Last week, our group of 4 librarians and 2 teachers dubbed as Soooper Friends, together with Diksyunaryo ATBP, a literacy advocacy organization headed by Ms. Lia Manalac-del Castillo, went to DSWD Jose Fabella Center in Mandaluyong City to extend moral support by telling stories of hope, renewal, community and helping each other, and also to donate some relief items for the Typhoon Yolanda survivors who are currently sheltered in that center.
Before we began, we were oriented on the status of all the victims. We were told that we would be having storytelling sessions with 60 children – 40 of which are from Samar and Leyte, and 20 are residents of that center. We were also asked to refrain from taking pictures, as their privacy must be respected, except for the ones who gave permissions.
I must say that the children and teenagers are well cared for. They have clean clothes and look healthy, but I also couldn’t help notice the sadness in their eyes – the longing, the helplessness, and the trauma, most probably. But upon seeing us bringing in books, art and writing materials, their eyes suddenly brightened and smiles reached up to their ears. Everyone was waiting for the story. All of a sudden, there was hope.
After a community singing of Christmas songs which gave me goosebumps and shivers, the kids were divided into five groups. Each one of the Soooper Friends went with a group and conducted a storytelling session. I told the story of the Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss in Filipino. All of my children, whose ages ranged from 4-10, were very happy and participative. They were smiling all throughout the story. One of them quipped, “Kahit maraming problema, basta masaya lang po at wag mawawalan ng pag-asa, magiging maayos din lahat.” (Despite the many problems, just continue hoping and believing and everything will be fine). Touched, I gave her the book, which she hugged all throughout the session. Then, they requested for more.
I then decided to tell them the story of Mister Beetle’s Many Rooms by Robert Magnuson. Amidst the vivid illustrations and funny melodic dialogues, I saw the glimmer in the eyes of my kids. One of them even invited her mom to join and listen to the story. Her mom was deeply touched as they lost their home, and she was also very thankful for the people who were there to support, to share and help, and even just to listen.
After a plenary storytelling with all the kids conducted by our Mother Goose, we bade goodbye to the kids. What touched me most was a kid who never stopped hugging me and told me, “Salamat po ha, balik kayo!”
It was at this point that I recognized the Filipino spirit – that is hope never gone; the kindness, generosity and helpfulness towards others; the resilience amidst all the problems, and the smiles that are always present. I guess the call of the times tells us that no matter how small the help we may have extended, it will go a long mile for those hearts that we have touched. Let us all help in any way we can!