When my parents moved me to a public school, it was a huge transition for me. The environment was very different. The school was tiny. The chairs were broken. There were only very few old books in the dusty library. The text books had scribbles on them since they had been handed down many times. Most of my classmates couldn't afford nice things – new bags, plain white shirts, let alone black shoes.
Every day after school, some of my classmates would immediately go home to fetch water from a couple of miles away on foot because their area had no access to water. It would take them an hour or so to return home, ideally, before sundown.
They had been in that situation even since they could remember. Can you imagine? No easy access to water. Unbelievable.
I realized the entire setup was unfair to my equally competitive classmates, who could have used that time to study. I was moved enough by this problem to take action.
One day, instead of walking straight to school from home, I took a jeepney to the city hall. I was going there without an appointment. All I knew was that I needed to talk to the mayor.
I joined a long line of people wanting something from her too. I patiently waited for my turn.
She must be very busy today, I thought.
When they finally called me in, I started to talk before I even got the chance to sit down. I remember the late Bago City Mayor Janet Torres cutting me off to ask for my name because I forgot to tell her who I was. I took a quick deep breath, introduced myself, and then went on to tell her exactly what I needed form her.
She just smiled at me and then called her secretary to introduce me to the city engineer.
When I got to his desk, he asked me what he could do for me. I told him what I already told the mayor. "The purok where some of my schoolmates lived do not have access to water so please install a water pump," I said in Hiligaynon.
He, too, just smiled at me.
Everyone just kept smiling at me. I wasn't sure if they were treating it or me as a joke. I don't recall anyone saying they would actually do something about my request. They just thanked me.
Days later, though, a water pump was installed in the area. I was 15 and in my school uniform when all this happened.
I share this story because I hope it would move you too.
It takes just a walk down the street here in the Philippines to see our state of poverty, but it may take immersion, another level of empathy to move you. What will it take to move you? Find out. Do it. Let it move you.
Sometimes, all it takes is to walk up to the mayor and tell him/her exactly what needs to be done.
If all of us take a step towards the right direction, we can move the Philippines forward. –Rappler.com