"A journey to a thousand miles begins with a single step," and from his lovely hometown, he left. For some years now, Olan has settled to study and work in a gray jungle of buildings and roads in a city ten hours away from the province where he was born and grew up in the Philippines. Where most of his family and friends still inhabit, Olan's childhood memories reside, and much like the dreams which have spurred him onto his journey far away from home, his native land remains unchanged, and familiar. Life in the city has become busy and fast for him. After college, he landed a few jobs, paid his way to be a successful manager and entrepreneur. His accomplishments and attitude bring in Olan the opportunity to acquire things on his own and to gain friends in the process. To see Olan is to witness a successful demeanor, but who would be any prouder of him for what he has become than his family and friends back in his little hometown, Cateel.
Olan has been travelling constantly from Davao City, where he is based, to his hometown of Cateel for visits to family members and friends. Occasions and events did send him for hours-long roundtrip travels. He has also been to various locales, met and got to know new people. Sites in his lovely town aren’t new to him but sometime in the summer of year 2011, Olan went there for a break. He took his camera with him and shot some great photos. That made him realize even more that Cateel isn’t just where he was born and a location he has many recollections of, but that it's a beautiful town in its own right which deserves to be noticed and be proud of. Cateel has a lot of naturally stunning sites, beaches, mountains, old structures, and to mention above all, a captivating waterfall.
All of Cateel’s exquisiteness is what had inspired Olan to commence upon his journey. It has unlocked the traveller in him and urged him to explore many amazing spots in the Philippines, particularly in Mindanao, as well as to take photos and write about the places and the people. A wish also came unto Olan to chronicle and share his exciting adventures and experiences around the country, discovering and rediscovering the known and hidden wonderful places in the country’s thousand islands. He wished for his fellowmen and somehow the world to join him in each of his travels. As he took the first step to his numerous mile-after mile-trips in Cateel, it brought with him that inspiration.
He has climbed mountains, some famous, some more mysterious, at times finding the hike to be complex; but reaching the peak seems always worthwhile. He has been to some magnificent mountains, volcanoes, and caves in the country but still longs to visit more, he puts.
Water offers Olan some of his favorite scenery . The beautiful beaches in roughly every island constitute the climax of his trips, never ceasing to provide joy with every splash of water, with its saltiness, and the healing rub of the stones and sand to its tiniest grains.
Waterfalls, with their stunning gorgeousness, never fail to astound him. He cannot but marvel at how graceful the water cascades down, hitting the beaming water and rocks that await below --something Olan captures through the many shutter clicks of his camera.
In those many beautiful places and sites are people who he comes to not just greet, but meet and to get to know -- people who share their culture and festivities with him; people who share similar attraction and admiration to the natural riches the country has blessed its people with.
Olan is able to get to know individuals of different tribes, beliefs and make those experiences and encounters a solid foundation of respect for differences, colour, background, and status.
Olan has grown prouder of his heritage and the place, Cateel, where he comes from, and where his calling and inspiration derived from -- where his journey began. A journey that has given him ample lessons in life, the value of nature, the appreciation for the places to take pleasure in and all the friendships that have been gained along the way. Thoughtfully telling of and showcasing all his travels has given him a connection to people he knows, barely knows, and has never even known. He proudly gives much credit for this to his hometown.
With a low pressure area having been spotted East of Mindanao, and expected to enter the Philippines area at the onset of December, 2012, the country’s weather bureau had issued a forecast specifically for Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental, two provinces to experience the hardest hit by a typhoon, given name “Pablo” (international name: “Bopha”). The news caught the attention of those provinces' residents and their relatives from different parts of the country and the world; and particularly Olan. His homeland of Cateel is in Davao Oriental.
On December 4th, 2012, typhoon Pablo swept across eastern Mindanao with monster winds gusting up to 200 kms per hour, causing flash floods and landslides, flattening communities and banana plantations. A state of national calamity was then declared. Over a thousand were confirmed dead. Bodies were found buried under fallen logs and debris. Retrieval operations were conducted despite the fact that chances of survival were slim. The typhoon’s intensity was extreme and affected almost a million families composed of more or less 7 million people. Aid from different sectors poured in, from the country’s other local, as well as national, governments, to international groups. It was overwhelming.
Directly, as well as indirectly affected, Olan felt he had to be doing something to help, not just to his immediate and extended families and friends, but all survivors. With that in mind and heart, Olan set off the “Help Cateel” campaign. The movement made it achievable for Olan and all the volunteers and core group members to receive assistance of different kinds and from different individuals and groups, national and international. Olan has been travelling to and from Cateel and Davao City as he personally takes charge of the reinforcement operations, distributing donations to everyone whom he seeks to help, and voluntarily providing help in all forms.
The tragedy in Cateel and neighbouring towns -- the lives that were taken and hearts that were broken -- gave Olan another calling from Cateel. A desire to help out the homeless and to carry on with all the assistance he is getting from different groups and individuals. A determined effort Olan is unselfishly giving, along with a willingness that if he could, he would bargain for a 25th hour to spend in facilitating his movement. And again, Olan feels inspired by Cateel to try to restore those devastated souls and try to lift them up from where the storm had left them.
Olan travelled and told and will continue to travel and will continue to tell how it’s like to make a difference, and to touch the lives of those he knows, barely knows and doesn’t even know.