February 16, 2013 was a significant day for child laborers of Tayabas City – seldom they felt relieved somehow of their coerced feeling of “must-earn-money” in order to have a living. It was a “day off” for them. Instead of going to work like adults do, they received gift like children are used to. This was made possible through the “Project Angel Tree” which was brought by the concerted effort of various groups such as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Catholic Women’s League (CWL) – Tayabas Chapter, Ever Bilena, Rotary Club of Cosmopolitan Lucena, some anonymous persons, good Samaritans and of course through the initiative of Bokal Alona “Baby” V. Obispo, who believes that this project might be simple as it is, but upright thing to do for these child laborers of Tayabas City.
The program started at 9:00 in the morning with an opening prayer by a member of Catholic Women’s League – Tayabas Chapter, one of the sponsors of this project, and immediately after, the child laborers were graciously welcomed by Bokal Alona “Baby” V. Obispo herself. The message given by Ms. Pamela Palma, the Project Coordinator of DOLE - Child Labor Monitoring and Integrated Service Delivery System was very inspiring and encouraging that it gives much hope and enthusiasm to the child laborers. She mentioned that those who were not able to go to school – elementary or high school – because of financial problems can be given educational assistance via Alternative Learning System (ALS) and TESDA. Also, high school graduates who wanted to pursue their college education can have the chance by working part time on some designated establishments arranged by DOLE, on the condition, that while working part time, the child laborers will continue their studies in college in order to assure of their future of having a productive life and of becoming a better citizen of this country.
“Project Angel Tree in Tayabas City” was participated by fifty (50) child laborers ages 9 to 18 years old, coming from different barangays in Tayabas City. Some of them came accompanied by their parents and guardians. When these children were interviewed by BM Alona Obispo, she found out that some of their jobs were not suited for their young age such as scavengers, farmers, canvassers, vendor and etc. Sad to say, these children were forced to have that kind of work in order to survive. On a lighter side, it was very uplifting to know that some of these children at the age of 9 yrs. old, were really persistent, trying their best in pursuing their education that, they would even sell candies which their mother cooked, after school in order to have “baon” on the next day. Another child, who is 13 yrs. old, a farm worker, is graduating valedictorian this year! It is heartening to note that these children never stop dreaming of one day there will be brighter future for them also.
The government, particularly DOLE is continuously discerning projects and programs to continue helping our child laborers. Ms. Palma also mentioned during her message that DOLE has livelihood programs for the parents of the child laborers to augment their income. She encourage those parents who are into sewing rugs to organize themselves, register their organization, and submit proposal to DOLE to avail of small business starter kit, that could include capital for the procurement of sewing machines. Bokal Alona V. Obispo, as compassionately as she is to these children, is reckoned also to continue her advocacies in protecting the welfare of the children specifically these child laborers, in which she had line up an assortment of programs and projects also that will be carried out in the coming days and of which is the primary reason why she brought “Project Angel Tree” in Tayabas City. To conclude, “Project Angel Tree in Tayabas City” was successful in promoting the welfare of the children particularly the child laborers!
So happy were the children when they received gift packages which includes canned goods, noodles, rice, slippers, sugar, bread and even cologne and accessories from Ever Bilena. Bokal Alona V. Obispo also gave them a certain amount for their transportation expenses. Lunch was also served that day and everybody went home with a smile, and most importantly with a big hope that Bokal Alona V. Obispo, together with the people behind DOLE was at their side, assisting, helping and trying the best they can, for them, the child laborers, to become a better person and citizen of this country.