Every Monday, there was a stirring in Sitio Kanggabok, a small sleepy village in the mountainous part of Santa Catalina in Negros Oriental. The first day of the week, the community became a host for ICM’s Transform program. There were signs when it is a Transform day. Motorcycles rented by ICM trainers arrive, rambling through the dirt, and from up the rugged trail, horses ridden by a handful of women steadily made their way to the Transform venue.
It was the Transform riders, a handful of women–all Transform participants—who braved the long and rugged ride to make it to the weekly Transform class. Their steeds, small but dependable, were not expensive thoroughbreds but important farm animals used to haul farm produce like bananas, corn, and coconuts. Unlike the carabaos (water buffalos), these horses were nimble and could trot through steep and narrow trails.
Of these women, 34-year-old mother, Marilou, rode the longest and farthest—two hours. She didn’t want to miss the lessons that she found helpful for her family. While she was used to riding, her Monday rides with her horse Bugoy were always marked with excitement. “The program taught us about God’s word, and we also had livelihood and health lessons which helped me care for my family,” she said.
Romelyn, 36, was another Transform rider who had a more exciting time getting to the venue with her trusty but skittish horse, Diego. On one of her rides, a horse started to chase her, agitating Diego. Her horse started to gallop at full speed. She kept pulling the bridle, but her horse wouldn’t stop. “I had to jump off!” she said. Fortunately, she escaped unscathed. And despite the incident, she still rode to Transform every Monday and never missed a class.
With the program and the Monday rides done, Marilou, Romelyn and fellow riders Josefa (43), Susana (54) and Maly (42) have brought home life-changing lessons that will help them care for their families. Josefa attests to Transform’s impact. She learned to start a small business and now she earns PHP350 a day. “I am now able to help my husband provide for my family!” No matter how long or tiring the rides may have been, the transformation in their lives has made it all worthwhile.
Written by Dolly Rose Padilla