Think positive, stories tell relocated children
GUINOBATAN, ALBAY—Green coconut leaves gently sway with the breeze, a cucumber field blooms yellow, and children run and play in the shadow of the cloud-capped Mayon Volcano at the Mabugos resettlement site in Guinobatan town in Albay province.
Here, people wake up, go to work and sleep again day after day. Everything seems all right, except when “Reming” crops up during talk.
Reming, the supertyphoon that lashed Albay in 2006, still lingers in the minds of
some elder settlers, who lost their loved ones or belongings to flash floods and watery mud flowing from the flanks of Mayon Volcano that afternoon on Nov. 30.
Remedios Ravago, 50, whose house was swept by the flood, said she still could not forget the tragedy. “During the last months of each year after Reming, we would always worry that a strong typhoon might come again and bring the same damage to our lives,” she said.
To most settlers, however, the dark memories are drowned by the daily grind of earning for survival. “We now live a normal life here,” said farmer Raul Raquion, 47, whose family is among the 105 families who have relocated to the area.
Raquion said the families now enjoyed peace and order, as well as basic amenities like electricity, sanitation facilities and water for bathing and washing dishes and clothes.
Each family occupies a house with a floor area of 80 square meters on a lot size of 100 sq. m.
The rustic scene and warm welcome of the residents characterized the Inquirer Read-Along’s sixth session in Southern Luzon since it was started on Nov. 22 last year.
Children quietly sat beside a tent erected at a makeshift basketball court—actually, a clearing in a coconut plantation. The chairs were brought by their parents.
“Reading a story laden with good values, especially to children who have been exposed to disaster, will help a lot in telling them that difficulties should not be a hindrance in pursuing a better life,” said Army Col. Marlou Salazar, head of the 901st Infantry Brigade based in Daraga town.
The military unit played a big role in recovering bodies of victims and rescuing survivors after the onslaught of Reming.
Shod in slippers, Salazar read the story of a dog which had been complaining about his short tail. “Si Putot” was written in Filipino by Mike L. Bigornia and illustrated by Charles Funk.
In the story, Putot, the dog, feels sad about his tail until he meets a worm that teaches him to focus on what he has, instead of what he does not have.
“We should use our talents so we may have a better life. What we do not have and our physical disabilities should not be hindrances. Instead, we should build on them and use them to do well,” Salazar told the children.
He said it would help a lot if they were taught good values this early so that they would grow up to become productive citizens.
“I learned that having a physical disability or not having something is not a reason for me to feel down,” said Joven Oro, 12, a sixth-grader at the Travesia Elementary School (TES).
Oro has to walk 2 kilometers of dirt road and cross a hanging foot bridge every day from the resettlement site to her school.
The other storyteller, 18-year-old Thea Dominique Llana, Ms Kasanggayahan 2009, said the children should also be taught to be happy with what they have. “It’s good if they would learn to count their blessings instead of being envious,” she said.
Llana read “Gaya’s Gift,” the story of a carabao (water buffalo), which is unhappy and discontented until she realizes that she, just like others, is special and has a distinct role to play in life. The story was written by Jenny Evans and illustrated by Junn Esteban.
The moral of the story, Llana said, was very much relevant, considering the trauma of a natural disaster and being relocated that the children had gone though.
“It would tell them, hopefully, that they should not think of their situation as pitiful because it would only stop them from striving to be the persons they want to be,” she said.
She said it would instill the value of positive thinking and “would also make them appreciate reading, knowing that they can learn many good things through reading.”
“I learned that each of us has a talent and is special in our own ways. We should not be envious of others,” said Aira Mae Nebres, 12, a fifth-grader at the TES.
Nebres, like the other children of poor families in the resettlement area, has had to cope with the discomforts in the resettlement site, including the lack of potable water.
But she is lucky not to belong to the ranks of out-of-school children in the area, which homeowners association secretary Erlina Tagnong acknowledged, has been increasing due to poverty.
The Inquirer Read-Along was co-sponsored by the chapters of Junior Chamber International (JCI) Philippines in Legazpi City and Daraga, Rice Surprise in Pacific Mall-Legazpi, New Silahis Educational Supply and Rico Salazar.
Copyright 2013 INQUIRER.net and content partners. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.