Sinag

Yes, I have been silent for a long time. Tonight, I promise to come back with a BANG!

Sit back and relax, dear reader. What you’ll be reading in the next few paragraphs will amaze you. (funny how I heard the sound of thunder right after typing the word “amaze”… so much for impact, eh?)

The reason why I’ve been quiet for an awfully long time (aside from my being busy) is the preparation for the I.Matter SINAG Creative Expressions Camp which was held last May 3-8 2012 at Balulang Elementary School in Cagayan De Oro City. Sinag means “rays” be it from the sun or the moon. In this case, we used the definition “rays of the sun” since it symbolizes hope, a new day, a chance to start over. SINAG was a culminating activity for the series of psychosocial sessions conducted by the mighty ChildHeal Facilitators of my beloved Kids for Peace Foundation, Inc. Yessir, since December they have been staying in CDO to process the young Sendong survivors who experienced Sendong first hand.

The pre-camp was spent on making silhouettes. There, the young participants (ages 9-16) were given the chance to communicate with the other participants. They were also given the chance to express themselves. Within a few hours, the gymnasium of Balulang Elementary School was filled with the sound of excitement and the harmony of colors that were splashing all over the place. The awkward silence disappeared and we watched with delight as the young participants were busy doing their thing. We were blessed to have UNICEF UK and Angela Travis of UNICEF PH join us that afternoon. They bonded with the children and it was so nice to watch the kids interact with them.

For day 0, the objective was to link the participants to the mentors through the ChildHeal facilitators. Aside from getting them to warm up to their fellow participants, it was also important to establish the connection between them and their mentors for them to maximize the 5-day camp. Before that was done however, the children were given an activity: the Yap-I challenge. The Yap-I challenge followed a theme which the young survivors can go back to if ever a disaster happens again. The children were running all over the school the entire afternoon with one goal: to finish first. Once the winners were announced, it was time for them to group themselves according to the workshop they signed up for.

For Day 1, the mentors gave an introduction to the different workshops. There were five workshops for SINAG: film, photography, big book writing and illustration, theater, and soil painting. The young participants sat down and listened to their mentors as the mentors gave them an overview of what will be happening in the days to come. When they were given the chance to talk, they told the mentors why they chose that particular workshop and what their expectations are. Now for this part, I can only speak based on what happened to the photography participants since I’m one of the mentors. Since we didn’t want to bore the participants and since we wanted them to get a feel of what photography is, we gave them the chance to apply the concepts and principles that we taught them.

Day 2, Ate Aying and Tito Froilan (my co-mentors in photography) decided to introduce the concept of photo stories to the participants. After a brief introduction, we decided to let them go out and shoot their hearts out. At around this time, we were already noticing improvements in the way photos were taken. Principles of design were being applied, and the kids beamed with every affirmation they received from us. The theater participants were beginning to form a song, the big book writing and illustration participants were busy with their stories and sketches, while the film participants were busy with their scripts and shot lists. The day was very productive and it was so nice to see the kids in their element. During lunch break, I spent time with some of the participants in photography and we experimented with their portraits and jump shots. Another thing that happened today: the kids added another set of 10 to the break clap. We now have until break 30.

Day 3 started with a photo shoot/send off for Kuya Dan Abunales, one of the mentors in film. The Talaandig artists arrived in the afternoon and the kids gave them a very warm welcome. The theatre kids were given a brief introduction to Capoiera by Bryan Cabrera, the mentor in illustration. The film participants spent almost the entire day outside the school for their location shoots, the big book participants started working on the illustrations of their books while Ate Aying and I found ourselves handing over our SLRS to the photography participants.

The next set of photos you’ll be seeing are photos taken by the photography participants.

 The sessions ended early to make way for a very special session in the afternoon: the send-off for Kuya Dan. It was heartwarming to see how his students made an effort to stand up, approach him, and hug him. Tears were shed while laughters were exchanged. No goodbyes, only see-you-soon’s.

 What’s exciting about Day 4 is this: soil painting. The books were starting to come alive, the film participants were down to the last few details of their outputs, Ate Aying and I began to select the photos for printing, and the theater participants were down to their last few rehearsals. At this point, the mentors had to step back a little and watch the participants grow. The following photos are from Joel Francis Gali (10 years old) and Jessa Mae Silva (9 years old).

Lo and behold, the day we dreaded the most finally arrived. But, instead of being sad, we decided to be happy and productive instead. The entire morning was spent on adding the finishing touches to the outputs. I took some time off to try out soil painting. It was a wonderful experience. The last time I held a paintbrush was in 4th grade. With every brush stroke I felt like pieces of me were starting to come back. Parts of Aliya that disappeared in the past began to resurface. It was surreal. In the afternoon, the participants proudly showed their parents and guests what they’ve been working hard on for the past four days. What used to be a plain gymnasium was then adorned with decorations and outputs proudly Young Sendong Survivor made!

5 days. 73 participants. 5 forms. 32 photos. 3 films. 6 big books. 22 soil art. 1 theater production. Resilience at its finest. It has been 19 days since I. Matter Sinag Creative Expressions Camp and I still can’t help but go back to that place in CDO with the kids. The camp was a healing process for me. Well, it was a healing process for all of us. With the kids we laughed, cried, cheered, painted, illustrated, acted, photographed, wrote, and filmed. The thing is, in the middle of all the creativity and the bond we made with the children, we found ourselves.

 Photo credits: Ralph Cagabcab, Herbert Willkomm III, Josiah Tuballa, Kia Mabao, Joel Francis Gali, Jonathan Gali, Jessa Mae Silva, and yours truly. 

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