Building happiness, literally: A weekend at Malbago

Lending our muscles, artistic skills and time to improving the infrastructure in the village of Malbago

The main driving force for a lot of us millennials today is our laser-focus on building up our careers, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because we all do need to eat and save for retirement. But having this mindset can quickly turn into something that drains us mentally and emotionally. So how do we remind ourselves that there is more to this life than just the concept of “me?” My suggestion is to take a weekend breather from building your career and go build something helpful for others.

Last November, my buddies from the coworking space I usually work from decided to organize a weekend where we would lend our muscles and artistic skills to improving the infrastructures in the quaint village of Malbago, Madridejos in Bantayan Island, which is around 4–5 hours away from Cebu City.

As busy as all the volunteers were with all the things that make our day-to-day lives hectic (work, school, lovers, etc.), everyone made sure to carve out time from November 16–18 to pay it forward to this developing village.

We started the weekend by hanging out with the villagers over food and karaoke on Friday night. It was especially fun hanging out with the kids and hearing about the things they were interested in.

Come Saturday morning, it was time to start building! We were all very excited to get our hands dirty. The tasks that we were meant to accomplish within the day were to paint murals onto the walls of the village library, build a bamboo hut for villagers to chill in, and create a cemented walkway so that the villagers would not have difficulty walking around whenever it rained. Us volunteers were divided into 3 groups, and we were asked to rotate sometime within the day so that everyone could get a chance to try all 3 tasks.

Preparing the soil that we then mixed with the cement

I started working with the cementing team in the morning and it was INTENSE — we had to carry the sacks of cement and mix the cement with soil with only our shovels. I now have mad respect for all construction workers that have to do this every day for a living — it is NOT EASY at all!

Chipping away at the bamboo sticks

I moved on to the bamboo hut team in the afternoon and chipped away at the sharp edges of the bamboo sticks so that the people wouldn’t get any scratches once it came together as a finished hut. The rest of my friends who were part of the painting group spent the whole day painting animals on the library walls, as well as did some art activities with the kids.

The volunteers’ mural on one of the walls of the village library

The villagers (especially the kids) were so thrilled to host us at their village for the whole weekend. They were so patient and guided us on how to do the manual tasks of cementing and bamboo cutting. As we all worked hand in hand under the heat of the sun, new friendships were forged, and we were afforded a perspective on how to live a life that was very different from our own.

We are always so busy chasing these goals that we set up for ourselves in order to become “successful” that most times we forget what it really means to live a life filled with meaning. It is only when we are taken away from the confines of our laptop screens and are completely immersed into an entirely different setting that we question why we even do the things we do. It is only when we strive to build the happiness of others instead of just focusing on ourselves that we start to become enlightened about what is truly important to us and what can be done away with.

As Chief Happiness Officer at NewCampus, I plan on allotting a few days of our upcoming team trip into getting the whole team to do some volunteer work. Giving back has always been part of the NewCampus ethos, and I want to take it a step further and get the whole team to contribute to building tangible happiness for those who truly need it.

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