Toys, activities bring joy to children caught in war in Sulu

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 23 2022 01:17 PM

A former war-torn village in Talipao, Sulu is for the first time wrapped in festivities. 

This was after a group of volunteers from Basilan brought hundreds of toys, goods, and games to Upper Sinumaan in Talipao town on Sunday.

Arlyn Jawad-Jumaoas, founder of Save the Children of War in Basilan Foundation, said the 6th Special Forces Company invited them to bring joy to the kids in Upper Sinumaan which for the longest time has been a battleground of the military against the Abu Sayyaf Group who frequent the area.

Jumao-as together with her volunteers distributed bicycles and other toys to the over 500 children who gathered in the area for the event. 

Despite the mud, the children happily participated in the games and other activities as part of the first-ever Children's Festival of Love and Peace in Sulu. 

1101st Brigade Commander BGen. Eugenio Boquio led his men in donning superhero capes during the event. Jumao-as said this is to introduce to the children of Upper Sinumaan the famous superheroes that most of children in other parts of the world know. 

"Nung pinasok natin ang Sinumaan kinausap natin ang ilang mga bata. Ni hindi nila kilala sino si Superman, sino si Batman."

(When we entered Sinumaan, we talked to children and we found out that they barely know who is Superman and Batman.)

A teary-eyed mother of one of the children said this is the first time their kids, and for the adults even, to enjoy and be given gifts. 

"Masaya talaga kami, ngayon lang namin ito naranasan, kahit kami mga matatanda. Ngayon lang nangyari ito ganito kasaya at karaming tao," she said.

(We're really happy, we experienced this just now, even us adults. This is the first time this happened.)

Capt. Ron Villarosa, commander of the 6th Company of the 6th Special Forces, says he has seen the effects of the activities conducted by Save the Children of War since they started the movement in Basilan eight years ago. 

Villarosa was previously assigned in Basilan and was a partner of Jumao-as in similar activities held in the different communities in the province. 

The group usually serves orphaned children of combatants and government troops.

Meanwhile, the parents of children in Upper Sinumaan expressed their gratitude for the construction of a makeshift school in their community. 

Early this year, the 6th Special Forces of the Philippine Army in partnership with the Department of Education established a makeshift hall in Upper Sinumaan, which now serves as an annex of the Kagay Elementary School, located several kilometers from Upper Sinumaan. 

Volunteer teachers from an NGO report to the makeshift school every day to teach the students. 

There are 190 schoolchildren in Upper Sinumaan.

"Tumutulong po tayo sa DepEd kung saan di na mapuntahan ng DepEd, tayo ang tumutulong," Jovel Pagapong said.

(We help DepEd reach those areas they cannot cater to.)

The military has also paved the road going to Upper Sinumaan which only used to have a foot trail. 

Although the road is still not concrete, this time, abaca farmers are able to bring their products to Sinumaan proper. 

During the Children's Festival, other private corporations donated abaca stripping machines for the use of the farmers. 

The activity ended with requests for another Children's Festival in Indanan town, still in Sulu, next year.

—report from Queenie Casimiro