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Kian lives in 7th Inquirer Read-Along Festival

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Kian lives in 7th Inquirer Read-Along Festival

GROOVIN’ AND SAVIN’ NATURE Flora, the mascot of the “Maging Laging Handa Project” of Smart Communications, Inquirer mascot Guyito and CEO Sandy Prieto-Romualdez perk up the Inquirer Read-Along festival with a dance number. —PHOTOS BY LEO M. SABANGAN II

The tragic story of a 17-year-old victim of the government’s war on illegal drugs took center stage at the 7th Inquirer Read-Along Festival on Friday.

Award-winning actress Cherry Pie Picache read “Si Kian,” a children’s book inspired by the life of Kian Loyd delos Santos, the Grade 12 student killed by Caloocan City police during its “One-Time, Big-Time” drug raid on Aug. 16.

The story, told in Filipino, was written by prize-winning children’s book author Weng Cahiles and illustrated by Aldy C. Aguirre. Former Inquirer photographer Kimberly dela Cruz did most of the research.

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“Kian’s story is special because it reminds us to be aware of what’s happening in the community and to be vigilant and cautious,” Picache said in an interview after the event.

Delos Santos’ killing, initially reported as a shootout by the police, stirred rare public outrage and protests over President Duterte’s fierce war on drugs during which thousands of suspects had been killed.

Picache said drug-related extrajudicial killings had become a “sad reality,” but that she hoped and prayed that our people and leaders would be “enlightened and realize that the way to solve our nation’s issues, especially poverty, is to educate [the poor], give [them] livelihood and make them more socially aware.”

She added:  “I feel that to fight evil, we need to show more kindness and more love.”

EMOTIONAL Cherry Pie Picache finds herself affected by “Si Kian.”

Miss Earth readers

Picache herself experienced crime when her mother, Zenaida Sison, was killed by their houseboy, Michael Flores, in an attempted burglary in September 2015.

On Friday’s kick-off of the two-day Read-Along festival, Picache said the event was one way of encouraging people to read books. People learn a lot from stories and get inspired by them, she said.

The Festival’s opening session was led by Inquirer president and chief executive officer (CEO) Alexandra Prieto-Romualdez and Inquirer  Central Desk chief Juliet Javellana. It had as morning session storytellers Miss Earth 2016/Miss Ecuador Katherine Espin, Miss Earth-Air 2016/Miss Colombia Michelle Gomez and Miss Earth Philippines 2017 Karen Ibasco.

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The Miss Earth beauty queens read “Sa Bakawan (In the Mangrove Forest),” a story about how pollution and mishandled solid waste pose double threats to mangroves. The story was written by Miss Earth Foundation executive director Cathy Untalan.

Veteran storyteller Dyali Justo of Adarna House also engaged the audience with Trina Paulus’ “Hope for the Flowers,” which traces the life cycle of caterpillars and their eventual transformation into butterflies.

MISS EARTH-SAVERS Miss Earth beauty queens (from left) Karen Ibasco, Michelle Gomez and Katherine Espin read “Sa Bakawan” to warn of pollution that threatens our mangroves.

A special performance by Inquirer’s official mascot Guyito and Smart’s proenvironment mascot Flora served as energizer to the kids.

Held in cooperation with Smart Communications, this year’s festival carries the theme, “Hope for the children, Hope for the country.”

Rose, a student from an Alternative Learning System (ALS), described the event’s theme as the “tool we use to achieve our dreams.”

She added:  “All the stories read in the session really hit us hard. We have to grab any opportunity available because we are among those who [can’t] send ourselves to good schools. We are part of the ALS, a kind of education system that is not part of a formal school. We review for six months then take an exam. If we pass the exam, we are eligible for college. Like the [caterpillar’s] story, we are in the process of turning into butterflies.”

Second chances

Kian’s story touched her as well, said Rose. “We are human beings who deserve second chances. If you are falsely accused, you should be given a chance to redeem your name,” she added.

“Si Kian” was the first children’s book project funded by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) Project for Innovation in Storytelling. The story, which also has an audio book read by actress Agot Isidro, was first released on Facebook and Instagram.

“The book was an [unplanned] project that needed attention because Kian’s story can happen to anyone, especially young people” Cahiles told the audience after the reading session.

Espin meanwhile linked books on the environment with a better understanding of how to take care of it.  “You’re not just reading to the kids; you are actually hoping that they’d grow up with respect for the environment,” she said.

Reuse and recycle

Espin’s fellow beauty queen Ibasco, a physics professor at the University of Santo Tomas, said the story “Sa Bakawan” showed how important it was to segregate trash and to reuse and recycle stuff that we can to conserve our resources and prevent trash from polluting our surroundings.

Romualdez, who is also a Read-Along ambassador, read “Ang Huling Puno” by Richard Reynante, complete with costume and props.  The story stresses the importance of taking care of Mother Nature. The Inquirer CEO also gave small potted plants to the children to encourage them to continue caring for the  environment.

Professional storytellers Rich Rodriguez and Posh Develos of Ang Pinoy Storytellers closed the morning session by reading in tandem Rene Villanueva’s “The Zimbragatzees of the the Planet Zing,” which tells of how Zimbragatzee creatures lost their unique noses due to extreme pollution.

Some 50 students from Palatiw Elementary School, Precious Gem Academy, F. Ma. Guerrero Elementary School and St. Gabriel Academy joined the first day festival session hosted by Read-Along regular hosts Ruth Navarra-Mayo and Chito dela Vega.

Among the festival’s sponsors were McDonald’s, Unilab, RiteMed for Kids, USAid, PCIJ, Adarna, Anvil and Vibal.

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TAGS: 7th Inquirer Read-Along Festival, Aldy C. Aguirre, Cherry Pie Picache, Kian Loyd delos Santos, Kimberly dela Cruz, Si Kian, Weng Cahiles
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