I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for children. I love their innocence, the genuine happiness that I see in their eyes when given a little something, or when being told a story, or when shown something that they’ve seen for the first time. I remember one time way back in college, when I was walking on an overpass somewhere in Quezon City. There was a child, with wounds on his head, cradled by his mother who sought shelter on the dirty steps of the overpass. The wounds were inviting swarms of flies and the mother didn’t mind. She was busy begging for money and food. I can’t help it, I suddenly cried and wasn’t able to stop the tears from flowing. I feel bad for children like him.
That’s why when our department announced their outreach program for the year, I signed up for it right away. Last Saturday, October 5, we brought around 60 students in the Special Education department of Bagong Silangan Elementary School to Manila Ocean Park for a field trip. Some of the students had Down syndrome, a number of them were deaf and mute, and a couple were mentally impaired. We served as their guides as we explored the theme park for one whole day.
We met the students in the lobby of Manila Ocean Park, in front of the Oceanarium. Some of them had guardians of their own, while the rest who didn’t have anyone with them were assigned to us, about 25 volunteers from our department.
Jeffrey, the student assigned to me, cannot hear and speak. We had to rely on hand signals because I don’t know how to do sign language. Whenever I needed to take a picture of him, I had to make a “sign” by using my phone and pretending to press a button. Thank God Jeffrey understood this, and we didn’t have a hard time. He just explored the Oceanarium like a little kid who’s seeing different sea creatures for the first time.
Jeffrey is close to one of the students named Mark. My fellow volunteer, Sean, noticed that the two would always walk together and would giggle about something. Both are deaf and mute, but they just look at each other and they seem to understand what the other wants to say.
After about thirty minutes walking around the aquariums and displays in the Oceanarium, we reached the art corner. They were given time to read books, and afterwards, they were given coloring sheets. The kids’ creativity shone during their art activity as they colored the drawings using Faber-Castell coloring materials.
Come lunchtime, we brought the students to Jollibee in Harrison Plaza for a mini-program. It was heartwarming to see the kids so excited to eat at Jollibee. There were games prepared for them, and of course, the famous mascot was slated to make an appearance.
After the program and games at Jollibee, we headed back to Manila Ocean Park for the second half of the tour. We were scheduled to witness the Daytime Fountain Show, The Sea Lion Show, The Penguin Talk Show, and lastly, the Jellyfish and Fairies show.
At around 5:00pm, we decided to call it a day. Our legs were aching from all the walking and guiding and exploring but seeing the students happy was more than fulfilling. The feeling of doing something great for children who do not have the means to go to places like Manila Ocean Park is just overwhelming. At one point in their lives, I hope they will remember this day and that they will look back at it with smiling faces. We may not know what the future holds for them, but I am praying that there’s still a bright future for these kids despite their limitations.