Guest readers regaled some 200 street children with stories about strong women leaders at a special Inquirer Read-Along session on Friday at the Tuloy sa Don Bosco Streetchildren Village in Alabang, Muntinlupa.
Singer-actress Nikki Gil read “Ang Alamat ng Papaya” (The Legend of the Papaya) by Rene Villanueva, a story about how a good queen took care of her people and how the people rewarded her with undying loyalty.
Alitaptap storytellers Posh Develos and Ray Escasinas entertained the children with a joint reading of “Ang Pambihirang Buhok ni Lola” (Grandma’s Magical Hair), a story also written by Villanueva about an old woman who saved her town from destruction.
Gil, who majored in English literature at Ateneo de Manila University, said she was used to interacting with children as she had worked as a Sunday school teacher and a sponsor for World Vision.
Gil, who brought her mother to the reading, said her mother taught her to love books and reading. “We grew up around books,” she said, adding that most of her summer vacations were spent at home reading.
A 2009 Ateneo graduate, Gil wrote her thesis on children’s literature and is a former member of the National Book Development Board.
“I think the kids saw the story I read as a reflection of themselves—of how they were a tribe in need of help, how they came here to Tuloy sa Don Bosco, and how Tuloy sa Don Bosco took them in and cared for them,” she said.
Tuloy sa Don Bosco is run by Tuloy Foundation Inc., which provides support for poor, orphaned, abused or abandoned children. Friday’s read-along was part of the school’s celebration of women’s month.
“Our children were brought here by policemen, pastors, parish priests and some well-meaning citizens,” explained Fr. Rocky Evangelista, president and founder of Tuloy sa Don Bosco.
The idea of putting up a street children’s village came to him in a dream, Evangelista said.
“I dreamt one night that I was walking with a few kids from the streets—hungry, dirty, malnourished. Then, in that dream we saw a gate. When we peeked through that gate, we found a village. And one of the children said, “Father, it’s too beautiful; it’s not for us’,” he said.
Evangelista woke up crying, struck by the child’s idea that something beautiful could not be for him.
The village, which stands on a 4.5-hectare property in Alabang, has a school building, a gym and gardens.
“We want the poor kids to dream. We want them to know that even though they are poor, they still have hope,” Evangelista said.
Some 15,000 children have been served by the foundation since 1993, while more then 2,500 children have graduated from the school’s basic and functional literacy programs.
“These kids are not really into reading, but it’s good that we can encourage them to read and love books. This is a good way to get them into the habit of reading. They were very participative during the session,” said Jose M. Perez III, the Tuloy sa Don Bosco principal. With reports from Kate Pedroso, Inquirer Research and Jackieh Cobrador, Inquirer Library