunch of thoughts. How will I bless these kids? It’s in our Filipino nature to have a God-given heart to bless. I firmly believe that there is always something we can give, no excuses.

Thinking of their school break time, I pulled out a 50 peso note and two 20 peso notes - the change in my wallet - and gave it to them for baon. Baon can be a snack, food or money you can bring to buy food at school so you can eat on your break time. It was the least I could do for them. They took it with a big smile. It felt like it was the first time they had that amount of money. With giggles, they waved the peso notes near the window so the other kids walking could see. A feeling of happiness washed over me at the thought that with such a small gesture, I was able to make their day. Watching their reaction over something that others in a different position may just throw in the bottom of their purse, I also felt the power of a small act of kindness and began to understand its potency more.

Happy with his baon

Holding his baon. Photo by: China D

Before stopping at Poro Port, our cab dropped the kids safely to school. On a morning where they would usually have tired legs and only the contents of their worn lunch box to fuel them, they arrived fresh and early with money to treat themselves. All this just because my cab driver made the decision to allow two young school kids to ride at the back and I decided to give a little from my wallet. I didn’t miss the small change from my wallet and I wouldn’t miss their priceless reaction for the world.  

You never know the big difference a small gesture can make. Whether it’s in the form of money or a helping hand, we are all capable of giving something. In fact, it’s usually the smallest gestures that are the most meaningful because of the amount of thought that has gone into them. Your one simple act of kindness can go a very long way - it can travel. For this reason and many others, we must always take the opportunity when it presents itself, to help others. No excuses.

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