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Batch19: Laylayan

A Box’s Journey

Through multiple seas and the south tip of the Pacific, one box’s journey ends in the small community of Laylayan - over 3,000 miles away from it’s Queensland, Australia origin. Inside the box are pre-loved clothes collected by Joanna of Balikbayan Box Movement from friends and families. What started 18 months ago with that first chat, only the deadly reach of Category 4 Super Typhoon Noru stood in our way. Promises kept, we pushed through the distribution, while Noru peeks from the horizon hours from arriving.

Laylayan was soaked. Its grounds muddy and slippery. Its people cold and wet. Yet the town and its citizen welcomed us despite the typhoon looming. We set up at Kuya Eddie Store, under patches of aluminum roofs and tied tarps, surrounded by intrigued children. One by one we called up the their names from a list provided by The AMINGS - our partner in many distributions in the area this past year.

Imagine yourself as a child in an event, waiting for your name to be called up. Knowing you will soon receive a brand new backpack full of clothes for yourself and your family. You’ll find that backpack and it’s contents useful as schools are opening back after two years of isolation. The feeling of anticipation was only bested when your name is finally called and you slowly walk towards towering adults. They strap that bag on your back, as another handed you a full bottle of hand-sanitizer. Your tiny voice saying “Salamat po” inaudible behind the more clamorous crowd cheering for you.

One by one we called their names, each having their own time to shine with the crowd’s encouraging cheer. Other families were given gifts as well with their own EcoBag full of clothes. And at the end, The AMINGS provided the kids a meal of hotdog and rice.

The box stands empty surrounded by children still hyped from the gifts they received. To its sides are 2 Universal Cargo boxes, themselves racking up over 7,000 miles from California. Joanna’s box stood out from the trio with drawings and messages courtesy of her kids. Each box had their own adventure perfectly exemplifying BalikBayan Box Movement’s slogan, “Every balikbayan box has a story.” The boxes served their original purpose. After one last photo, we left them in Laylayan and let the community’s informal settlers decide what the boxes’ new purpose will be. We’d like to think they’ll remain as boxes holding new sets of memories.

We would like to thank Joanna, BalikBayan Box Movement and all their friends and families who helped fill that box with happiness. Thank you JollyBox for giving us the hand sanitizers distributed that day. Thanks to Marie Tang Urquidi and the FilAm Scv for the backpacks donated during last January’s drive. Maraming salamat to all the sponsors who funded this entire distribution. And salamat to The AMINGS, not just for feeding the kids, but for introducing us to Laylayan and its people.

*INTERVIEW. Say HI to Anna Liza and Ofelia. With Noru coming in as a Level 4 typhoon, these ladies took the time to answer our questions as we try to find out how life is beside a river. Living in Laylayan for 2 decades, they've managed to deal with the rising water that floods their community.

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