The day was rainy and cloudy. Typhoon Egay was lingering in the Philippine area of responsibility, but already, a new weather disturbance was being anticipated. The campus grounds were wet, yet this situation did not dampen the spirits of eleven lucky ERDAnians chosen to spend a day with twelve visiting French high-school students from Les Chenes technical-vocational school in southeastern France.
At about past 9:30 a.m., the guests arrived, and immediately the ERDAnians began singing a Philippine folk song, “Sitsiritsit Alibangbang”. With their beaming faces and enchanting voices, the ERDAnians regaled the French students as well as their adult companions: two French teachers and one Filipina, the indefatigable Dr. Belen Sy who also led a group of Les Chenes students to ERDA Tech in 2013.
The ERDAnians included grade 9 students: James Besa, Darryl Caronan, and Joyce Anne Busante; grade 10 students: Mujahid Basiman, Rachel Candoy, Clera Clemente, and Pearl Magbanua; and fifth-year students: Jan Angel Francisco, Robert Dominique Ilagan, Romeo Sarmiento, and Cristina Ilao.
On hand also to welcome the visitors were the FPTI – ERDA Tech administrators: Mr. Peter Marc Magsalin, the principal, Mr. Jonathan Lacson, the assistant principal for formation, Mrs. Marge Antonio, the campus operations officer and business office head, and Miss Chyryz Valiente, the student activities program coordinator. Mrs. Rowena de la Cruz, the sponsorship program coordinator, was also present. Moreover, the two French volunteers of ERDA Tech, Miss Valentine de Dreuille and Miss Clementine Donnefort, were around, much to the delight of their fellow Frenchmen.
Mr. Magsalin told the guests about the history of ERDA Tech and showed them a video about Fr. Pierre Tritz’s life and mission. Likewise, two students from Les Chenes spoke about their school, Les Chenes. A tour of the campus followed, with the ERDAnians and the French students going in pairs, and ably assisted by Miss Valentine de Dreuille since most of the French students spoke and understood very little English. The students visited the classrooms, the offices, the prayer room, the chapel, the canteen, and the workshops.
The rest of the morning was spent at the Food Trades kitchen where the French students taught their ERDAnian partners how to cook the French version of the Philippine “bibingka”, with pineapple chunks added to it.
Lunch, courtesy of the hardworking fifth-year Food Trades students, was served at the canteen, and consisted of rice, chicken adobo, soda, and of course, the masterpiece of the French students and the ERDAnians, the French-style “bibingka”. The satisfying meal was made even more wonderful with the conversation among the students and the teachers from both schools present as well.
Afterward, there was a cultural presentation. The French students sang two beautiful songs while the ERDAnians performed the Buling-Buling dance which is dedicated to the Sto. Nino de Pandacan.
At the end of the day when it was time to bid farewell to one another, all the participants were happy and at the same time sad and teary-eyed. Thanks to today’s modern technology of communication, these students will most likely stay in touch for a very long time even though they will be physically thousands of miles apart. It was a day very well spent, indeed.