On a recent sunny mid-morning near low tide, I went swimming with a group of kids and I lost all track of time. I forgot all about the pandemic, I didn’t think about the people I would love to see again but can’t, I put the hardship stories so many people have today on the back burner.
On another recent day, I played games with the neighborhood kids outside a family’s home. The kind family lets us use their yard for games and prizes once a week. That’s followed by a meal prepared by women of the house. If it’s someone’s birthday, I bring a birthday cake. That’s the picture above. On that particular day, I again lost all track of time while playing the games with the kids like Do this, Do that, Balloon Challenge, and Over/Under.
Can you remember the last time you didn’t know — and I mean: had no idea — what time it was because you were having so much fun?
These days were two of my three favorites this week (so far). At the beach, we had swimming races, did water back flips, slogged through water tag, had a great starfish sighting (thanks, Mark!), and we had snack time with some singing, because Tita Ellen usually tries to bring some type of snack (with minimal plastic wrapping).
Some children are too young to swim well, so there are life jackets from fishing boats, and I bring one of our floaties to lend. Some kids are great swimmers. Some kids can only color at the meal gatherings. Some can write full sentences and some can write paragraphs.
All of the children are curious and open. I tell them they can be anything – they can be geniuses. They are like beams of light in the dark days of today.
Although they call me Tita Ellen (Aunt Ellen), I feel much younger than 49 years old when I’m with them. Some trust me enough to share things about themselves, some call and message me on Facebook Messenger from their parents’ accounts. They come running at me full speed when they see me approach on the beach, headed to Balusbus from Motag, and that lifts my heart to the heavens.
Friendship in the time of coronavirus
These children and some of their families accept me as the somewhat odd Caucasian woman (with no breasts) who’s been living near them for more than six months because of what they call: ‘the virus’.
Right now, are more than 100 COVID-19 cases in this province. Most cases are concentrated in and near the capital, Kalibo.
Our area, Malay Municipality, is considered low risk, and so Boracay opens on October 1 to domestic tourism.
My young friends all have relatives negatively impacted by the regional economic slide from the coronavirus. Most of the children are directly impacted.
School will be from home this year. The kids start class soon and so we moved our meal and game gathering day from Friday to Saturday. School work first.
Why these kids?
So why do I spend time with these kids – from another barangay (town)? They are in Balusbus. I am in Motag. We all are in Malay Municipality.
Easy answer: English.
Many of them speak English well enough so there is never a communication issue. My friend Joderic is almost always on the beach to help translate as needed.
My Tagalog is horrible. I know half a dozen words, if that. For my birthday last month, one of my young friends gave me a pre-loved dictionary beautifully wrapped up. I’m going to try to practice a sentence or two and surprise him one day soon.
To our American and western readers, you must understand the economic engine of this entire region is tourism, which has been non-existent since mid-March. This means there is no income — zero — for so many people in this area.
That’s what makes the gift pictured above so special.
Another gift is pictured below. It’s a beautiful hand-made card with a letter of appreciation to me inside, which was placed in a hand-made envelope, along with candies in wrappers with messages, such as ‘Cherish Each Day’ and ‘Thank You’ and ‘Forever Friends’.
Look at the picture and then I will share something else with you about this gift.
This came from a young teen on her birthday. That’s right. On her birthday, she gave me a gift. A beam of light, I tell ya.
I’ve previously written how I want the world to be better for these kids. So much hope and promise, so much happiness and possibility.
On the last game day, I asked them to sing happy birthday in a video for my sister Karen, who is back in America. They were eager to spread happy birthday cheer!
May you all find friendship and happy times as good as these in this crazy world today.
Thanks for reading, “Friendship in the time of coronavirus lightens up life.”
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