Teacher for a dayBy Chelo Banal-Formoso
Philippine Daily Inquirer
How does a leading edge brand celebrate its 25th year in the retail business?
Well, if you’re Bench, after taking your most loyal employees on an all-expenses-paid trip to Hong Kong, you can do a few more spectacular things.
For one, there is the 1M41M campaign. Bench will donate P1M to the chosen charity of the celebrity with the most number of votes when Bench gets one million Twitter followers. So far, Leyte 4th district Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez leads the campaign’s 20 celebrities.
For another, Bench has produced six short films— collectively known as Benchingko Films—using the star power of its image models, not to mention its founder Ben Chan. The shorts may be viewed online via benchtm.com/benchingko and Bench’s YouTube channel.
Among the Benchingko films is “StarTeacher,” a documentary where Gomez plays herself as she visits a kindergarten classroom at Tugbong Elementary School in her hometown Ormoc, Leyte.
Her mission is to inspire the kids with a message close to her heart, and she is able to accomplish this by bringing along a puppet show.
“Listen to the story and later we will discuss it,” she tells the excited class before she starts narrating the show.
A puppet tree named Rico is introduced with the rest of the Puno family. Rico and his family are thriving when along comes the magto-troso (logger) who cuts down every tree.
He may have survived the logger’s saw, but Rico is in for a shocker as incessant rain causes flooding that wrecks his home and the rest of the village.
Although the puppet show is visually engaging and elicits laughter from the kids, the message is serious enough to quiet down the youngsters. There is a trace of apprehension on their faces as a background video shows floodwaters to dramatize the destruction of paper houses in the puppet show.
Understandably, Gomez spares her young audience the breadth and depth of the despair that fell upon Ormoc when landslides and high waters killed almost 6,000 people and destroyed nearly the entire town in 1991.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think something like that would happen in Ormoc,” Gomez tells the Inquirer. She was away studying at a university in Cebu when the disaster occurred.
After the puppet show, Gomez asks the class questions to make sure the kids understand. “Who cut down the trees?”
We all did it
“People,” reply the kids. It is a very perceptive answer because, in truth, mountains and forests are not denuded by loggers alone. Everyone is responsible, says Gomez.
She asks what the children can do to make sure there will always be trees. Her audience knows exactly what to answer.
Holding their saplings, the girls and the boys race outside to start planting with their guest teacher.
“Sa pagtutulungan, uusbong muli ang pangarap,” says Gomez.
As the camera moves in for a closer shot, Gomez says, “This is my one and only home.”
Bench chose to bankroll this documentary, directed by Marla Ancheta from a screenplay by Joey Tiempo and Abi Capa, because literacy and environmental awareness are its main advocacies.
The Tugbong preschool where this documentary was filmed was built by Bench through AGAPP (Aklat, Gabay, Aruga tungo sa Pag-angat at Pag-asa). The company also built the Linao kindergarten classrooms, also in Gomez’s district.
By talking to the young about the Ormoc tragedy through the film, Chan believes the kids will take better care of the environment.
“They will be better stewards of the earth and its resources,” he says. (By the way, the fabric used for the puppets and the set in “Si Rico at ang Pamilyang Puno” was recycled from Bench clothes.)
Gomez says she has won P300,000 from Bench’s 1M41M campaign so far for her classroom fund. “It costs about P650,000-P700,000 per classroom so I’m really campaigning,” she adds.
To help her, log in to twitter.com. Follow @benchtm and vote for Lucy Torres Gomez. So simple and so rewarding.