‘Yolanda’ survivor, 10, is ‘storytelling queen’ of PDI Read-Along
Video by INQUIRER.net’s Ryan Leagogo and Noy Morcoso III
Ten-year-old Eine R. Vuycankiat, a survivor of Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” has emerged as the “storytelling queen” of the 4th Inquirer Read-Along Festival.
Reading in very animated English, the Waray-speaking Eine bested six other Filipino-speaking finalists despite being the last qualifier in the grueling two-day elimination round.
Many of Eine’s playmates and classmates died when Supertyphoon Yolanda devastated Tacloban City on Nov. 8, 2013. Amid the euphoria of her victory, it was her young friends in Tacloban who were in Eine’s mind.
“I dedicate my win to the Yolanda victims who also like reading and who are good at storytelling, too, but are not able to have the chance to read because they were struck by typhoon Yolanda. I wish they had their time, too,” said Eine, drawing loud cheers from the audience of 200 students, teachers and parents who attended the culminating event at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).
Among those caught up in the frenzy of the crowd of mostly grade-school students were Eine’s classmates from School of St. Anthony in Quezon City.
Eine, her mother, Eileen, and her younger siblings left Tacloban 10 days after Yolanda, taking the boat to Cebu province because there were still no flights out of the devastated city. Francisco, Eine’s seafarer father, was working on board a foreign ship when Yolanda struck.
“Eine has playmates and schoolmates who died. One of them is a close family friend, a young boy who is really good in school, and she told me she thought maybe he would have been a good storyteller, too, but then he passed away,” Eileen said.
Eileen has gone back to Tacloban a few times, but the trauma of Yolanda was “still heavy in my heart.” Eine said she wanted to return to Tacloban. Their family plans to go back home and celebrate Christmas there.
“Her participation in the competition was really a surprise for us from the start. She was just a last-minute addition to the contestants from their school,” Eileen said.
Eine said she wanted to share the prize she won to help her family. “I felt really happy. I thank everyone who supported me, especially my parents, teachers and friends. I thank everyone else who helped me in going here. And I never realized this would happen since I’m from Tacloban. I thank the Lord for giving me a chance to come here,” she said.
The storytelling competition was the highlight of the two-day 2014 Read-Along Festival, which also featured reading ambassadors Kim Atienza and Nikki Gil and basketball player Ranidel de Ocampo as special guest storytellers. Professional storytellers Dyali Justo of Adarna House and Ann Abacan also participated, while pupils from Sophia School performed a special cultural dance.
Eine, a Grade 5 student, passed the elimination and semifinal rounds in October before making it to the finals. Fifty-four students from seven schools vied for 15 slots during the elimination round. From 15 semifinalists, Eine made it to the Top 7.
Noah Roa from Optimus Center for Development won second place while Ralph Matthew Villafuerte, also from Optimus, won third place.
The other finalists were Christian Manuel Fronda (Optimus), Sophia Janelle Chua (Chiang Kai Shek College), Aron Claude Perez (Optimus) and Darwin Alexander Co (Chiang Kai Shek).
“I feel really happy that I was able to reach the final round. I think reading books is important because you will learn a lot of things from them,” Perez said.
The competition was open to students ages 10 to 12. Abacan, who chaired the board of judges for the finals, was joined by Justo and professional storyteller and Inquirer Read-Along regular Posh Develos.
Atienza, who read “Si Pilandok at ang Manok na Nangigitlog ng Ginto” by Virgilio Almario, surprised the children when he took out his pet snake after his reading. The white boa python was met with loud shrieks and excited laughter from the kids.
Start them early
“Nowadays, reading is becoming a lost skill. A lot of the kids today are more focused on using computers, watching YouTube, or surfing the Net, so reading, especially of books, is becoming rare. We should encourage our kids to read to be smart children,” Atienza said.
De Ocampo, a first-time reader, read Rene Villanueva’s “Si Carancal ang Bayaning Isang Dangkal,” a story about a tiny hero who helped his parents defeat a giant and free an entire town. “I hope the children learned that even if you are small, you are important and capable of anything. It does not matter if others are bigger or taller than us. We can all be heroes based on our skill and intelligence,” De Ocampo said.
Gil, who read Christine Bellen’s “Ang Binibining Tumalo sa Hari,” the story of a young woman who had to outsmart a king to marry her prince, said she is passionate about promoting reading especially among children. “I think it is very important to start [to read] young … It’s very enriching. I started reading at an early age and I get to use this in so many areas in what I do right now and it’s just fun to live many different lives through the characters in the books,” she said.
Copresented with the CCP, this year’s festival was also held in cooperation with Dunkin Donuts, McDonald’s, Adbokasiya on Air and Bayani Brew. Surprise raffle prizes, which included one-year subscriptions of Inquirer Plus and books from Adarna House, Vibal Publishing and Anvil Publishing, were also given away throughout the festival. Surprise appearances by mascots Skipper and Guyito also delighted the audience during the breaks.
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