Tuesday, May 24, 2011

‘War room’ redesigned for new battle

By Robert Gonzaga, Yolando Sotelo
Philippine Daily Inquirer (Northern Luzon), Wednesday, May 25, 2011

SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union – THE NAVAL Forces conference room is called a “war room” by personnel of the Philippine Navy station at Poro Point in San Fernando City in La Union. After all, it is where high level meetings and videoconferencing among top Navy officials are held, including perhaps those on threats to the country’s sovereignty.

But on Saturday morning last week, the room was full of children and their parents who joined another kind of battle—the one against the loss of love for reading among many children.

The weapons? Books given away to the participants, along with other gifts such as caps, notebooks and book markers by supporters of the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Read-Along Session.

And the rules of engagement? Interactive reading by celebrity readers who hoped to instill the love for the written word in the children’s minds and hearts.

Lt. Rodney Cudal, head of the civil military operations at the naval station, and Ensign Edmund Aguila ensured that the program in La Union, one of the eight remotes sites where the session from the Navy headquarters in Manila was beamed through video teleconferencing system, went on smoothly.

Thirty-five children, aged 5 to 15, joined the session. Twenty-seven of them are children of Navy personnel at Poro Point.

The mood at the room was subdued before the session started, as if the children were wondering what the occasion was. The older ones fiddled with mobile phones, or whispered to each other.

Eager anticipation

But the mood changed into eager anticipation when the video feed from Manila was shown on the wall. Cheers and laughter followed as the children tried to follow the steps of “Achochechak,” a song and dance number meant to warm up the children for the session. The ice breaker was led by Alitaptap storytellers Rich Rodriguez and Percy Gapas.

It was all quiet again when the first story, “Si Pilandok at ang Kaharian ng Dagat,” was read by Lt. Maria Angelica Sisican of the Office of the Chief of Naval Staff.

All eyes were on the video wall that showed the book’s colorful pages, even as they listened to Sisican.

Hanna Borja, 12, one of the participants, was chosen to answer a question posed by Sisican, earning her a bag of goodies and books.

The children and their parents burst into cheers when celebrity reader, actor Dingdong Dantes, was seen onscreen. But only his voice was heard when the session started because the video feed flashed the pages of the book, “Lost at Sea,” which he read. The children, however, were all ears.

Dantes, a Navy reservist, read Raechelle Castellon’s story of a girl whose father, a seafarer, was thought to have been lost at sea. When the father was reunited with his daughter, the girl discovered his kindness and generosity.

The story touched the participants’ hearts because most of them are children of Navy men and women who are periodically sent on assignments at sea.

The visuals for the third story, “Si Hipon at si Biya,” written by Carla Pacis, were blurred due to a technical glitch, but the children enjoyed the story just the same.

In Zambales, over 100 participants, mostly Aeta children and children of personnel of the Naval Education and Training Command in San Antonio town joined the session.

Lt. Cmdr. Delbert Siasoyco, public affairs officer of the San Antonio naval station, took up hosting duties with Inquirer correspondent Robert Gonzaga and guided the children through the program.


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