Tandag City – “Children (youth) are the hope of our nation”. This is a famous line from our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, stressing the very important role the youth is going to portray in the next years to come. Therefore, it is but proper to mold them according to the norms and ethics of the “hope of tomorrow”. They will be the future leaders, teachers, engineers, doctors, among others, of our country. But the reality of poverty is slowly snatching their hope of becoming professionals, pushing them to engage in manual labor work in exchange of meager income, to the extent of sacrificing their education. This has been the other face of the children in the province of Surigao del Sur for quite some time. With the identification of children engaged in child labor, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Surigao del Sur Field Office headed by its Provincial Head Miss Genebelle B. Bal, in partnership with the Local Government Unit of Tandag represented by Mr. Lamberto Plarisan, Public Employment Service Office (PESO) Manager, successfully launched the first Project Angel Tree at Tandag City Gymnasium last December 28, 2018.

50 identified child laborers, called “Batang Malaya” by the Department, together with their guardians attended the 1-day activity where children received their wishes sponsored by various establishments operating in and out Tandag City. The wish lists which varied from grocery items, sack of rice, ready-to-wear items and mobile phones made each Batang Malaya’s 2018-year ender a very memorable one. Two of the sponsors, Gaisano Capital and Unite General Merchandise sent their representatives to grace the program while others were not able to attend the program but were properly acknowledged and recognized.

More than wish granting, Labor and Employment Officer III Anthony R.  Dumapias explained to the children and their guardians the Child Labor Prevention and Elimination Program of the Department, as well as highlighting numerous educational opportunities for those who will be returning to school in the next school year. This was also affirmed by Mr. Lamberto M. Plarisan, PESO Manager of LGU-Tandag City as he cited scholarship programs sponsored by the LGU even with free tuition in state colleges and universities. Alongside the joy of successfully launching the 1st Angel Tree Program and the hope to grant wishes of another batch of Batang Malaya next year, is the faith that the 50 identified children will be eliminated from the list of children engaged in labor work and that they will be able to go back to school.

Aside from granting the wishes of Batang Malaya, they also enjoyed group and individual games together with their parents/guardians as part of their fellowship. More than the prizes they received for winning the games are the hearts full of joy as they look forward to another year full of hope and faith.

A mother of one of the children expressed her heartfelt gratitude towards the Department of Labor and Employment SDS Field Office, LGU Tandag City, sponsors and all people behind the success of the 1st Project Angel Tree: Adopt a Batang Malaya Star. The activity ended with a closing message from DOLE SDS Provincial Head Ms. Bal encouraging the children as well as the parents/guardians to help their parents but not neglecting their studies, because cliché as it may sound, education is still the key for a better future.

Josel-An E. Dua