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Philippine children, school staff welcome Marines, sailors with open arms

15 Oct 2009 | Lance Cpl. Thomas W. Provost

The joyful sounds of cheering children could be heard for miles as Marines and sailors from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit pulled up to their school.

The group of Marines and sailors visited Sapang Bato Elementary, Sitio Target Elementary and Air Force City Elementary schools, Oct. 14, during a community relations visit designed to enhance the cultural awareness for the service members and deliver gifts to the students as part of Amphibious Landing Exercise 2010 (PHIBLEX ’10).

The morning began with a group of Sapang Bato Elementary students performing the Philippine national anthem and choreographed Christmas songs. The students also set up a display of wide range ‘art and crafts’ created with recycling items. The crafts circled around a Christmas theme that covered the school grounds.  This was then followed by the Marines and sailors handing out gifts.  The school principal narrated the event and expressed thanks to the service members for their time.

 “You really touched the lives of our students by spending time with them despite your busy schedule,” said Leonida K. Quinto, principal for all three schools. “They just love interacting, telling stories and playing in the school grounds during your visit.”

The smiling students also expressed their excitement with all around “high-fives” and shaking hands with each of the Marines and sailors.

The group of Marines and sailors moved on to their next visit at Sito Target Elementary School, a branch of the Sapang Bato Elementary School, located in the mountains.  Here too the students lined the entrance to the school yard; while waving green hand-made flags. The Marines and sailors toured the school grounds and interacted with the children before handing out wrapped gifts to the students. Once each student had a gift it was time for lunch. The Marines and sailors helped served a popular Filipino food called “Soupa” to the students.

The highlight of the visit was the new library that was constructed and filled with books donated by Books for the Barrios Incorporated, said Ephraim B. Toche, vice president of the Philippine Branch of the San Francisco, Calif. based organization. According to Toche, a run across the Golden Gate Bridge was organized to raise money for the construction of the library.   He expressed his thoughts on the benefits of the library, “It’s not just a onetime deal kind of project.  The library is a priceless gift that contains books with a world of different adventures that help stimulate the mind and creativity for the children. Knowledge is an invaluable gift that keeps on giving.”

The final stop for the Marines and sailors was Air Force City Elementary where the students also greeted them with cheers and open arms.

“The kids really love it when we come to the school, it’s as if we are rock stars,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Brian Schoffstall, religious program specialist, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. 

He added, “In the end everyone benefits from a community relations event.  Especially, the service members, because it helps them see the tremendous impact they have on the local community by simply being themselves.”

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit