“Dreams do come true.” A saying we usually hear in fairytales, but the lives of the pre-selected 100 indigenous kids from Marahan West Elementary School was not any different. We, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) Multisport XI, made the 100 wishes with an all-expenses paid mall tour come true for the IP kids last December 17, 2017 as a gift during Christmas season.
In order to generate the necessary funds, we organized a duathlon event. We still needed more funds enough to include the children’s wishes. Just reading the wish list was already overwhelming to think of how much was needed to make them come true. I sadly thought maybe the project is just impossible. Days passed and I still could not find the solution until one late evening as I was staring at my laptop a profile of a friend appeared as if she was showing me directions on what to do, the late Ate Irene Tabada, the former President of the Archdiocesan Commission on Prison Welfare (ACPW). I recalled that the wish list project for inmates was her idea and that during my previous outreach projects she would secretly hand me amounts of money to help fund my simple projects.
I immediately messaged one of her close friends by sending her a photo of a sincere letter from a Matigsalug kid. Ms. Marian Carmela Raquel, who is a constant figure in the jail ministry, became the key to the fruition of the wish lists.
From that moment I was faithful, I just knew they were the answer and that they could pull it off easily but the WAITING was really stressful. Finally on the following Saturday morning as I was having breakfast waiting for my family to arrive here in Davao I noticed that guests in the other table were praying so I paused and listened to them. They were thanking God, for in spite of their low wages they still managed to give and reach out to those who were in need, that their outreach in Talaingod was a huge success. After hearing that I said in my thoughts “Lord, maayo pa sila human na. Akoang mga sulat sa mga bata wala pa natarug.” Immediately after saying that my phone rang! It was Ate Marian Raquel asking me that she will get all the 100 wishlists because Kuya Manny Escuadro, ACPW Chairman who took over Ate Irene’s post, would distribute them. I will never forget that moment when my tears struck my beef tapa; the last time I cried like that was during my wedding. And preparing for this event felt like I was being wed again.
After a week gifts started coming first from DRANHS Junior High School faculty, next came from SMILE, then a family working in Ateneo, they brought with them their daughter named Zoey who also had a gift that she personally prepared. Then there were those that were delivered by ACPW members themselves – Holy Infant Community, Aster Gonzales, Lay Dominicans of Davao, Dexter Priete. Forgive me if I may have forgotten some names, if I cannot acknowledge you in this writing but I do saved your faces and I know you will be blessed a hundred more for being generous.
The “BIG DAY” finally arrived: December 17, 2017. Everything went smoothly despite the fact that our “clients” were just kids from kinder to grade six. Our military training on public safety came in handy to ensure the safety of the children and the quality of their experience. It went on point and on schedule. Loading 100 Matigsalug children on a bus was a bit chaotic as most of the kids were first time bus riders. Teachers distributed Bonamil to minimize “motion sickness” still some kids suffered but teachers were quick to hand them plastic bags. We arrived at SM City with two minutes to spare and to a warm reception by SM Mall staff. The children themselves were like Christmas gifts wrapped in red wearing their tribal costumes.
SM City gave all 100 children cute teddy bears, then those who were already 4ft tall were escorted to the skating rink. A few minutes later the children formed their lines then one by one they were escorted up into the escalator. Remember that all 100 children had never been to a mall even the escalator ride was a feat in itself. We all walked towards the Cinema they were briefed that lights will be put off as long as they settle. The lights went out and the “Disney” logo flashed they responded in awe I was all smile they watched Olaf’s Winter Adventure it was a 20-minute movie but it is still a good experience. Some kids wondered aloud, “Kadako sa ilang TV!”
After the movie they were escorted out, divided into three groups, due to the large number of the children they would alternately proceed to the Carousel, Mall Train and play in the Arcade. Then we all gathered beside Kidzoona; long tables were prepared on which packed lunches were set, thanks to Philippine Science High School Southern Mindanao Campus Students. They collaborated with their teachers and initiated a “Kiddie Love Gift” project that raised P11, 700.00. The Jollibee mascot appeared while the kids were having lunch, surprisingly the kids were not so much into the mascot for they were busy with the Chickenjoy that they only saw before on TV. After lunch, the kids’ gifts in their wishes were distributed. Some started to open their gifts as they were excited to see what they asked for! Then we escorted them down to the BJMP’s bus. For us at BJMP, it was very meaningful to watch that the bus was hauling kids instead of inmates. They were brought to People’s Park for a quick tour of the playground. Then on to Penong’s- Matina where Ms. Grace Tyuste from Triathlon Association of Davao (TRIAD,) our 2nd Over-all Winner in the female category, donated her winnings to the IP Pupils. She, together with the owner of Penong’s- Matina donated 100 packed meals for the kids to bring home and since we did not spend anything for their lunch we doubled the packed lunch so that the kids’ parents waiting for them in Marahan will also have the same meals. Ms. Tyuste and her friends also gave 100 pieces of toys, calendars and sling bags. Last to be distributed were the chocolate treats donated by an anonymous friend of Ate Marian Raquel and lovingly prepared by “Tsokolate by Linfood.”
To sum it up, it was the people of Davao City who reached out for the 100 indigent pupils of Marahan West and it was through their generosity that a six (6) man team pulled off an event that was historical for the books of BJMPRO-XI. Together with our Regional Director J/SSUPT Amelia A. Rayandayan we would like to sincerely thank you and may your blessings multiply by hundredfold as you continue to inspire children to stay in school. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! (JO2 Harvey Bryan G. Malnegro | Public Servant)