By Alvin Gian Ocampo as told to Choy Arnaldo
March 25, 2017
We are a smiling people, smiles are everywhere, but more often than not, they are not real smiles, just plastic, fake, murang peke. But when we visited that seemingly isolated island of Talim in the middle of Laguna de Bay, it was different. Their smiles told us everything!
We were four guys, the Manila Boys, hosted by our classmate, Janine and her mommy at the prow of the banka; her dad was in the second seat, very young looking, mustachio and rayban. That’s me in the red shirt in front of Janine.
We had no clue as to what to expect, but were amazed at our reception at Eton port, on the Laguna side of the lake, “Liko ka sa kanan at pumarada jan, may bantay,” says a smiling kuya. And at the lakeshore, “Sakay na kayo sa bangka, kaming bahala sa mga bitbit,” invites another smiling kuya. “Brothers ko yan,” assures Janine’s mommy whose dad had a big family! That was our first encounter with the smiles, but the best was yet to come.
We passed through a kilometer or two of fish pens, a great boon to the economy here as many fishermen from Talim are employees of this major fish breeding and marketing venture. But they are not the owners! Others are fishermen on their own, using their own bangkas and nets in the open lake.
Tying up on shore, we walked 5 minutes to the covered basketball court where the children from the Malakaban Day Care Center and the Elementary School were already gathered and seated waiting for us. We were met with a hundred smiles of gleaming kids, each smile sparkling like pearls, shooing away all cares and worries, revealing a clean soul so pure, as if the world no longer had problems!
We assisted Ate (a sister of Janine’s mommy) in organizing the kids to play musical chairs. The kids easily accepted our help and counsel, we even had to console the losers who sat on the side about to cry! But nice prizes for the winner, bags of candy and sweets!
Next big action was distributing the lunchpacks, spaghetti and fried chicken. For city folks, that is so common, but out here with no Jollibee and no McDo, spaghetti and fried chicken is a real treat with a cool tetrapak!
Then we distributed pretty blue hairclips for the girls, who immediately pulled out their brushes and starting primping themselves prettier! And then, the tsinelas. A big problem because it was difficult to match the right size feet to the tsinela sizes, while at the same time assuring the kids that they may choose the design and color they like. Easy with a few kids, but with over 80 of them, boys and girls?
So the kids first went barefoot then approached the tsinellas closest to their size, being careful to slip into a pair the right size. Maybe about 95 % found a close fit!
But again those glorious smiles as they strutted about in their new tsinelas, Havaianas pa! klass pa! WOW!
Seeing all their smiles for us was a big treat and spelled the meaningfulness of the day in clear letters for us. Janine’s parents are from the island, went to school here and later college in Manila and made good. But they never forgot their homeland, Talim and come back several times a year to express their gratitude for their blessings. Marunong talagang tumingin sa pinaggalingan.
And I thought to myself, hopefully, when these kids are grown up, educated and working, they will still keep these genuine smiles that no money can buy, that protect their lives and show their true values.
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