Nothing can describe that feeling. It’s a mixture of happiness and frustration that comes with gift-giving.
But let me tell you how the story began many years ago, after the Mt. Pinatubo eruption rendered hundreds of people hungry and homeless in Pampanga.
Maritel Nievera, driving through the dreary barangays and landscapes eaten up by lahar in her San Fernando hometown, saw how helpless her cabalen had become after nature’s fury destroyed their crops and homes. So Maritel decided that she would set aside a portion of the sales of her Cabalen Restaurants for the month of December to provide food packs and blankets for Mt. Pinatubo victims.
The project called "Cabalen Para Sa Kabataan" was warmly received in Pampanga so Maritel decided to hold it again the next year, and the year after that, until it became a yearly project.
"This is Cabalen’s small way of giving back to the community," explains Maritel. "Cabalen, after all, began in Pampanga and owes much of its success to homegrown cooks who have earned for Pampanga its delectable reputation in the culinary world."
With its familiar slogan, "Eat and Help" last December 2001, Cabalen devoted a percentage of its sales to fill up Pinoy Deli gift bags with foodstuff, noodles, toys, t-shirts and personal hygiene items like soap, towels and toothpaste.
The Cabalen Management Company team headed by Ian Tiongson and Adji Tiongson went to the depressed area of Barangay Malabanias in Angeles, Pampanga last February 28. First stop was the residence of Miniang Pamintuan, wife of former Angeles City Mayor Ed Pamintuan who has been supportive of "Cabalen Para Sa Kabataan." Joining the brigade were Angeles City Councilor Bong Alvaro, barangay captain Ramon "Boy" Casupanan and Councilor Alex Cauguiran.
More than 500 people, young and old, lined up to receive their gift bags, and it was touching to see their faces light up with smiles. Nothing can describe the feeling of being thanked profusely.
As a Cabalen employee, I felt proud to be part of something that provides help and hope, even if just for a fleeting day. I felt somewhat frustrated that this can’t be done every day. But then again, I told myself that if only others would follow suit, then maybe people like you and me can make sense of and spell a difference in this part of the world. After all, the children are our future.
Even if the event was tiring and draining, the smiles on the children’s faces were enough to soothe our aching bodies.
Same time, next year. I can hardly wait.