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Poor kids’ first day at the mall

CHILDREN of the Valdez family set foot on a mall for the first time and are treated to a day of shopping on Christmas Day. WILLIE LOMIBAO/CONTRIBUTOR

ROSALES, Pangasinan—There are still a few Filipino children who have never set foot on a shopping mall, which has defined lifestyles for urban and rural families, because they simply can’t afford that kind of life.

It was, therefore, a dream come true for the children of the Valdez family when SM City Rosales treated them to a day of malling on Tuesday, Christmas Day.

Siblings Precia Mae, 6 (Grade 1), Joan, 8 (Grade 2), and Marvin, 11 (Grade VI), are the children of a farm worker and a laundry woman. They also have a 13-year-old sister, Precious, and a 2-year-old brother, Joven.

They live in Bacag East, Villasis, a 30-minute ride from SM City Rosales, and they are students of the elementary school in the village. The school has tagged the children as those from the poorest family in the neighborhood.

Maria Agnes Oller, the school principal, learned about their plight when she once took over the class of Precia Mae on behalf of the regular teacher, who took a leave of absence.

“The girl caught my attention because she was so quiet. I asked her what she wished for Christmas and if she had gone to SM. She said she has not and neither has her siblings. I thought going to malls is just an ordinary thing and yet there are children who could not go there because of poverty,” Oller said.

She discovered that the siblings occasionally come to school hungry, although they remain diligent students. Marvin is a contender for third honors.

“The teachers know the situation and are helping these kids, giving them food and paying for some contributions in school,” she said.

Oller wrote SM mall manager Jersey Mendoza to ask if it could sponsor the children. Mendoza agreed.

On Tuesday, an SM vehicle fetched the siblings’ 30-year-old mother, Percy, and Precious and Joven, who were taken to the mall.

They would meet up with Precia Mae, Joan and Marvin, who were being toured at Butterfly Garden in Villasis town.

Their 29-year-old father, Joven, was busy working at that time and could not join them.

Tears flowed when the Valdez family was handed a check of P10,000 from SM Rosales and an undisclosed amount of cash contributed by the mall staff.

The family was later toured around different stores, where they were given bags of goodies like school supplies, clothes and others, and treated to snacks at a Jollibee store.

“This is the first time that we received gifts. And there are so many. We are so happy. We will use the money for the school needs of the children,” Percy said. Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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