MANILA - On the morning of January 14, several buses full of street children and their families arrived at the Chateau Royale Resort in Nasugbu, Batangas.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) paid for the 500 persons from Baclaran, Manila, and Paranaque who were booked at the resort for 6 days.
The rooms usually went for more than P6,000 per night, but the DSWD got them for about P4,000 each.
Nichie Torres, the resident manager of Chateau Royale, said the street children and their families were treated as guests.
Some 100 DSWD staff also stayed at the resort to watch over the guests who occupied a total of 70 rooms.
The resident manager admitted their guests appeared unkempt and wore dirty clothes.
On January 15, two big trucks delivered toys, clothes, and toiletries.
The guests were also kept busy with various activities.
The guests occupied the open field and practically used all the facilities, including the ballroom.
Resort staff said it resembled a huge "family camp."
The six days were uneventful, except for one instant when two groups figured in what looked like a rumble that was quickly resolved.
The group checked out on January 19, the day Pope Francis left.
What tipped ABS-CBN News about the so-called "family camp" was a document from the Manila City Hall wherein the DSWD asked for permission to hold the camp.
The children were taken from places usually notorious for having beggars, vendors, and watch-your-car children.
ABS-CBN News tried getting the side of DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman but she hasn't replied to either calls or text messages.
A TIME magazine, report, meanwhile, said Soliman admitted that 100 homeless families comprising 490 parents and children were taken off Roxas Boulevard -- which Pope Francis traveled several times -- and taken to the plush Chateau Royal resort.
The report said the resort stay was organized through the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer program. - with ANC