But this one I thought was really bad coz it was sent almost a month AFTER my birthday. Well, it wasn't a birthday card. An early Christmas card, maybe? Nope.
It's an invitation from World Vision Philippines.
It's an invitation for a free dinner at the Petron Cultural Hall of Petron Megaplaza (Nov. 19). This is in honor of the 5 and 10 year donors/sponsors of World Vision Philippines. Attached to the card was a brief program for the night.
Of course I was pleasantly surprised. At a time when the recession hit us big time, I was already thinking of dropping the two kids I've been sponsoring (one in Zambales and another in Palawan) all these years.
And this card revealed that I've actually been sponsoring my two kids for 5 years now. My, how time flies!
World Vision Philippines at Petron Megaplaza
DH and I left early to avoid the traffic that occurs in the Makati area around 5pm. And we were early. In fact we're the earliest registrants.
The WV staff were there already and Niña, an already familiar face from Lakbay-Pagasa and the World Vision Testimony graced our table. She kept us company as the other sponsors trickled in.
Another one of the WV staff, Rochelle "Ochie" Balatbat, dropped by our table for a photo. Joining us in the table below are Lola Macy and her companion Malou. Lola Macy's daughter migrated to Canada yet continues to sponsor her sponsored child. The guy on the right is Eric.
Interestingly, Eric used to be a sponsored child of World Vision. Way back then, there was an Australian couple whom he fondly calls his "foster parents" who sponsored him from kindergarten to college. Amazing.
I later learned that originally World Vision was church-based and it was the United Methodist that was driving it. Eric even showed us photos (of his foster parents) now brown with age. He never got to meet them though. And now Eric has a sponsored child of his own.
The program started with a rondalla number by a group of WV-sponsored kids from the depressed Pinyahan community in Quezon City.
It's funny coz Eric related to us that as part of the WV-sponsorship, he too played in a rondalla using an instrument called a "laud" (pronounced "lah-ood").
In fact, I learned from him that the instrument (3 of them in the center of the photo) that resembles a small guitar with 14 strings is called an "octavina". Of course, the 3 instruments on the right are called bandurrias. According to Eric, the "laud" is a bigger version of the octavina.
The rondalla was followed by the speech of the WVP executive director, Elnora Avarientos.
I didn't realize that we were so many. There were around 200 sponsors in attendance. The 5-year sponsors had the green name tags while the 10-year had orange.
Here, Dabs Liban and Jodie, as emcees of the night, interview Eric. It was an impromptu interview because Dabs only learned that night that Eric was a sponsored child also.
I later learned from Eric that he works in Central Bank and my sister-in-law Aida used to work with him in the Quezon City office. Small world.
Then the 5-year sponsors were serenaded by the Pinyahan kids with a thank-you song. As they were singing, plaques of recognition were given to the sponsors.
As I've already made friends with the 5-year sponsors in my table, I urged them to join me in a photo-op with the serenading kids in the background. So that's (from left to right) Eric, Lola Macy, me and Joanna showing our plaques of appreciation.
One of the speeches during the night was from Nick who's a successful CEO to 5 companies. He used to be a sponsored child in Isabela. One recurring observation of mine is when formerly sponsored kids - now adults - tell their story, it really becomes very emotional for them.
Here's Richard Supat, dubbed by World Vision Phils. as their "Josh Groban" giving a song number. I've known Richard during a 2008 World Vision Testimony and I was surprised that he immediately recognized me earlier in the program.
And then there was the highly inspirational speech by Boris Joaquin.
In his speech, Boris showed photos of Armand Balilo (now the Coast Guard spokesman) and Efren Peñaflorida (CNN Heroes finalist). These are products - former sponsored kids - from World Vision Philippines. See Efren Peñaflorida's World Vision story here.
Shown below is Boris showing Efren Peñaflorida's photo.
And then Boris showed a photo of Manny Pacquiao.
I was ready to fall off my seat had he said that Manny was a sponsored kid too! Luckily he didn't. He made a point though that these days, almost everyone consider Pacman a hero.
Boris wasn't against the idea, but for him, sponsors there that night were the heroes. Sponsors, who VOLUNTARILY support the education, values formation, medical and health needs of poor Filipino children - right here, right now.
With the program over, the photo-ops on stage followed.
Here is half of the 5-year sponsors that night. The other half is on the right side of the stage.
Niña took this picture with me and DH showing the plaque of appreciation.
Cecille was busy during the program but we found an opportunity for a picture.
A couple of souvenirs for the night - two baller id bands with the phrase "MAKE POVERTY HISTORY"...
...and a button pin saying "I SPONSOR A CHILD".
What a befitting theme for tonight's program. There are currently over 120,000 kids nationwide being supported by World Vision sponsors. Imagine the outcome if ALL of us pinched in to help.
Do sponsor a child today and be a HERO to that child.
For inquiries, text, call, or visit the World Vision Philippines website at: http://worldvision.org.ph.