Meeting My World Vision Child through Lakbay-Pagasa

Today, DH and I had a very rare opportunity to finally see and meet our sponsored child in person. This is something that many World Vision (sometimes spelled as Worldvision) parents only dream.

You see, World Vision has strict policies against sponsors meeting the sponsored kids on their own and this is to protect children (as well as the sponsors) from any kind of potential abuse or exploitation – and most sponsors understand this.

And so communication with the kids is limited to letter-writing with letters passing through World Vision.

The invitation letters for Lakbay-Pagasa (Journey of Hope) have been given out a month in advance although I’m sure the planning has been many months before.

This is a project of World Vision Philippines to facilitate a meeting of World Vision kids in Zambales and their respective sponsors. The meeting place would be the Ocean Adventure attraction at the Subic Bay Free Port.

Having been a child sponsor for over 3 years, I knew this was the first project of its kind from World Vision Philippines. The fact that I get to go to Ocean Adventure at Subic (my first!) was certainly an added bonus.

And so, without much hesitation, DH and I registered for it for Php1,550 each. The amount also pays for the sponsored child’s trip from Zambales to Subic.

We didn’t tag along our own 4 kids so our attention will be on our sponsored kid, Recalyn. And we’re glad we did coz Che and Karen would be competing in Speedo’s Jumpstart Swim Fiesta at the Philippine Columbian Association on the same day (May 24, Saturday) to culminate their swim lessons after graduation.

As planned, we left the car at the World Vision office at Quezon Avenue. We attended an orientation and finally met the WV coordinators whom, until then, I’ve only spoke to over the phone.

These are Rochelle Balatbat and Elaine Esteves. They’re much warmer in person of course. To facilitate the activities, we were grouped into teams.

We were in the Green Team. We met and chatted with other Sponsors as well. At around 7am, we left the World Vision office for Subic at All Hand’s beach.

We reached Subic at almost 10am. And I was rather disappointed that we didn't pass through the new SCTex Expressway (Subic-Clark).

After halo-halo refreshments, the teams were paired with the kids’ teams as the sponsors were moved to the kids’ pavilion hall. It’s good that we were reminded of the names of our our kids.

Since I sponsor 2 kids, I forgot who is from Zambales and who is from Palawan! After a few more seconds, I recognized Recalyn based on her picture folder that's been sitting on my office table for years.

Her name on her green id finally confirmed it was her. Yup, for many of the sponsors, it was a dramatic moment.

Naturally, everybody started taking pictures. All the WV volunteers helped in taking pictures as it was expected that the sponsors were eager to get photos of their kids.

From the pavilion, we moved out to the beach to take more pictures. Wow, it’s been a loooonnggg time since I’ve been to this beach.

I don’t even remember seeing the cement structures (cottages which are mini-houses, actually) behind us. It was just all sand at my last visit here.

The sea however hasn’t changed. Except for the nearby mountains which weren’t as green as before, everything else looks the same.

The sea beckons me for a refreshing swim and I’m glad I brought along my compact swim gear. The invitation program didn’t specify a slot for swimming although there was a “free time” slot.

So I knew I had to sneak in a little swim in that free time. I’d be in a pleasant surprise later on.

Once again, the kids and sponsors were ushered into the pavilion and grouped into their teams. The sponsors introduced themselves to everyone and shared their experiences with World Vision.

There was a priest (Fr. Jess) in our team and he's been sponsoring the child for the longest time - 6 years. The girl is now in high school.

There was one OFW who timed his vacation so he could meet his sponsored child. After the sharing, the teams prepared the group cheer for the parlor games.

There was much activity at the beachfront. There was kayaking, jet-skiing, and those humongous water bikes that paddle water.

Curiously, lifeguards are posted and are active in hollering their warnings to the usual “pasaways”. Here’s the group getting ready for the games. Plastic orange cones were laid out for the obstacle course.

That’s the pavilion behind DH and Naneng (Recalyn’s nickname). I'm impressed that Naneng isn't very shy at all although she has a soft voice.

Naneng is small for an eleven-year old. They're both the same age as my third daughter, Sandra, but Sandra's a full head taller than her.

Naneng's in Grade 6 but she looks like a 2nd or 3rd grader. Of course you have to realize that many of these kids are native Aetas or have Aeta ancestry.

There were 53 sponsors in all and 45 sponsor guests riding in 3 Victory Liner buses, so that’s a sizeable yet manageable group. It’s the Red and Green Team riding in our bus. WV volunteer Karen Sioson is our teammaster for the Green Team.

Finally the games have started. There were actually some foreigners among the sponsors. And interestingly, many of the sponsors didn’t look “rich” at all.

And I believe they're just your ordinary employees or office workers who just want to help without expecting anything in return.

Although most are parents, some were so young you wouldn't expect them to be sponsoring kids. And there was also Fr. Jess, a Parish Priest from Paranaque, who was having problems with his blood pressure.

Maybe it’s the heat, but even a couple of the kids, Naneng included, became dizzy and nauseaus.

Here’s the Green Team getting instructions for the games. Looking like a golf pro with her green shirt, green cap and a matching green wrist band to boot, DH is dressed for the part, eh?

That’s Karen with her back to the camera. The WV kids wore WV t-shirts for identification. The WV volunteers wore either orange or black shirts.

Lunch Time! And everyone is hungry, tired and ready to dig in. Again, it was the volunteers who were serving everybody. What great service!

We had Chowking packed meals for our lunch. We had this nice chat with Nina, one of the WV who shared with us her career (Occupational Therapy) and her stay with WV.

Wasting no time, I quickly wolfed down my lunch leaving much of the rice. I didn’t want to be too full for the swim.

And swim, I did! One thing I noticed now (and surprised me) is the water is so very deep in just a few meters from the beach.

And that is why not too many people in the water beyond 10 meters. The nice thing about this beach is the lack of rocks and corals to hurt you underfoot.

The downside is there’s not much color or variety to see if you wear goggles. Here’s me in my famous float, the “nakahiga sa banig” float.

Not convinced? Here’s a magnified shot. No camera tricks here. Cool isn’t it? Goggles on my forehead, eyes closed, I place the palms of my hands behind my head in a relaxed posed with the toes jutting out of the water.

Can YOU do that? Seriously though, I’m glad I took that swim. It was cool and refreshing and the summer heat didn’t bother me at all.

It was roughly a one-hour swim. DH called me to say that the kids’ presentation was about to start. Yup, apparently they prepared a little number for us.

The kids sang a song in a dialect we didn’t quite understand but it was certainly interesting and well appreciated.

And then a few kids gave a very funny and amusing native Aeta dance number. A boy with short curly hair stood in the center while a couple of girls danced with their arms flapping like those of a chicken.

The actions seemed to portray an Aeta story. The boy in the foreground used a tin can to beat as a drum for rhythm.

After a few more minutes, results of the games were announced and our team only managed second place, but hey, everyone had a fantastic time. From the All Hand’s beach, we proceeded to Ocean Adventure.

It took quite a while to get tickets for the entire group, since there were so many people that day. Also, no food or juice drinks allowed!

Water and milk are okay. The group was so big it had to be divided into several batches. Here are a couple of pics at the aquarium center.

As soon as we got out of the aquarium center, we realized it had started to rain. And this is a definite no-no if you plan to go to Ocean Adventure.

Some of the shows/ tours will be cancelled when it rains. Luckily, the rain stopped and we were treated to one of the main shows, the Dolphin show. The place was packed!

After 30 minutes of waiting, the show started. Setting the tone were drummers and fire dancers (without the fire). And then the dolphins and the false killer whale (only one) started.

Seeing the stunts live was simply breathtaking. It was awesome!

Here’s a closeup of the dolphins with the trainers. Too bad, there wasn’t much time to wait for the Sea Lion show which the staff from Ocean Adventure said would start at 6pm. The kids had to go back to the mountains of Zambales and the coordinators didn’t want a late trip.

Finally, it was time to say goodbye – to Ocean Adventure and to the World Vision kids. Here’s DH giving Recalyn a token (a keropee pencil topper) at the kids’ bus right before departure.

Goodbye Recalyn. We enjoyed the trip, meeting you and we certainly hope to see you again! My hope for you is always to pray and study hard for your future.

I suppose having a sponsored kid at Zambales has its side benefits like this Ocean Adventure treat, but meeting my sponsored child truly caps this wonderful trip aptly called Lakbay-Pagasa.

Go ahead, post your comment below!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this blog.

Yes, it took us a total of three months of grueling preparations... blood sweat and tears. I thank God for people like you, and what you wrote just affirmed our work...that it was all worth it!

Thank you

Blackdove said...

And thank you for your kind words. More power to you guys.

makeitcount said...

Hi Sir Les! You have a wonderful article and great blog. We reposted it at It's the unofficial World Vision blogsite for supporters of WV. Do check it out!

Maria Luisa Taa Venida said...

You and DH have big hearts! I used to be a workaholic, the computers were my children, I would even visit my baby "server" every Sunday. Until a baby was unexpectedly born at the maids' room shared by our home and my in-laws'. The lives of all the people in the 2 houses sharing that room, changed.