Black Pencil Project Celebrates 10 Years of Sheer Volunteerism with TPB

I was sitting atop our jeep staring at the spectacular landscape of Ifugao when we came to an abrupt halt. A single roar of the engine gave it a kick a few inches forward, followed by complete standstill. Deep mud had accumulated on the dirt road where a few meters away, large boulders from a landslide occupied half of the passage. What was a minor roadblock in our journey back happens to be everyday occurrence for people living in the village of Cambulo in Banaue, Ifugao.

Tucked deep in the snaking rice terraces of Ifugao, the village of Cambulo is now a popular hiking destination for tourists from all over wanting to witness the grandeur of the mountains of Cordillera. Home-stay and community-driven tourism has gifted the village a much-needed economic boost.

Ten years ago, though, it was a different story. Almost no one outside of Ifugao had even heard about this village save for a few geographically knowledgeable travelers and the few men and women who chose this place to start a volunteerism movement.

The Black Pencil Project was born in Cambulo. This year, in partnership with the Tourism Promotions Board of the Philippines (TPB), they came back to the place where a decade of sheer volunteerism began.

Good Deeds Come in Full Circle

We chose to celebrate our 10th year anniversary at the exact place where Black Pencil Project was born,” said founder Mon Corpuz.

I think what made the night special was the tribute of the kids we’d helped a few years back. It was heartwarming to hear them narrate their experiences with our volunteers and programs,” he added.

Black Pencil Project founder and Cambulo's adopted son Mon Corpuz, joined the locals in performing a traditional dance
Odessa, one of the kids who first witnessed the arrival of Black Pencil Project in their village, is now also an active volunteer for the group. She was in her early grade school years when she received the very first set of school supplies from the group. Today, she epitomizes the saying that every good deed really comes around.

10 Years of “Smuggling Pencils”

Since their first foray fusing travel, outreach and community immersion, the Black Pencil Project has steadily grown and evolved.

Current active members of the core group, according to Corpuz, are composed of “young professionals, program incubators and changemakers, prominent figures in the private sector and social development communities.

The school kids preparing for a traditional dance
Over the years, they have held outreach journeys providing hard-to-reach barrios (town), from Batanes to as far as Tawi-Tawi, free access to school supplies.

Partnering with Tourism Promotions Board of the Philippines’ CSR Initiative

After working with different partner groups and organizations, the volunteer organization found a solid partner in the TPB. Through TPB’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program, it hopes to springboard this recent outreach trip to Cambulo into more similar projects all over the Philippines.

Hazielle Aclan of TPB helps in the distribution of school supply kits. 
“High in TPB’s CSR program line-up is youth education. By acknowledging Filipino youth as future tourism stewards, TPB through its CSR program seeks to inculcate early awareness of the holistic environmental and community needs enabling green and sustainable tourism,” said Mavic Sevilla, Corporate Social Responsibility and Business Development head of TPB.

Volunteers from Climb Against Cancer took care of the mural art.
Other than the school supplies, TPB also donated money for the construction of a Visitor Information Center to properly brief arriving tourists and train locals to practice sustainable tourism and cultural and natural conservation.

A young girl checks out the notebooks she receieved
As our jeepney restarted its engine and continued to negotiate the sharp, zigzagging roads going back to Banaue, I recollect the joyful faces of the kids, receiving their school supplies kits. I felt a ray of hope knowing that as long as we keep doing such endeavors no matter how far a community may be, the kids shall be alright.

This article first appeared on the August 12, 2018 issue of the Daily Tribune