by Michelle Jeanne C. Caracut, OPI
To give the internally displaced children new experiences to overshadow their ordeal from the Marawi siege, the MSU-IIT College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) Evacuation Center conducted on July 19, 2017 its second “Peace-Ta!”, an activity for the children that includes storytelling at the CASS student lounge and a tour at the Institute’s Natural Science Museum, College of Science and Mathematics.
According to Prof. Sittie Noffaisah B. Pasandalan, CASS Assistant Dean and who spearheads the center, the children had their first “Peace-Ta!” on July 10, 2017. They gave away toys and had a children’s party at the Ma’Had Al-Nor Islamie, Ceanuri Subdivision.
“Realizing that the children needed to be taken out from a stressful environment, we planned something outside the evacuation centers. It would be very costly to bring them to a fast-food for a party and since the Institute is capable of providing something unique like our Natural Science Museum, we worked out the logistics of bringing the children to IIT,” said Pasandalan.
With their parents’ permission, around 80 children, aged 3-13 years old, were brought to IIT and selected parents came along as chaperones. The children listened to stories told by Odessa D. Aberilla, Sittie Akima A. Ali, and Mehanih Cali and went on a tour at the Natural Science Museum. They also received toys, school supplies, and storybooks from Tukod Foundation.
When asked why the activity was named Peace-Ta, Pasandalan said “Lynrose Jane Genon, a volunteer at the center, crafted the name. We want a festive atmosphere, we want peace. We want to be together. This was a play on words – Peace Ta sounds fiesta. Peace is our goal, “ta” is from the Sebuano “kita” and Meranao “sektano” which all means together.”
The MSU-IIT CASS Evacuation Center has been distributing relief goods to evacuees from Marawi City since the start of the siege. Pasandalan saw that the most vulnerable in the situation are the children. “Most often, we forget about them since we believe that their parents will take care of them. Some have parents and some don’t. We think that children don’t have stories to tell and that their ordeal is less. I have realized that the children have so much to say, that they carry pain with them and in their own ways, they deal with it.”
“I have come to realize that they have been forced to become adults at such early stages in their lives. We want to make them feel to be children again, to be carefree,” added Pasandalan.
After the Peace-Ta activity, the center plans to send toys to children in Baloi evacuation centers. Currently, they are working out logistics with nurses in the rural health unit of Baloi so they can distribute the toys during the children’s immunization schedule. They also plan to have another children’s party or a magic show.
With Pasandalan leading the team, the MSU-IIT CASS Evacuation Center is supported by the Institute, CASS Dean Marie Joy D. Banawa, Septrin John Calamba, Zarina Villadolid, Sittie Akima Ali, Lynrose Jane Genon, Paolo Baquiano, and student-volunteers from CASS and the College of Business Administration and Accountancy (CBAA).