By Ada De Pedro
“Kailan ka huling nag-Jollibee?” (When was the last time you had Jollibee?) I asked JM, a seven-year old little girl hanging around the roadside of my favorite downhill skate spot in Taktak, Antipolo. We weren’t skating that day, my longboarder friend, Boyet Lim, had gathered a bunch of us to donate school supplies to kids in the local community. JM was late to come out and missed the school supplies we brought, and so I tried to extend some comfort through a conversation.
“Sabi ni Ate mag-Jollibee daw kami nung birthday ko. Pero wala po kaming pera nung panahon na yun eh.” (My sister was supposed to give me Jollibee for my birthday, but we didn’t have money at the time.) JM also told me that she had only been to Jollibee once in her whole life. Yes, she’s only seven years old, but this is JOLLIBEE! It’s like a staple of every Filipino kid’s childhood and hearing that this tender young girl had only been there once (in her whole life) was a travesty to me.
Our conversation continued and JM opened up her life to me a little more. She is the youngest of 5 kids. Her dad died when she was younger. So JM’s mom has to take two jobs as a “labandera” (laundry woman) and “manikurista” (manicurist/ nail artisan) just to support their family. Her older siblings were not even able to finish high school because they either married early or dropped out due to lack of finances.
We’ve been skating in this Taktak spot for some time now. I would always see the people in the community but never really interact with them or realize what they go through. But now, after listening to JM’s story, it’s like somebody turned on the lights and put things in a different perspective.
There has to be part 2 I told Boyet. I suddenly had this strong urge to reach out and make an impact to more kids. I understood that a notebook and other school supplies wouldn’t magically make their grades higher or pay their tuition fees; but I felt it could be a small step to inspire them and let them know that the people they see skating in their community aren’t just out there for their dose of stoke, but that we also care about their education and their future.
“Just as important as that advocacy, was my desire for fellow longboarders to open their eyes and hearts to this reality and be moved to build a connection with the community as well.”
So two (2) weeks after my encounter with JM, I sought the help of longboarder friends; including Boyet Lim and J-Bels Belcina to organize a DH Outlaw Set to generate funds and buy school supplies for the kids of the Taktak community. Our small passionate team approached prize sponsors, handled logistics and marketed promotions. I turned to Facebook and tapped online social communities of longboarding group like: MAASSS and Kwago Longboarding; along with other random Facebook friends. I even brought out my roladex of ninangs and titas and drew a poster which I haven’t done in ages!
The response was beyond expectations. People I didn’t know from the longboarding scene would approach me with donations. Sponsors and skate groups came forward voluntarily. Friends who had tight budgets still gave what they could and those who really had no money to spare just gave their time and dedication by volunteering to do manual labor on the event day. My ninangs and titas who didn’t really know anything about longboarding just faithfully supported our cause.
We were able to fill the back of my pick-up truck with notebooks, writing and coloring materials, bags and books that blessed 50-75 kids in the Taktak community. Despite crazy rains and sketchy roads, longboarders still enthusiastically skated in our DH Outlaw event.
We asked kids to draw longboarders, and I was so impressed at how perceptive and creative they were. But for me, the best part was when JM made a special drawing for me that said “I love you Mommy Ada.” She hugged me when she gave it and said thanks for the school supplies we gave to her and all of her friends.
It was an overwhelming experience, the feeling of being able to do more than just get stoked on an awesome skate spot but to actually give back to the community that lives there. I really hope that this small project that we endeavored would cause a ripple effect and inspire longboarders to reach out to the communities in their favorite skate spots and share the stoke.
Words by Ada De Pedro
Photos by Claudine Santos and Michael Eijansantos