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Dare to care for orphans

By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

Japanese-American tapestry artist Tetsuo “Leo” Orii, author of the war-romance novel Sampaguita and Gold Button, says the story is not just about World War II and the love between a Japanese sailor and a comely lass from Cebu. It also poses a challenge to Filipinos to care for the orphans.

In one of our coffee table talks last month, the 81-year-old author reinforced the dare after I egged him earlier on to reveal his reason for penning the novel. He turned his iPad on and showed me a document titled “Why I wrote Sampaguita and Gold Button”. As it turned out, he wrote his answer to my query originally in Nihongo and had it translated to English.

This was his reply in part:

When I first came to the Philippines, I saw street children begging in the streets, and I remembered something. In 1945, after Japan’s defeat to the United States in World War 2, my family returned to Japan from Manchuria (currently Harbin in China). I was eight years old at the time.

To my surprise, many orphans, who had lost their parents in the war, helplessly wandered the streets all across the devastated country. However, within a short span of time, all those orphans disappeared from the streets of Japan.

During the post-war chaos, a large orphanage was established in northern Japan’s Hokkaido. The children were brought up with compassion, love, and care.

I was thinking about the future of the next generation.

No matter how well we raise our own children, they will be living alongside street children who grew up in a less fortunate environment, after we are long gone. There must be something we can do right now for the children, and the coming generation.

The Philippines is blessed with beautiful islands. If the nation comes together with each person donating one peso a day, along with donations from various countries, I believe it is more than enough to operate a world-class orphanage we can show to the world.

Many volunteers who sow love and compassion such as doctors and teachers from various countries will gladly apply to work for a fixed term. Since there will be foreign volunteers, the children will have access to international learning. There will be food, clothes, and medical supplies for the orphans.

If we can do this, the program will gain international recognition.

Imagine the positive impact this will create. There is so much we can do for our next generation and this country. They can grow up to do what they really want to do.

The vision hidden in Sampaguita and Gold Button is the hope we bring to our next generation.

In a nutshell, build an orphanage and school on an island. Invite international volunteers. Fund the project. NGOs, any takers?

Read the book and get inspired. It is available at National Book Store in Glorietta 1, Greenbelt, and Power Plant Mall-Rockwell, all in Makati; Uptown Place Mall and SM Aura, both at BGC, Taguig. One may also grab a copy at National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose’s Solidaridad bookshop on Padre Faura St. in Manila.

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