Public school is free, but there is no free lunch program at most schools. Also all the material for school projects has to be covered by the family. Because of these expenses, many children never attend school.
Even though we usually only have two girls assist us, over time we have gotten to know more of these children. As Christmas approached, Elena and I decided to do something nice for these kids. We talked about giving some of the kid’s gifts, but we also wanted to have a party for them. One problem we faced is where and how.
At the market there is an area that features small eatery stalls. We found one with room for seating and could provide the usual snack for Filipinos, Pancit Canton. Pancit is like the Chinese food Lo Mein, with noodles, vegetables and pork. We also could purchase bottled soda there and we planned to bring loafs of bread. Snacks high in carbohydrates are usual here.
For gifts Elena went to Chinatown to buy blouses, T-shirts, small toys and candies to give to the children. Elena also purchased gift bags to pack items for easy distribution. One problem we faced was how many of the children could we invite. The market has many of these children and there are many poor beggar kids hanging around the market too. We probably know about ten of these kids, but the market is like a small community and they all know each other. Inviting one could end up with five. Because of budget and available room at the eatery, we decided on twenty children.
On Sunday morning, we went to Agdao for our usual weekly shopping. While there, Elena told the girls we know about the party and that we cannot have more than twenty children since we did not want to hurt the feelings of extras attending and not receiving a gift.
About 11am, we arrived back at the market and some were already waiting. We also had with us two of our nieces to assist with cameras to take photos and video of the party. Then Elena went into the market to find some of the others we know that were still working carrying purchases for a customer. Three little girls I have known were standing by the parked cars looking shy. When I tried to get them to join us, I found out they were Muslim and could not eat the Pancit since it contained pork. We finally got them to join us and at least they could have bread and soda.
Once everyone was seated, all the children stood and did a prayer for the meal. Then the food was brought out and everyone dug in for the feast. All the smiles, joy and full mouths these kids showed made us enjoy the party too. I wondered how often these kids could eat until they were full. Many made sandwiches filled with the noodles and filled their mouths and tummy’s with smiles and joking with each other.
As the party started, I saw this one little girl standing nearby looking so sad that she was not invited. Seeing this cute little girl looking so sad, I had Elena explain to her; even though we do not have, enough presents we wanted her to come and eat with us. The shy smile I received made me happy we did not exclude her.
After the eating was done and most of the food gone, all the kids started singing us Charismas carols. First, as they looked and pointed to us, they sang, “We wish you a Merry Christmas”. Then they sang more carols to us. While they were singing, my two nieces went and retrieved from the car two big bags filled with the gift bags. As the singing finished, Elena gave each child one of the gift bags. As each child received their gift, there were big smiles and big eyes.
At one point, I told the kids, and Elena translated to make sure it was understood, that it was our pleasure giving these children this party in thanks for the friendship they always show me at the market.
As the party broke up, most thanked us and many gave us hugs. A few even gave me a kiss on the cheek. The joy we gave these children to let them know we are happy we have become friends they not forgotten. We also wanted to make sure they had something to enjoy the spirit of giving for this holiday season.
There are many who we never used to assist us, but they always say hello to me. At times when I am waiting for Elena, some will stand with talk and joke to me or just keep me company. Some will sneak up behind me and poke me on the side as they pass by. At times, I feel like the Pied Piper as we walk through the market or to the car with five to ten kids walking with us.
They never ask for anything from us or beg with the usual sob stories. If we can use them at the market, they are paid. However, if not, they still show their friendship to us. Many times, we arrive at the market and cannot find our usual helpers. If I see one of the others, they will travel through the market to find our usual girl.
I hope this is the first of an annual tradition. I was thinking if in the future years, if we get donations, we can have more of these children to attend a party and besides the snack and gifts, maybe we can include a little money so they can pass the Christmas cheer to others in their family.
I hope you enjoy the video and the slide show of the photos we took. The video is long but I hope you enjoy it.
Sorry for the late posing. Had trouble setting it up.