MANILA, Philippines—Stories celebrating love took center stage at last Saturday morning’s Inquirer Read-Along session which featured two teen stars, a speech choir and a veteran storyteller.
The session, held at the Inquirer main office in Makati, also saw the awarding of prizes to the winners of the Read-Along Festival writing and photo competitions.
The children listened in rapt attention as Nash Aguas and Alexa Ilacad, who appear in ABS-CBN’s youth-oriented show “Luv U” and “Wansapanatym” Valentine’s special, read Simon Puttock’s “The Love Bugs,” a story of the love between a ladybird and a beetle.
“I was afraid that they would just stare blankly at us and would not understand the story,” said Aguas, who was surprised to see the children listening intently.
“I simply imagined myself as their older sister in order to feel comfortable while reading the story. I really wanted to have younger siblings so it was really a fun experience for me,” Ilacad said.
Both Aguas and Ilacad were first-time storytellers.
Ilacad said the best part of the experience was when she saw the kids enjoying and participating in their storytelling.
“We asked some of the kids to pretend to be our parents in the story and I called this baby girl to be my mommy and she willingly agreed. It was fun to see their reaction,” Aguas said.
Read-Along veteran storyteller Dyali Justo and the Optimus Center for Development speech choir also regaled the kids with stories of love.
Justo read “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch, a story that illustrates the great unconditional love of a mother for her son.
The speech choir received warm applause for their entertaining and energetic take on “Ang Supremo at ang Kweba,” a story written by April Jade Biglaen that highlights love for one’s country and valuing one’s heritage.
Awarded for their best works were Jeremy Matthew Mercurio, who bested 15 others in the essay writing contest, and Matthew Psalm Alcantara, who stood out from among 47 other candidates in the photo contest.
Both are students of Optimus Center for Development in Binangonan, Rizal.
Love for words and photographs were what ultimately led the two Optimus students to the grand prize.
“It was like winning a car or finding thousands of pesos in a bag,” said Grade 6 student Mercurio, who was also a runner-up in last year’s Read-Along Festival storytelling contest.
Fan of selfies
Alcantara, on the other hand, confessed he was a fan of selfies, until he brought his passion for photography to the next level. “I’m happy that I won. I was not able to practice much but I still managed to win,” said Alcantara, a Grade 3 student.
“Winning competitions is just an add-on,” said Jaime Naval, Optimus school president, who accompanied the students to the session. “What is more important is how events like this boost the students’ self-confidence.”
“I’m so proud of them (Mercurio and Alcantara), they worked hard for it,” said Optimus teacher Lorna Matienzo. “I’m glad the Inquirer provides a venue like this, where kids can showcase their talents.” Matienzo is also the coach of the school’s speech choir.
Judges for the writing competition were Junior Inquirer editor and Read-Along host Ruth Navarra-Mayo, Inquirer Super editor Pam Pastor and Junior Inquirer writer Dianne Villafuerte.
Judges for the photo competition were Inquirer Libre editor in chief and Read-Along host Chito de la Vega, Inquirer photographer and Read-Along storyteller Grig Montegrande, Inquirer Camera Club president Genie Lagman and award-winning Inquirer photojournalists Raffy Lerma and Niño Jesus Orbeta.
More than 60 children, parents and teachers participated in Saturday’s program.
Hyacinth Louise, a 7-year-old student from Good Shepherd Montessori School, said she learned the values of loving and respecting others for who they are from the stories that were read, while Kurt Robin, 12, said he learned to appreciate his parents more.
His classmate, Robel, 12, shared the sentiment. “I was really touched by the story read by Teacher Dyali and I learned that we should always show our love to our parents.”
Aliah, James and Charlene, all members of Optimus’ speech choir, were excited about their performance. “We practiced for days. It was hard perfecting our facial expressions, but in the end, we think we did OK,” said Aliah.
“The session taught us to love our parents more, to always respect them and to not forget them when we get older,” said Charlene.
For James, the read-along has inspired him to read more books. “I want to read more books so I can learn more words,” he said.
Saturday’ session was held in cooperation with Optimus Center for Development and Thess Gube and Jelay Salting of ABS-CBN. Books courtesy of the Rotary Club of Makati were given as prizes during the question-and-answer portions.
A special Read-Along training program for Inquirer correspondents and volunteer teachers from Super Typhoon Yolanda-stricken areas will be held in Cebu City on Feb. 15-16. Invited are college students from UP Tacloban currently cross-registered in UP Cebu. The training session is in preparation for a series of “Reading for Healing” sessions in areas in Leyte, Samar, Cebu and Iloilo that were affected by Yolanda.—With reports from Marielle Medina, Rafael L. Antonio and Kate Pedroso, Inquirer Research