A read-along event in Tabaco City in Albay has unveiled a different world in a facility run by nuns dedicated to providing food, shelter, clothing, education and care to abandoned and orphaned children.
The smiling faces of children, aged 6 to 13 years, huddled to listen to two story readers could be deceiving. They somehow managed to hide their past after they took shelter at Holy Cross Children’s Home, which is managed by the Sisters of St. John the Baptist.
Sister Evelyn Ceballo, the home administrator, said the children had not been cared for by their parents and were suffering from malnutrition before they took shelter at the facility. Forty-two children are now staying there.
“I hope the read-along event will be a way for these unfortunate children to be helped by kindhearted people out there,” she said. The Inquirer Read-Along team came on Dec. 15 last year.
Despite their situation, they were cheerful and receptive to the stories about an insecure dog and a girl afraid of darkness, which were read by Bishop Joel Baylon of the Legazpi Diocese and Sister Milagros Tible.
Baylon read “Putot” (written by Mike Birgonia and illustrated by Charles Funk), a story about the dog named Putot who whined about his short tail and compared himself to other animals with longer tails until he met a worm who was all tails and nothing more.
A girl named Esperanza said she could relate to Putot because even with her misfortune, she was still lucky for having the nuns to care of them.
Esperanza had been sent back to her parents after recovering from severe malnutrition but she had to be taken back here because of a relapse, Ceballo said.
“She is now in high school and can help us care for other young children in the facility,” the nun said.
Tible read the story of a girl named Ching who developed a fear of darkness because of her adult relatives who frightened her with imaginary monsters and creatures lurking in the dark.
Written by Aleli Dew Batnag with illustrations by Paul Eric Roca, “Si Ching na Takot sa Dilim” narrates Ching’s plight who was able to overcome her fear by discovering that there was nothing to it.
The Sisters of St. John the Baptist, who are called Baptistines, is a religious congregation founded by Blessed Alfonso Maria Fusco, a priest who helped educate uncared for children during the war in the late 1800 in Italy.
Started in 1878, the Baptistines spread all over Italy and to the United States, and are now in 16 countries in five continents.
Ceballo said the facility here was opened 18 years ago so the sisters could care for children from different parts of Bicol and neighboring areas. Six Baptistines and six lay staff handle the rehabilitation and education program of resident-children through donations.
The children are taken based on referrals from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) which yearly accredits the facility based on its compliance with certain requirements.
Even though some requirements such as the “voluminous documentation” could be “bothersome,” Ceballo said the sisters must comply so they could continue serving the children.
At the nursery, four toddlers were being fed. The youngest was a 2-year-old girl diagnosed with a brain defect from extreme malnutrition.
In another instance, during the Read-Along team’s visit, an orphaned girl, whose parents were said to belong to the Mangyan tribe, cried when she saw the “strangers.”
“We have to rely on Divine Providence and the kindness of people who care for the children,” Ceballo said.