Around 80 children were treated to stories about the importance of protecting the environment during the Inquirer Read-Along session held on Saturday.
The event marked the celebration of Philippine Environment Month, which is observed in June.
Featured readers were reigning Miss Philippines-Earth Angelia Ong and Miss Philippines-Water Catherine Joy Marin, Read-Along ambassador Cathy Untalan-Vital, 2013 Read-Along Festival Storytelling winner Candy Tan and Sophia School principal Ann Abacan.
A partner of the session, the Asean Center for Biodiversity (ACB), taught the children the importance of biodiversity.
The session was held in cooperation with Karen Lapitan and Pam Reblora of ACB, Miss Earth Foundation, Pasig Manggahan Elementary School,
F. Benitez Elementary School, San Antonio Village Elementary School, St. Anthony of Makati Montessori, Mandaluyong Elementary School, Chiang Kai Shek College and Virlanie Foundation.
Tan opened the session with the story “Si Emang Engkantada at ang Tatlong Haragan” (Emang the Enchantress and the Three Naughty Kids), a story by Rene Villanueva about three children who destroy their surroundings by throwing trash anywhere, uprooting plants and trees, and wasting natural resources.
Abacan read the story “Si Noah at ang Malaking Baha” (Noah and the Great Flood), written by Krisse Zamora-Martinez, about a community that worked together to protect the environment for the future of their children.
Ong, Marin and Vital read “Ang Huling Puno (The Last Tree),” a story by Richard Reynante about how the last mango tree in the city was saved from being cut down through the efforts of children.
“The story tells us that you’re not necessarily saying let’s just take care of the environment and forget about progress. There’s such a thing as sustainable development where you can progress without neglecting your environment,” Vital said.
“It looks like we’re teaching the kids, but we’re learning from them, too. It was a nice eye-opener for us when we heard what the kids know about indigenous species,” she added.
ACB research officer Erica Villavelez discussed with the kids the significance of biodiversity and how living things benefit from the “web of life.”
Beauties walk the talk
Ong and Marin said this was not their first time to do storytelling with children.
Ong participated in a storytelling by the Miss Earth Foundation on June 5 for World Environment Day, while Marin took part in the Grow a Million Trees Read-Along Challenge, a partnership with SM Markets and Inquirer Read-Along, for candidates of Miss Philippines-Earth 2015 in May.
Marin said she enjoyed the session because the kids were very attentive. Ong said she felt inspired to do more for the children because they were very eager to learn.
“Whenever I get a chance to interact with kids, I feel grateful because I am given a chance to help and inspire others. It challenges me to be better and share more,” Ong said.
Teaching the young
Ong stressed the importance of teaching environmental concern to the young.
“It is very important to educate the kids. The first step in calling for action is to build awareness. We need to share the information first to create the change we want,” she said.
Marin said everyone could help protect the environment. “Change starts from within you. You will not be able to inspire others if you don’t practice it yourself,” she said.
Vital said concern for the environment should be inculcated in daily practices.
“I posted on my Facebook about the disastrous environmental consequences of the use of plastic straws. Someone told me it’s inconvenient not to use them. That’s exactly the point,” she said.
“A lot of our negligent acts are out of convenience. We can live without them but we choose not to because it’s inconvenient. But at the end of the day, is it convenient to live with dirty water and dirty air?”
Said Ong: “Every small thing counts… we should love our environment the same way we love our families and our friends.”
Tan said she learned important lessons from the story she read. “We should not waste water and electricity. We should plant trees and learn to throw the trash in the garbage can,” she said.
Grade 3 student Mark Angelo from Virlanie Foundation said he appreciated the message of the stories because of his personal experience.
“I like the story about the last tree because it taught me that we should not cut down trees so that when the typhoon comes, the trees will absorb the water. I don’t like floods,” he said.
Grade 4 student Vincent from San Antonio Village Elementary School said that even simple acts could help. “I learned that people should avoid the excessive use of electricity,” he said.
Marissa Rosales, a teacher from Manggahan Elementary School, praised the message of the stories.
“I liked the story ‘Ang Huling Puno.’ In our city, there are only a few trees and we should really take care of them,” she said. “And we should teach our children to plant even in their backyards. They can also plant in pots… this should also be taught in school.”
After the session, the kids were treated to snacks courtesy of ACB. Prizes during the Q&A session also came from ACB.–With reports from Marielle Medina, Inquirer Research, and Fazniyara Lukman, Editorial Production Systems