MANILA, Philippines—In celebration of Nutrition Month and National Children’s Book Day, around 130 children attended back-to-back Inquirer Read-Along sessions at the paper’s main office in Makati City on Saturday.
In the morning session, veteran read-along storytellers Rich Rodriguez and Posh Develos, musician RJ Jimenez and actress Max Collins read tales on the importance of friendship, sharing and gratefulness to around 30 kids from SOS Children’s Village Manila.
In the afternoon session, Junior Masterchef champion Kyle Imao and Sophia School principal Ann Abacan gave life to tales on the importance of good nutrition and taking good care of one’s body to some 100 kids.
First-time reader Collins kicked off the morning session with “Maia’s Birthday Party” by Yvette Fernandez and published by Adarna, a story about the love parents have for an adopted child.
Jimenez, a returning read-along celebrity guest, read “Gaya’s Gift” by Jenny Evans and published by OMF Literature, the story of a carabao who realizes her “special gift.”
Rodriguez and Develos capped the morning session with an energetic reading of Angelita Aragon’s classic tale, “Ang Magkaibigan,” about the friendship between an ant and a dove. The two were also the main sponsors of the morning session as part of their joint birthday celebration.
In the afternoon, kiddie chef Kyle Imao read “The Untold Story of Super Boy” by Benjamin Mangubat, the story of how a young boy beat obesity by eating well and exercising.
Abacan read “Ang Alamat ng Ampalaya” by Augie D. Rivera and illustrated by Kora D. Albano, the story of a selfish ampalaya who stole all the taste, color and nutrients of other vegetables. After her segment, Abacan, with help from Imao, made a “green smoothie” for the kids—a nutritious drink of camote tops, jute leaves (saluyot), banana, soy milk and honey.
“It was an unforgettable experience,” said Collins, a GMA-7 actress and model. “Seeing the kids enjoying themselves as I read to them was priceless.”
Jimenez, who is busy producing musicals for kids, said his reading experience this time around was different from the last time in 2008. “I felt like a kid again,” he said. “The kids today were very focused and participative. I really enjoyed today’s session.”
Thirteen-year-old Imao, who dreams of becoming a chef and owning a restaurant, said he enjoyed his first-time reading to other children.
“It was so fun telling stories to the kids. They were really listening and actively answering all my questions. Every minute was exciting,” he said. “When you read something you always learn something new. It’s also applicable to cooking in that you always have to push yourself and keep learning new and more things.”
Imao also stressed the importance of good nutrition. “I wish that kids would try to eat healthier and stop drinking soft drinks. When I was a kid, my parents taught me not to drink soft drinks. It really helps if we try to eat healthy always because when we grow up it is us who’ll benefit from it,” he said.
Sharon Barzaga, a social worker for SOS Children’s Village, said the read-along was one of the better activities their children had attended. “The read-along is really a good exercise. I think our kids really have to learn how to love reading,” she said.
Ayalyn Buenaventura, 11, one of the kids from SOS, was all smiles after the morning session. “It was fun, we laughed a lot. Thank you for having us,” she said.
Her favorite story was “Ang Magkaibigan,” she added. “It taught me the importance of always helping each other.”
Jhonelyn Taylo, 11, also an SOS ward, said she could not pick a favorite storyteller. “I liked them all, especially Ate Max and Kuya RJ,” she said.
Paul Lester Distrito, a student at St. Anthony of Makati Montessori, said the afternoon session was “great, it reminded me to eat vegetables to keep our bodies healthy.”
Thirteen-year-old Nicole Ann Marquez agreed: “We need to eat nutritious food like vegetables so we can be healthy. I am really happy today because I learned a lot of new things.”
“I was impressed by Teacher Ann’s prepared drink and healthy lifestyle. She is a vegetarian and I think it’s the healthy thing to do,” said Demitre Vaughn D. Sevilla, also from St. Anthony.
Saturday’s sessions, hosted by Libre editor in chief Chito de la Vega and Junior Inquirer editor Ruth Navarra, were held in cooperation with GMA 7’s Marian Domingo-Antonio, SOS Children’s Village, St. Anthony of Makati Montessori, Makati Sporting Association, F. Benitez Elementary School and Laura Vicuña Foundation.
Develos, Rodriguez and their friends also provided snacks, prizes and giveaways in the morning session.—With reports from Kate Pedroso and Marielle Medina, Inquirer Research; Roxanne Abad and Jackie Sabian, Inquirer Library