Gary V. inspires children traumatized by super typhoon

TACLOBAN CITY, Jan. 30 (PNA) — Musician Gary Valenciano brought cheers to teachers and children in this city’s Rizal Elementary School who are still traumatized by super typhoon Yolanda.

Valenciano, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) Philippines Goodwill Ambassador, encouraged children to come back to school as he performed songs he popularized at the Rizal Park.

“I am honored to be with children who suffered the impact of the worst disaster but still managed to smile. You are not alone, Unicef has been here with you before and during the disaster and we will be here with throughout the recovery,” Valenciano told the audience.

The artist, known as Mr. Pure Energy, is in Tacloban for the first time as the Unicef Philippines Goodwill Ambassador. He’s been working with the organization as an ambassador since 1998.

“Instead of children roaming around, I encourage them to come back to school and pursue their dreams,” he told the crowd.

The musician performed songs he popularized and revived such as “Di bale na lang”, “Gaya ng dati”, “Natutulog ba ang Diyos?”, “I will be here”, “Warrior is a child”, “Sana Maulit Muli” and “Walang Hanggan”.

In the middle of the cheering crowd is Grade 5 pupil Jilian Medalla, 11, who has been missing her seven-year-old sister Christine Faith, a Grade 2 pupil of the same school, who perished during the onslaught of the super typhoon.

“School activities and concert like this help me recover from that traumatic experience,” said Medalla who held her younger sister in her hand before big waves swept them away. She miraculously survived.

The school, one of the biggest in Tacloban, had an enrollment of 2,570 before Yolanda. The catastrophe killed at least five children. Since January 6, only 1,900 are back to school, while 495 have transferred to other places.

The school is clueless where the rest or 170 children have gone since their parents or relatives have not informed school officials.

Zafrin Chowdhury, Unicef Philippines chief of communication, said the organization continues to address theeducational needs of children along Yolanda’s path.

“Gary V. has been one of our strongest supporters and genuinely cares for the welfare of children. This is the perfect place and time for him to inspire children. He’s a master performer and motivates children,” Chowdhury said.

The Unicef and education cluster partners are supporting the Department of Education’s Balik Eskwela campaign, to get 550,000 children, teachers and day care workers back to school in early January.

Support includes repairing of classrooms, establishments of tents and temporary learning spaces and providing a range of school supplies and recreational materials.

The massive typhoon disrupted the lives of nearly six million children and destroyed the homes of 1.4 million children and their families, according to Unicef.

“In spite of major setback left by the disaster due to loss of life and properties, what is amazing of Filipino children is their hope and smiles,” Chowdhury said. (PNA)