True-life heroes inspire children at Read-Along

Article from the Inquirer Read-Along team Philippine Daily Inquirer Tuesday August 21, 2012

READING HEROES Sophia School principal Ann Abacan (right), one of INQUIRER Read-Along’s regular and favorite storytellers, reads a story to the children while (from left) Police Supt. Bernard Banac, Capt. Erick Kagaoan and Galcoso Alburo await their turn. PONS CAUDILLA

Anybody can be a hero.

Saturday afternoon’s Inquirer Read-Along emphasized this point as it featured a new generation of heroes who regaled over 50 children with stories about bravery and heroism.

The session, held in advance celebration of National Heroes Day on August 27, had this year’s Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Awardees Galcoso Alburo, Capt. Erick Kagaoan and Police Supt. Bernard Banac, teenagers Lance Katigbak and Catherine Felicia Peralta, molecular biologist and neuroscientist Dr. Custer Deocaris, and Sophia School principal Ann Abacan as readers.

Alburo, Kagaoan and Banac, accompanied by Metrobank’s program assistant Kristina Misajon, read Rodel Belen’s “Ang Kaharian ng Kawayan,” a story about four friends battling a typhoon-like monster threatening to destroy their kingdom.

Alburo, a Filipino and Journalism high school teacher at Concepcion Integrated School in Marikina, chose the story because of “its close resemblance to recent destructive cyclones in the country.”

“I imagined that a lot of people could relate to the story. It showed that there is a way to avoid calamities if one would just take care of the environment,” said Alburo, an educator of 14 years who also teaches storytelling.


“I’m happy that we have been given the chance to show children that soldiers and policemen are approachable,” said Kagaoan, a first-time storyteller and a director of the Philippine Navy’s Naval Management and Fiscal Office.

“I am also a kid lover so I jump at any opportunity to share something with children. I remember when I was stationed in Tawi-Tawi, I would find time to volunteer for dental and medical missions in the area,” Kagaoan, a father of two, added.

A father himself, Banac, chief of the Budget and Finance Section of the Philippine National Police’s Directorate for Intelligence, said that while his only experience with storytelling was reading to his three kids, he felt at ease reading to the children at the session.

“They were very receptive and enthusiastic,” said Banac, who has been in the police force 20 years.

Katigbak, 19, and Peralta, 18, read Eugene Evasco’s “Rizaldy,” a story about a boy named after National Hero Jose Rizal and his discovery of the man behind the name.

Both former Junior Inquirer reporters, Katigbak and Peralta were part of the core team of the Philippine chapter of One Million Lights, an international nonprofit based in Palo Alto, California, that provides solar-powered lights to communities that have not been reached by electricity and have to depend on kerosene lamps for light.

Started in 2010, One Million Lights-Philippines is the only chapter of the organization that is entirely composed of members 12 to 19 years old. As of this month, the group had distributed over 3,600 solar-powered lamps to Kalinga, Apayao, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Catanduanes, Rizal, Oriental Mindoro, Cagayan de Oro City and Eastern Samar.

“Light is a basic necessity many people in our country do not get to enjoy. We want to give them another source of light at night aside from kerosene lamps, which are dangerous and more expensive,” Peralta said.

Very big title

Asked how it felt to be called a “new hero,” Katigbak said it “is a very big title which brings a lot expectations. Everyone can be a hero as long as you are willing to do something for a good cause. Being a hero does not only mean risking your life, it can also mean sharing with others what you have.”

The session was capped by the Deocaris and Abacan’s tandem reading of “Si Carancal Laban sa mga Bongbongeros (Carancal against the Dynamite Pirates)” by Rene Villanueva. Published by Lampara, the book tells of a pint-size hero who deals with dynamite fishers.

“This advocacy of the Inquirer is very good because storytelling is a good way to bring a message to children. No matter how complex the idea is, children will understand it better through storytelling,” Deocaris, founder of the Meatless Monday movement, said.

Ericka Naeri, 7, said she “loved the stories because she learned something new,” especially how “easy it is to be a hero.”

Saturday’s session, hosted by Junior Inquirer editor Ruth Navarra, was held in cooperation with Metrobank Foundation and Hands On Manila. With reports from Schatzi Quodala, Marielle Medina and Bea Ponce, Inquirer Research