Wednesday afternoon on the ocean in Ilocos Sur, a northern province in the Philipines! What a beautiful day! The sun was shining with not a cloud in sight as we headed over to the Fuerte Elementary School with The I AM Affirmation Book. The small village of Caoayan is right on the ocean, and its narrow, one-way streets and homes hugging each other gave you a feeling of a close community. Many of the village elders were sitting together as we drove through the neighborhood to the school grounds. The first thing we saw was the cement statue of two dolphins pictured above. The school was white and gleaming with ocean light.
We met with Assistant Teacher-In-Charge , Cecilia Moribo, who hosted our visit. We assembled with the lead teachers in the principal’s office, and I introduced the team: Haidee Cortez from Eagle Vision, Inc., her mother, Yolanda Cortez, boyfriend Henzon, and daughter Maya, two and a half years old, along with Marnita Hadnot, our newest team member from Truckee, CA. I explained who we were and talked about The I AM Foundation and its mission of supporting education and literacy of adults and children through gifting books worldwide. They were enthused and left to gather the children together.
Within minutes, about 200 children were assembled on an open courtyard, and Cecilia directed them to sit. This was a good thing, because these children were rambunctious! They were so excited to see people visiting them from America, they could hardly sit still. Marnita and I began with our usual introductions, “I AM Marnita.” I began by showing them the book and telling them about why we were visiting them from The I AM Foundation in California. I told the story about swimming with the sea turtles in Puerto Galera, on the island of Mindoro, and visiting a school there too. Then I opened the book to page 13 and we shared an affirmation: “I AM Somebody!” The children, teachers, and visitors all recited the words together, and applauded afterwards. We shared a few more affirmations, ant then began handing the books to the children. I told them we had enough books to everyone so ‘please just stay sitting where you are.’ They still couldn’t resist jumping up to reach for their book. Just look at these faces:
After several minutes, the reluctantly began to return to their classrooms, and I had a chance to meet the teachers and talk about using the book with the various grades. There were several children who snuck up on us as we sat on the patio, they just couldn’t resist watching the visitors and listening. They were finally sent back to the classrooms, and we spent at least 20 minutes talking with the teachers. Afterwards, we visited the classrooms, and were swarmed with children wanting to touch, shake, and hug us. Marnita was in heaven, her arms full of children! I always try to quiet them down to talk about reading and success and being anything they want to be in their lives. This group was pretty excited and weren’t in listening mode, so we shook, hugged, and waved our way back to the car.
What an amazing experience it is. These children are so happy to see us, to receive the truth of their value through The I AM Affirmation Book. They were right with us at the car windows as we left, and the elders and parents nearby were beaming as we slowly drove through the village and back to Haidee’s house.
On the way back, we were observing how this whole thing would not have happened without Haidee Cortez and her vision of our visit. she told us that she knew her country is hindered by the lack of quality education, reading, and school supplies and books. Her heart was in our mission from the start, coordinating the school visits, contacting the principals, and driving us everywhere to support the children’s education, growth, and belief in themselves. And her mother Yolanda, was right with us the whole way. What wonderful people! I know we will be seeing them again on our next mission to gift even more books and music in the Philippines.
One more school visit to follow, so stay tuned!