Courtesy by: visayandailystar.com
A 13-year-old boy suffering from t halassemia says his parents are missing.
When John Vincent Panolino of Barangay Bata, Bacolod City , was 2 years old his parents fought, left for Manila and never came back. The boy was left in the care of his maternal grandmother, Adelaida Panolino.
The 60-year-old grandmother who sells food to passengers at the Ceres Bus North Terminal in Bacolod City said the boy has to undergo blood transfusion often, and she can barely make ends meet.
She said John Vincent was in fourth grade when thalassemia, a blood disorder that causes the body to produce less hemoglobin, caused him to quit school.
Low levels of hemoglobin may cause anemia, an illness that makes one feel weak and tired. Severe cases of anemia may damage organs and result in death.
John Vincent, who is yellow and pale, is often weak and lacks the energy to do much, but yesterday his grandmother said he appeared to be a different child.
“He is happy, he is running around with friends and dancing,” she said.
John Vincent was one of 30 children with cancer and other serious illnesses, and children who have parents with cancer who joined the third Suntown Camp at the Maryshore retreat house in Talisay City .
Yesterday, at the last day of the four-day annual camp, the children put on display the art work they made, some of which they sold.
The children’s artwork included pottery, wind chimes and quilts.
This year the camp’s theme was “Life in Color”, where art was used as a means for them to open up and express themselves, Suntown Camp president Millie Kilayko said.
Cielito Narvasa, a volunteer from the Children International Summer Villages in Manila , led the “Patchwork of Dreams Quilt Making Session” where the children painted their dreams, wishes, and their ideas of life and happiness, using non-toxic paint.
Narvasa said she was so happy to have joined the camp and see the selflessness of the people running it. It is more than just the money they donate to the camp, they put in their time and just give and give of themselves, she said.
“You could feel the positive vibration in the air,” she said.
Lilibeth Cordova, who has done a study on Art Therapy as a Way of Understanding Conflict and completed a Masters Degree in Arts in Conflict and Reconciliation, led the children in working with clay to make something that is uniquely theirs, and in using recycled materials like discarded keys and beads to make wind chimes.
“It is believed that doing art helps people, especially children to express themselves. It also takes their mind off their aches and pains because they become so engrossed working on their masterpieces,” Cordova said.
On Saturday, the children were also treated to their very-own carnival complete with all the fun that comes with it and MassKara Festival dance performances.
The children were paired off with volunteer parents as they laughed, played, danced and sang away.
John Vincent sang “May Bukas Pa” and charmed his camp father Waldo Flores, PNOC Development and Management Corp. chairman, who stayed with him throughout the carnival festivities.
Flores promised to help John Vincent undergo a slenectomy, a surgery to remove a diseased or damaged spleen, which he badly needs, Dr. Ceres Baldevia, one of the camp volunteers, said.
Waldo did things with the boy he never did with his own children, his wife Chona, said.
Another volunteer camp parent was Brenda Heffron, a member of Assumption College Class ’65 that throws a party for the children at every camp. She was partnered off with a rambunctious 8-year-old Azrian Gabriel Anatalio of Talisay City .
Heffron, who has joined all three Suntown Camps, said it has been a wonderful experience.
“Suntown has taught me a lot, it reminds one not to take things for granted, and that, no matter what we go through we should take time to smile and appreciate the simple things in life,” she said.
“I look forward to the camp ever year,” she said.
And it appears it was not just Heffron who felt the connection with the camp, Azrian who has acute lymphocytic leukemia, did too.
In his post camp evaluation sheet under the question what did he like most about the camp, he drew stick figures of big people and small people holding hands.
Manila businessman Joey Duarte, who acted as camp dad to Rena Jean Manlapaz, a 10-year-old from Hinigaran town who suffers from bone cancer and has had one leg amputated, said if the world was filled with people like the children and the volunteers at the camp it would be a “beautiful and different world.”
He said the camp has changed the life of his family forever and he is thankful for having been a part of it.
Rena, who has been a shy withdrawn child who barely talks, got up to the courage to dance and sing at the closing rites of the camp for the first time.
Many other stories of bonding and love between the children, the camp staff and other volunteers came out of this year’s camp.
Camp volunteer staff member Aurora dela Paz said, all those at the camp learned something from each other, there was a lot of love that went around.
“We have painted each others’ lives with colors,” she said.
This year’s camp directors were Martin Chua and Nikki Cajili.*CPG