A PRODUCTION number 'Pasko ni Darna' performed by the Special Program in the Arts students of Nabunturan National Comprehensive High School, two songs were rendered by Governor Arturo "Chiongkee" Uy, an inspiring Christmas message by Department of Education 11 Regional Director Susana Teresa B. Estigoy.

All these were already delightful enough as an early Christmas treat for 325 indigent children-beneficiaries from the 13 school districts of Compostela Valley in "Tuloy ang Pasko ng mga Bata" Pamaskong Handog ng Deped Region 11 sa mga Batang Comvaleno on December 17, 2009 at Mawab Municipal Gym.

But Deped 11 made it more meaningful, especially for the school children. They went home full of stories to tell about gifts, games, entertainment and meals that brought the true meaning of Christmas -- that of loving and sharing.

On its fourth year

This occasion was Deped 11's fourth Christmas celebration for poor children, the first two held in Davao City and last year in Davao del Norte.

The children were seated by districts in their superheroes-inspired costumes at the spacious gym of Mawab. They received Sponge Bob cartoon character-designed backpacks containing slippers, school supplies, toys and other goods.

They were also served with juice and hamburger for snacks and Chicken Joy for lunch. Children watched mascots Hetty and Jollibee's dance number and posed with them for photos.

Entertainment for children

A 25-minute production number of SPA students of the Nabunturan Natioal Comprehensive High School (NNCHS) showcased the story of Pinoy superhero Darna battling it out against the villains like Valentina and Babaeng Linta. Children were glued to their seats, fascinated by the show.

It's just a story, but taught the children about heroism and doing acts to ensure that good wins over evil.

Applause reverberated in the middle of the story when Governor Uy, dressed like a king, came onstage and sang Gary Valenciano's Pasko na Sinta Ko. He was joined by the main casts of Pasko ni Darna.

He shook hands with the children and teachers before segueing to Willy Revillame's song "Ikaw na Nga".

Uy was with Mawab Mayor Evalina J. Jampayas and Mayor Reynaldo Navarro of Laak.

The Heart for children

Even in the midst of economic and political crisis that affect the country, Estigoy said Deped 11 had set aside funds to give children a special treat.

"There is no reason for Christmas celebration not to push through for children," she said.

"Isa itong paraan sa pamamahagi ng Deped ng pagmamahal sa mga bata," she added.

Estigoy in red blouse, white long pants and with red Santa Claus hat handed P300 each to thirteen children who symbolically gave her an angel figurine.

Recipients received the cash on stage. One thousand pesos was also awarded to Montevista District as the earliest participants to arrive at the venue.

A boy from Maco North District who had fever but still joined in the revelry was given by the director P500.

All these from her own pocket to make the celebration even more meaningful. She saved the amount, which she could have spent for a pair of shoes while she was at the Mall of Asia in Manila, she said. But she opted to share it with the kids instead.

Estigoy was accompanied by the chiefs of each division, section and unit and selected personnel from the regional office who spent that day to be one with the children of Compostela Valley (ComVal).

The gift-giving was followed by a Parade of Cakes by Education Program Supervisors, District Supervisors and District Coordinating Principals of the host division.

Regional officials were also given an ornament by the beneficiaries as a token symbolizing the identity of the children of Comval described as delicate but strong and promising.

Doctor Lillian C. Calicdan, schools division superintendent of Compostela Valley, presented the participants who prepared cheers and yells.

Nabunturan West, Maco North, Pantukan, Mawab and New Bataan were awarded as top five best in costumes.

Handog para sa mga guro project

On its third year of implementation, the Handog Para sa mga Guro Project was spearheaded again by Regional Director Estigoy with the assistance of the Administrative Division headed by Chief Administrative Office Teresita G. Tambagan. This year, 40 teacher-recipients from the nine schools divisions of Deped Region 11 received financial assistance from the said project.

The Handog Para sa mga Guro is a welfare program unique to Deped Region 11 aimed at providing financial assistance to sick and ailing teachers. Recipients to this assistance are teachers who are terminally ill or suffering from lingering chronic illness requiring long-term medication; and whose family income is not sufficient to shoulder cost of treatment.

Director Estigoy in an interview revealed that she is planning to expand the project to include more teachers in active service.

"It will be on the preventive side. We will be coordinating with the Department of Health and the Municipal, City, Provincial Health Officers and their LGUs (local government units) for us to conduct series of preventive measures and symposia to abate the incidence of diseases to ensure that our teachers are really well fit to exercise their duties and responsibilities to the children," she said. (Ritchell 'Jong' Cruz and Lorenzo E. Mendoza)