First, their eyes. They are permeating, seeking – the eyes of children intrigued. They gaze in awe over boxes of supplies being carried up the school steps from easily 20 steps below and their eyes light up. It is now 12:30PM of June 6, 2015 and the outreach activity is about to start. The organizers are hurriedly finishing with last-minute preparations while the children sit quietly with their parents at the cemented steps of the school ground, barely evading the last of the summer rays. Even in the summer capital of Cebu, the sun makes her presence felt.
It has been over two years since MALAKAT Outdoors last held the buKID Outreach at Mantalongon and yet there was never a thought of not coming back. Osmena Peak, the highest point in Cebu and only a few kilometers away, has paved friendship between us and our children-friend-guides. Our activity is about everything and giving back.
Hurriedly preparing the snacks to be served.
Inside one of the classrooms suitably located behind the school stage, Mary Arn Malapitan prepares the egg sandwiches with the rest in near utmost unison. They talk in hushed yet stern voices knowing that they have to finish preparing for at least 100 students, parents and guests. They crush the boiled eggs and mix it with mayonnaise, spread them on the bread and individually place them inside transparent white plastic sandwich bags. The rest do not need any as they already come in Chocolate Chip, Raisin, Blackforest and Butterscotch flavors, wholeheartedly donated by Gardenia Philippines.
Across the room, Michael Bawisan busily sorts through the school supplies and makes sure that every child gets the correct set. Each one is to receive 1 plastic envelope, 4 pencils, 3 grade 1 paper pads, 3 writing notebooks of 50 leaves each, 2 boxes of crayons in 8’s, 2 sharpeners, 2 erasers, 3 sets of colored papers, 1 scissor, and 1 pencil case coming in a variety of designs.
At the stage, the sound operator readies the music system and plays ‘Let it Go‘ in full blast. Lara Gatchalian and Juneroy Jacob takes the cue and formally welcomes everyone present and urges the children to line up for the registration. Sweethearts Ruby Mae Alinsugay and John Soriano are in charge of the registration and has the task of guiding the parents to list the name of their child, birth-date and their own name. Mylene Mabaga comes over to help seeing as the line was on a slow pace.
The children are then treated to an afternoon of games, dancing, drawing and storytelling. At one point 4 boys courageously goes up the stage to show-off their dance moves to the laughter and delight of everyone. The snacks are served shortly after to fill their now graveling afternoon appetite.
By 4:00PM the children slowly line up to receive their school supplies. Their names are called by their teachers from a list and while some quickly race up the stage others timidly walk, almost hesitating. Some say thank you, some don’t and honestly we didn’t mind. They take their goods clutching them near their chests and head back to the crowd.
Then it was their smiles. Even from afar, it was heart-warming, disarming… fulfilling.
(Renerio A. de Dios Jr/Photos by Kim Bolongaita and France Villamor)