IN front of their shanties in the South Road Properties yesterday, at least 40 children jumped and cheered when they saw some police patrol cars coming.

One of them was nine-year-old Mylene Petalla, who put both hands on her chest and said, “Yehey, naa na ko rekwarments (Yes, I will now have my requirements).”

Petalla is a Grade 4 pupil of Alaska Elementary School in Cebu City and the daughter of a porter in Pasil Fish Port.

The police, who hailed from the Police-Community Relations (PCR) branch of Cebu City Police Office (CCPO), were there not to pick them up but to give them some goodies.

When the cars stopped, Mylene and her friends went close to where PCR Chief Enrique Belciña was about to alight, and kissed his hand.

Then they went to the other car, where 40 plastic bags filled with school supplies were kept, and also kissed the hand of SPO3 Isagani Ceniza, the man they called “Papa” who told them Bible stories under the Mambaling flyover every weekend.

When the distribution of free school supplies began, Belciña reminded the children to do well in their studies so that they can keep receiving materials from the city police.

Each plastic bag contained some pads of paper, plastic cover, cartolina, notebooks, art and construction paper, bond paper, folders, a drawing book, a folder, pencils and pens, crayons, a bottle of glue, markers, scissors, an eraser, a sharpener, socks and fasteners.

Each plastic bag was scribbled with the name of the child who ought to receive it.

Belciña described the children as their “foster” street kids, whom they have been helping with school needs since February last year, through Ceniza’s efforts.

Stories

Ceniza, a born-again Christian, has been helping street children learn Bible stories in places like Plaza Independencia and Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral before he started with the kids in SRP, Barangay Mambaling.

His volunteerism, he said, caught the attention of then CCPO Director Noli Romana, who then transferred him to the PCR branch so that his “heart for street children” can still be used by him at work.

“We link with the community through the children, because they are also part of our community,” Ceniza said. Taking good care of street children is a better way of minimizing street crimes than arresting them, he said.

Kung naa’y nagpakabana nila, ang police mohatag og panahon nila, ma-encourage sila nga mobalik sa eskwelahan (If they see that someone is concerned about them, they will be encouraged to do well in their studies),” he added.

The group started with only five members, but eventually gathered 58 as members kept inviting their other friends to join the weekly Bible sessions.

Free sports

Their storytelling sessions under the Mambaling flyover or on the sidewalk in SRP would then be followed by a free sports training program in the Cebu City Sports Institute in Sawang Calero.

A Kaohsiung bus brings the children there.

Belciña said that what Ceniza started may now be followed by the 11 police stations under CCPO.

Bisan og at least five lang gud in each station, masugdan lang nato, managhan ra na sila nga magtinarong na (We shall start with five children in each station, and they will eventually grow in number),” Belciña said.

Salome Allunar, a mother of one of the kids, was teary-eyed and smiling while she looked at her son checking the contents of his plastic bag.

Allunar said she was impressed by how her son Justin, 11, stopped skipping his classes since the storytelling sessions with Ceniza started.

Nalipay gyud mi, pasalamat kaayo mi, maayo na lang ba, makaabag sa among kawad-on (We are very thankful for everything. This will meet some of our needs),” Allunar, a rag-maker, said.