Not Love at First Sight

 SPOILER ALERT: This is not a love story.
                 “Why am I here?” This was the question that I kept on asking myself on my first day of office as an intern at Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Training Center X.  As an incoming senior Development Communication student at Central Mindanao University, one of the highlights of our stay in the academe is our On-the-Job-Training (OJT). We are immersed in different institutions and agencies for us to experience the so called ‘real world’. For me, that time has arrived. I, together with my two classmates (Nikki and Lalaine) was assigned at DA-ATI X located in a place I have never been to, El Salvador City, Misamis Oriental.

                 We were late on our first day of work since we almost got lost on our way to their office.  When we arrived, we were ushered to a small couch to wait for the Director for his instructions. I looked around. The office is generally made of wood, no sophisticated desktop computers, relatively quiet place and no air-condition.  Again I asked myself, “Why am I here?” I was not supposed to be here. I should be in a Regional Network Group of a popular TV station somewhere near downtown Cagayan de Oro. But here I am, in an isolated office with dripping sweat across my forehead since I was too afraid (and lazy) to submit my requirements to that network. To tell you honestly, I did not see myself in this agency. This is just somewhat, my second best option, my plan B when worse comes to worst. During our orientation, Dr. Angelito Y. Quirog or Doc Lito as he is fondly called introduced the world of ATI. I was impressed with his introduction, I may say. I nod occasionally on whatever he is saying, trying to convince myself that I am in the best place that I could be.

                On the second day of work, we were brought to the field. The three of us were assigned on different areas. I was assigned to be at the Season-Long Training of Trainers for Banana Production at Casisang, Malaybalay, Bukidnon. I was even tasked to be a resource person on the topic regarding climate change and report writing. The task seems to be humongous for a second day but I was not really overwhelmed by the idea. Again, I was seeking for reason for being here. Upon arrival at Malaybalay City, we went for a visit at the launching of the Farmer Field School (FFS) on Banana at Magsaysay, Malaybalay City. It was a tough ride. I have counted three pineapple fields, two rubber plantation, a hybrid banana plantation and a couple of sugarcane and corn fields before we arrived at the area. With all the enthusiasm that I could have, I went down the service and check on the area. That is when I realization hit me. I already had an answer to my constant question.

                What I saw on a covered court were some 30 group of people, diverse group of people to be exact. There were mothers with their kids, young adults, fathers and even senior citizens. They were all smiles as a woman wearing a green shirt (whom I found out later was a mom of a friend) introduced our group to them. They listen intently to their guests, clap their hands and laugh at jokes. I can see genuine happiness from their faces with the simple gestures of their guests. It dawned me; I was asking the wrong question after all. It should not be, “Why am I here?” Instead it should be, “Why not here?”

                That visit made me realized that this is the thing that I have always wanted. Seeing people smile and help them fulfill their simplest dreams. Getting nausea from the travel and getting paid by “Salamat kaayo sa inyong pag-bisita sa amo’a, Mam, Ser.” I’ve come to think that an air-conditioned office is nothing compared to the warm smiles of our locals. For a person who has dreamed of becoming a philanthropist during her high school graduation, what I am seeing now is beyond the glitz and glamour of mainstream media.

                That visit definitely changed the entire course of my OJT. I fell in love with ATI and with their passion for service. It was then that I understood everything that Doc Lito said on our first day. After the visit, everything about my internship seems to be like rainbows and unicorns. I was inspired with my lecture the next day. Late night work during trainings did not bother me at all. Sun blocks and whitening lotions became irrelevant when it comes to field work. Interviewing leaders of a militant group was never scary but is rather very interesting.

                In my more than a month stay with ATI-RTC X, I have learned more than what I came for and I am so thankful. I have learned that being here is not only a job but it is a responsibility to help our farmers and our locals reach their full potential. The privilege given to us to able to change lives of people are worth more than what is written in our paychecks. Service in ATI-RTC X and even in every ATI Training Center is not about telling people what to do, it is about doing it with them. I know that I have not been with the institute that long. If given a chance to back in the future, I would be happy to do so.

                Come to think of it, I almost lost my one chance on finding this experience. I have judged they book even if I’ve just read the first few pages. I was just so grateful that I continue reading.  My feelings for ATI and its mission and objectives may not be a love of first sight as they would say. But it would definitely be one of the greatest love of my life.