#TravelForPencil: Traveling One Step Away From Ignorance

 

 

There’s one question I failed to ask myself when I started testing the waves outside our Philippine shores. Why am I doing it? To find myself? Sure! But I have not really thought of traveling with a cause. After one place after the other, there is something else that I still wanted but couldn’t put a name on until I bumped into the Facebook post of my University friend’s little sister.

 

I can only remember how young she was when I would do sleepover in their house. Their mother’s cooking is still one of the bests my battered taste buds have ever tasted. Though now a grown up lady, my memory of her was still of a little girl. It is just like every parent even when their kids grow up. It will always be little fragile kids in their eyes. At some point, they just stopped counting the age no matter how many birthdays come. That’s how she is to me: a little girl who is doing something very impressive that makes me feel so ashamed of myself given my old age. Her parents must be so proud of her. Prouder than I am.

 

 

 

As I stare at the photos, I couldn’t help but stalk her profile where I would see even more of what will further touch my heart. She is doing it right. She is doing it like how I myself want to do it. Being outside our own country and coming across with all the stereotypes other nationalities throw at Filipinos for being poor, ignorant and uneducated, I would want to start doing something that will somehow put an end to it and prove them otherwise. I am such an ambassadress for the limitless powers that come from knowledge and some sort of nerdy things. Travel for Pencil. What an amazing idea! I got so inspired and I just couldn’t help myself but bug her with tons of questions.

 

 

Tell us something about you. (What you do. Your age.)

 

My name is Nikhail Grace Gonzales. I am 27 years old and still single. I work for one of the biggest telecommunications company in the Philippines for five years now. I love traveling and adventures. I balance my life through service and traveling. Aside from working 5 times a week, I see to it that I balance my time for my family, service and travel.

 

 

 

#Travelforpencil. I know that the idea is already there but how did your project start? What inspired you to do it? Are you doing it alone? Are you getting suggestions?

 

I had this trilogy climb at Nasugbu, Batangas with my friend last January 2017. We were able to climb three mountains for a day- Mt. Batulao/Mt. Talamitam/Mt. Apayang. It was indeed one of my greatest achievements when it comes to hiking. I wasn’t expecting to finish three mountains just for a day. It was so tiring but with God’s grace, we were able to conquer it. After that climb, I felt that something was missing, I began to ask myself, “Bakit parang my kulang?:” (why does is feel that something is missing?). After reaching the peak, posting the pictures on social media and sharing the experience, I felt that there was a piece missing, “Ano na? Ano ngayon kung nakaakyat ka ng bundok? Nakatulong ka na ba?” (what now? So what if you’re able to climb a mountain? Were you abel to help?) These questions lingered my mind, I was inspired by many kids along the way, along the trail, as they chose to help their parents earn a living on a weekend instead if just playing. Some kids help their parents sell and some earn by offering their services as a tour guide. Sabi ko sa sarili ko, (I told myself) How can I be of help to these kids in my own simple way?? I was led to move and do my part. And so I thought of this pencil to give out to kids wherever they are whenever I travel with my friends since pencils are lightweight and easy to carry.

 

 

 

On my next climb at Mt. Gulugod-Baboy in Mabini last March 19, 2017, I brought with me 15 pieces of pencils just to start. The day when Travel for Pencil was born. Honestly, I do not know what I was doing. I even doubted myself. Tama ba tong ginagawa ko? (Is what I\m doing right) Along the way, I cannot forget the look and the smile the kids have given me. I knew that was it! That’s the answer! And so I shared my experience in social media. People began asking why I give pencils and admittedly, I do not know what to say (at first). Hindi pa rin clear. (It is not clear) Little did I know, they were also moved by simple act. And from then on, pencil donations just came on pouring from my relatives and friends and even from people I do not know.

 

 

 

How do you find the kids or the places where you;ll do your next project? Do you have contacts there? How often do you do it? How may times have you done it?

 

I hand over pencils to random kids who I met along the way anywhere. No specific community. I target to have a trip at least once a month. We just think of any place to go. Sometimes, I got invites from groups to join their trip and bring pencils with me. As of to date, we were able to give 473 pieces of pencils to 11 locations in the Philippines.

 

 

 

Do you get support (financially and morally) from your friend and family? Did you get any negative comment or discouragement from anyone? (like me for example when my family told me to stop helping the refugees) if yes, how do you deal with it? What are your challenges if have any?

 

I didn’t expect to receive so much love from the people around me through this advocacy. People support me through pencil donations. Some even sent money for me to buy pencils on their behalf. I am so touched with every gesture showing their love and care for the kids. I also get more inspired when people send me private messages telling me about how they were moved and called to act accordingly. Amazing! I really do not know how will be able to sustain this advocacy, but with God’s grace, He continuously send me people who will help me out. From donations, connections and suppliers.

 

Talagang matinding kalaban ang sarili. (Oneself is really the toughest enemy.) There were times I doubt and lose the sense of pursuing this. But every time I feel this, God sends people for me to realize that there’s sense and that many people are being blessed by TFP. I really thank God for guiding me on this journey. For being my strength and my guide.

 

 

 

 

Do you have any unforgettable experience whilst doing your project? Did you cry or got so emotionally overwhelmed?

 

Ate*, here po yung some stories sa blog ko. (|Here are some stories in my blog.) Http://nikhsplorer.wordpress.com *In the Philippines, we call older sister Ate.*

 

 

 

This Village Girl: How did your life change since starting the project? Where do you draw inspiration?

 

I won’t forget the day I made my decision to get out of my way to serve others in ways I can. I began to think of others more. I appreciate every little help that is coming because I know it is from the heart that wants to reach out and love and that it comes from God.

 

 

 

I get so inspired how a piece of pencil brings a smile not only to child’s face but also to their parents who have witnessed the simple act. I didn’t expect how a piece can delight one’s life. Na parang sa isip ko lapis lang naman yun eh pero sa kanila parang napakalaking bagay na. (It’s like in my mind, it was just a pencil but for them it’s such a big deal.) Yun pala kasi yung simpleng lapis na yun pahirapan pa bumili. (Turns out that it is so hard to buy a penicl.) Dahil nga naman sa hirap ng buhay nila sa probinsya, sa bundo, sa bukid at liblib n alugar, mas uunahin ang pambili ng pagkain kaysa lapis. (Because instead of buying pencil first, they will of course prioritize buying food because life in the village, in the boondocks and in remote places is hard.)

I have witnessed poverty but I see hope. Yes, I have cried a lot of times most especially when I felt so helpless. TFP has thought me to be more loving and giving because I am so blessed. At wala akong dapat irekalmo sa buhay. (There is nothing in my life that I must complain about.) Dahil yung iba (Because the others) despite their situation, they still manage to smile, live simply and go on with their lives. Sobrang nakakainspire. (It is so inspiring.) Kung meron mas natutulungan dito sa advocacy na ito, ako yun. (If there’s someone that this advocacy is helping, it’s me. )

 

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I believe in God’s promise that all we are going through is all part of His plans for our lives. No matter how difficult our situation is, no matter how poor or rich one is, nothing can stop God’s great plans for our lives. God will pout us to where He wants to be, where we should be.

 

 

 

Do you have dreams for TFP? Like thinking of opening it for sponsorship and help more? Do you promote it? Please share us your dreams for it. Who knows there are like-minded people who’d be interested to help. =)

 

Some people were asking if bakit lapis lang? (why just a pencil?)I told them that little by little. I believe in the power of small. I am not closing doors for TFP. I am very much open for opportunities and collaborations. This isn’t for me. This is for the kids who I believe to be the hope of every family in our county. Ang edukasyon and tanging kayamanan na hinding hindi mananakaw. (Education is the only wealth that nobody can steal.) Gaya ng pangarap ng bawat magulang na makapagtapos ang kanilang mga anak para matamasa ang maganda at masaganag buhay. (Like every parent’s dream of their kids finishing school and have a better life. )I believe in their dreams also that one day they will be the one serve our children and for the generations to come.

 

 

And so just recently, I have ordered the string bags and add some notebook, crayons, eraser, sharpener, and pencil case. I look forward to giving a complete set of school supplies to every child. I’ve got a lot of plans to reach out to more people and help more kids. Narealize ko, maraming tao pala ang gusto tumulong pero hindi nila alam paano. (I realized that there are a lot of people who want to help but they just don;t know how.) I praise and thank God that through TFP, people were able to touch other people’s lives ways. Walang imposible! (Nothing is impossible!)

Today, I have been receiving messages from different people on how they will be of help. And I look forward to have more for TFP so that we could help more people too. One or two years from now, I can see TFP collaborating with schools, groups, communities and other programs and organizations.

 

Hesitant pa ako gumawa ng Facebook page. Hahaha. (I was so hesitant to create a Facebook page) Nahiya kasi ako. (I was ashamed. ) But I don’t know, pinush ako ni Lord na gumawa. (I don’t know, the Lord pushed me to make one.) And so now, mas madali na nga naman idirect yung mga tao na nagtatanong about sa TFP because I just have to direct them to the page mismo. (So now, it is easier to direct people who are interested about TFP because I just have to direct them to the actual page.)

 

I am very open naman kahit kanino who extends their help for TFP. I receive private messages from TFP’s page and my own account too. Nakakatuwa how people extends their help. (It feels so good how people extends their help.) Para saken walang maliit na tulong basta bukal sa pusong nagbibigay. (For me there is no little or big help as long as it comes from the heart.)

 

 

 

 

*One pencil costs 7 Philippine Peso (0.13 USD/ 0.11 Euros) and it’s a step away from ignorance.

 

If you’re interested to help us educate more young people who will be taking over the world someday, you can send Nikhail a message by visiting Travel for Pencil Facebook Page. 

You can also visit her blog for more inspiring Travel for Pencil stories. 

 

Thank you so much!

 

Over to you!

 

Have you asked the purpose of your existence too?

 

If you’re traveling, why are you traveling?

 

I’d love to hear and learn from you. Let’s exchange stories. =)

My American Idol

2015

 

A year ago, I met a girl I didn’t know I will consider as one of the bravest, gutsiest and strongest woman I know despite her small and frail Asian frame. She is born and raised in the States, I’m from the Philippines and we met in Malaysia. What an indeed small world.

 

This girl sounded so much like those girls that I only see in the Hollywood films I am hooked to and I honestly thought I will never be able to get along well with her. I don’t even have that Valley Girl accent. I’m just a naive village girl who sees everything as magic. As we spent most nights chit chatting over beer, pigging out, swimming or just laughing about crazy stuff, she has told me how she dropped everything for love, flew halfway around the globe, left her career, comfortable and secured life in exchange for a promise of a happy ever after. It turned out that fairy tales aren’t for everyone. Things didn’t work as planned. They broke up.

 

During this stage, she realized what went wrong. She said she became needy, clingy, dependent and all the other things she wasn’t able to notice and what she has become as a result of having so much free time in her hands. Not that it was solely her fault but she can only speak on her behalf.

 

She was left unemployed, away from home, close to being broke but still, feisty, hopeful and positive as ever. She was full of ideas and she never lost the drive to become successful. I saw and I still can see how she works her ass off in picking up the pieces she lost along the way. I admire the resilience and strength I can see from her. I know how painful everything is but all I can ever do was to cheer her up in the smallest way I know and observe how she handles the craziness. She is now married to a guy she met in Malaysia and they are now living happily together in the US. My Mom was wrong. There is happy ending. We just have to search patiently for it. She has become one of the few people I look up to; a mentor and an inspiration. I was mentally taking notes and to be honest, I told myself that the day will come that I will not have any qualms about doing what I think will make me happy. We indeed don’t meet people by accident. They will for sure teach us a thing or two. And through her example I became more eager to be able to say that I have done what she has fearlessly done; dropped everything that weighs me down, risked everything and chased happiness. I will savor every second of this precious life. Money really isn’t everything. Call me a fool and unrealistic but this is how I choose to live my life. If it is money that will make a person truly happy, by all means, go for it. As for me, as long as I have basic needs, I will be fine. Life is too short to harbor on negative vibes and material things alone. If one day I felt the strong urge to be different and the things I am doing aren’t enough and not making me happy, it will never hurt to turn around and go back to what I was doing. Life should only be lived in one direction and that is towards happiness.

 

 

2 years later…

 

 

Dear Diary,

 

I left my job, my life and everything that I worked so hard for that thought I wanted all along. What now? I didn’t leave it for romantic love but to find my love for myself, to trace my roots and to push beyond the limits that I know I have. I am so scared that I have turned these fears to a god. Diary, it’s not easy to start again but I am lucky because not everyone who wants to start again gets the chance to. I don’t know where life is taking me and I will lie if I will say that the idea of turning around and live like how others are living doesn’t cross my mind. I mean, that’s easier but I don’t know if I will ever choose the easy path again and live everyday as if I am a dead fish being drifted along the safe shore. Diary, my parents aren’t very happy with how I’m choosing to live my life now and I’m afraid they will not be happy anytime soon. They will get by for sure. I know my happiness is what they want and I trust that in God’s perfect time, they will understand that I’ve never felt anything like this before. I have never felt this content and fulfilled before. I realized that the lesser I give a flying f*ck, the happier I feel. I also stopped giving a piece of sh*t to what other people are saying. It’s my life and who cares if my dreams spell nothing but possible. All I know is that I will not just pay bills then die. Diary, I can’t name every single emotion I felt but it felt good. Diary, as I read and reread what I wrote two years ago and how I admired this lady, who would have known that I will do what she did not to prove that I’m a brat but to say that it’s okay to chase happiness and we don’t have to explain. If the unknown scares me now, regrets of not doing what I wanted when I still can in my deathbed sounds scarier. People who broke my heart, made me laugh and taught me how to stand up for and love myself and to dream another crazy dream again are the best people I met in this lifetime and I know, I am bound to meet more of them and they will say…

 

Dear Danica,

 

Live a little.

About Us

 

Dani is a plus sized Filipina ADHD kid, recovering shopaholic, alcoholic and workaholic. She doesn’t take herself seriously. She has an insatiable wanderlust, out of this world food cravings and goof addiction. If she is not busy planning her next adventure, she will be spotted taking OOTDs and OOTNs. She took a break from the crazy corporate world to see the real one. This is not another travel blog. This is her journey to self discovery, embracing flaws and feeding her soul of what sets it on fire. She is out to prove that life begins at the end of the comfort zone.

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