The young listeners giggled everytime British Ambassador Asif Ahmad did his ant voice when he read Angelita Aragon’s “Ang Magkaibigan,” a story of friendship between an ant and a dove. “Whenever you read to children, it’s always very honest,” the ambassador said.
Hundreds of children from Metro Manila and nearby areas trooped to the Silangan Hall of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in Pasay City on Friday for the first day of this year’s Inquirer Read-Along Festival.
Now on its fifth year, the festival is part of the Inquirer’s 30th anniversary celebrations, as well as the CCP’s three-day Performatura Festival, which features 200 local and international artists in 10 performance venues at the CCP.
Leading Friday’s roster of readers were Inquirer president and CEO Alexandra Prieto-Romualdez, British Ambassador to the Philippines Ahmad, read-along ambassadors Cathy Untalan-Vital, Nash Aguas and Alexa Ilacad, Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Teacher 2015 Amcy Esteban, actress Ella Guevara, Miss Philippines-Earth 2015 Angelia Ong, and Ang Pinoy storytellers Posh Develos, Rich Rodriguez, Ray Escasinas, and Lance Papa.
This year’s festival, an annual event staged by the Inquirer Read-Along team during November, which has been declared National Reading Month, features 30 well-loved Filipino tales for children and a book fair with Adarna House and Anvil Publishing.
Aside from the storytelling competition finals for students aged 10-12, Saturday’s sessions also feature read-along ambassadors Anna Theresa Licaros and Bianca Umali, GMA 7 actor Miggy Jimenez, Adarna storyteller Dyali Justo and Ann Abacan, and Sophia School from Meycauayan, Bulacan.
Students from Antonio Regidor Elementary School and Chiang Kai Shek College will present their group storytelling performances in the first two sessions, while Christine Ortega and Maranao students from MSU-IIT will read an excerpt from the Maranao epic, “Darangen.”
Set to compete in the finals of the storytelling competition are Michael Stephen Maglente and Noah Roa of Optimus Center for Development, Edward Benedict Batac of the School of St. Anthony, Christine Joy Liwanag of Comembo Elementary School, and Aki Bukuhan of John Dewey School for Children.
The finalists will read “Ang Bertdey ni Ray (Ray’s Birthday),” a short story based on the life of geologist Raymundo Punongbayan, the former director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology and Inquirer’s first Filipino of the Year. The story is part of the Inquirer Guyito Reader series, to be launched as part of the Inquirer’s 30th anniversary celebration in December.
“We at the Inquirer believe that through reading you are able to grow and get better at what you do,” Romualdez told the kids during the opening ceremonies on Friday.
The first-day session had students from St. Alphonsus Liguori Integrated School (Elizabeth Montano, Richmond Ray Parayno and Reanne Mateo) and Centex Batangas (Jaenele Talain, Joelyn Bauan, Angela Tuyac, Archie Fallaria and Lyje Adame) performing their special group storytelling segments.
In the audience were students from Dr. Rafael V. Palma Elementary School, Gregorio del Pilar Elementary School, Salis, Palatiw Elementary School, Sagad Elementary School, Nagpayong Elementary School, Pinagbuhatan Elementary School, Liberato Damian Elementary School and Ilugan Elementary School, Plainview Elementary School, Shama Kids World Learning Center and faculty observers from Laguna State Polytechnic University.
Romualdez and her youngest son, 8-year-old Nico, read Adarna House’s “Hipon and Biya” by Carla Pacis, a story about how two different sea creatures found a way to coexist peacefully.
The story turned out to be the favorite of 10-year-old Thea of Nueve de Pebrero Elementary School who said “Hipon at Biya” taught her “the importance of helping our friends,” and of 11-year-old Aerol of Gregorio del Pilar Elementary School, who said, “Without friends, one’s life will be very lonely.”
For Romualdez, the story was perfect for her son, Nico, “because he is learning more things (and) more skills, so he can definitely contribute.”
She added that the different styles of readers during the read-along sessions “capture the imagination of participants and (can make) a book (sound) very exciting and animated.”
Former Miss Earth executive director and news anchor Vital read Rosario Calma’s “Rosa Albina,” about a rose-colored carabao that learned to get along with others despite their differences.
“One important thing for me during the storytelling session is making sure that kids learn the moral of the story,” said Vital, who added that she took to heart her role as read-along ambassador by starting a 30-book project this year, just when she turned 30. She is now reading her 25th book.
Amid shrieks from excited kids, Aguas and Ilacad read in tandem the crowd-favorite “Tiktaktok at Pikpakbum” by Rene Villanueva, about siblings learning the value of sharing.
Guevara, who read “Nang Magkakulay ang Nayon” by Susan de la Rosa Aragon said that reading helped improve her vocabulary and helped expand her imagination.
Foundation of learning
Storytelling, she added, is “a good way of teaching kids to love books because there are many kids who easily get bored or lose interest in reading. But when they get a taste of fun reading through storytelling … they will be encouraged to read more.”
Esteban, who read “Si Dindo Pundido” by Jose Miguel Tejido, advocates the importance of reading because “it is the foundation of learning,” which leads to a brighter future and a greater nation.
Ong, who read “Si Putot” by Mike Bigornia, a story about a dog who discovers his own self-worth, might have identified with the book. The Miss Philippines-Earth winner is set to leave next week for Vienna to compete in the international pageant.
Carolina Ocampo, master teacher of Palatiw Elementary School, joined the opening session and liked the story “Chenelyn, Chenelyn” by Develos. “As working mothers, we really need our household help. We work for them and they also work for us. It’s a give-and-take relationship,” she said.
Also attending the opening session were at least 20 faculty observers from Laguna State Polytechnic University (LSPU) in Los Baños, Laguna province. “We are training future educators. Our participation in read-along as observers is a big help in our strategies and methods of teaching,” said Dr. Consorcia Tan, associate dean of LSPU’s College of Teacher Education.
Habit to develop
Nerissa Mercado, a Grade 6 English teacher of Pleasant Hills Elementary School, cited the importance of programs such as the read-along in encouraging kids to read. Developing a love of reading is a habit that can be developed, she said. “That’s why we make it a point to include reading exercises and programs in our subjects,” she added.
Friday’s sessions, hosted by Junior Inquirer editor Ruth Navarra-Mayo and Inquirer Libre editor in chief Chito dela Vega, were in cooperation with Yanie Camante of ABS-CBN, Lynn Plata of the British Embassy, Kathy Caday of Metrobank Foundation, Fredie Avendaño and Dennis Mendoza of Pasig Library Hub, Ikit Chan of Salis, Emma Arrubio of Mandaluyong, Rose Visaya and Helen Garcia of Rafael Palma, Maribel Bulalayao of Gregorio del Pilar Elementary School, Filen Lee Co of Shama Kids World, and Lourdes Maalihan of Centex Batangas.
Romualdez, who hailed partners CCP, Dunkin Donuts, McDonald’s, Metrobank Foundation, Rebisco, Points of Light and Read Across the Globe, also thanked the Inquirer volunteers who have held some 300 read-along sessions through the years. With reports from Marielle Medina, Ana Roa, Kathleen de Villa and Kate Pedroso, Inquirer Research, and Eline Santos and Yara Lukman, contributors