60,000 indigent children treated to a ‘theme park’ birthday

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Under the sweltering sun, tens of thousands of children wearing party hats and waving colorful flags rush excitedly towards a towering arch festooned with a smiling sun and the words Sonshine Land.

As the children ran, shrieking under showers of confetti, a song about a dreamland come true booms loudly from speakers everywhere.

Each year since 2005, this scene is repeated in Davao City and in different places around the country and in some cities around the world in celebration of what international television evangelist Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy, Founding President of the Children’s Joy Foundation, Inc., has initiated as the birthday of every destitute child in lieu of his own. He calls this event the ‘National Children’s Day’ happening every April 25.

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Weeks ahead of this event, Pastor Quiboloy, together with an army of volunteers, put up a mini-theme park he calls Sonshine Land, which could accommodate thousands of young beneficiaries from orphanages, shelters and institutions throughout the Davao Region come April 25.

Inside the Disney-like theme park is the Sonshine Fairgrounds where around 60 booths serve and accommodate children from morning until night and give away unlimited toys, bread, beverages, sweets, cotton candy, popcorn and ice cream.

Quiboloy also treats children with a colorful street parade like in any other theme park, featuring huge and beautiful floats complete with well-loved cartoon, fairytale and animation characters.

Worldwide television preacher Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy is the man behind the National Children's Day (Sonshine Across the Land) which has been treating thousands of  kids every April 25  to their own birthday.

Worldwide television preacher Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy is the man behind the National Children’s Day (Sonshine Across the Land) which has been treating thousands of kids every April 25 to their own ‘adopted’ birthdays. “I want each destitute child to experience a birthday he may never able to celebrate. These memories of love, kindness and generosity will be forever etched in their hearts and minds.”

Following the grand street parade is a stunning dance performance by over 700 youth dancers clad in exquisite costumes executing an international-flavored presentation.

One of the features of Sonshine Land is the feeding area where batches of children from urban poor communities and hinterlands of Mindanao are fed. This is a showcase of what the Children’s Joy Foundation, Inc. has been tirelessly doing since its inception in 1998 – conducting feeding programs throughout the country in answer to the spiking rate of hunger among Filipino children.

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The idea behind the National Children’s Day is that children trapped in poverty could at least celebrate one special day as their adopted birthday, which they would never forget until they grow up. Quiboloy believes that planting good seeds in the hearts and minds of these children can contribute to achieving a better world.

Touring the entire Philippines in the early days of his ministry, Quiboloy had known the plight of impoverished children living in the throes of want and destitution.

“I have carried lightweight and extremely undernourished children in many of my concert tours and I couldn’t just close my eyes on this painful reality. I vowed that if the Lord blesses me, I will give back to the poor, especially children who didn’t choose the kind of life they would live.”

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Well-wishers and friends also graced the Pastor’s birthday, including Presidential prospect Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who assured the Filipino people that if it is God’s will that he becomes President of the Philippines he will “humbly obey.”

Speaking before live TV, Duterte said he believed that the Presidency is a mission from God. “I have never coveted the Presidency even up to this day but people are saying that I should run for President. That is not for me to decide. It is something which comes from God,” he reiterated.

Simultaneous birthday parties where thousands are treated to a birthday blowout were also done in major cities around the Philippines and abroad including California, Virginia, New York and Hawaii in the US; Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto in Canada; Brazil, Peru,Ecuador, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Spain, Belgium, United Kingdom and the Ukraine.

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Seven Years

You left us seven years ago. We buried you on the second Sunday of June, just as everyone was greeting their dads, pops and tatays on Father’s Day. It was a hell of a  ride. It was a deep, unexpected loss. It was like a part of me was permanently lost. It felt like having an open wound in the first two years.

You left a void that’s meant to be there for always. 

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They say there’s a unique bond between fathers and daughters that only they could understand, just as sons have that certain degree of closeness with their mothers that only they know. We had a bond that’s unspeakable. I’m lost for words.
Whenever somebody loses their own father, I understand the loss, the pain and the silence that would follow. Perhaps it’s because of having to come to terms with the reality that we will never see each other again. But the thing I hated most about losing you is that I would no longer see your happy, mustached face and prominent cheek bones.
There had been episodes of seeing an aged man on the streets and the waterworks would ensue. There had been days of hearing the Beatles songs and even ‘Fool On A Hill’ would leave me tear jerky.
The pan de sal mornings, the funny jokes, the pride of seeing the glimmering medals were all part of a childhood that had been peppered with your memories.  Your happy memories, for we weren’t a perfect family. You weren’t a perfect father either, but at least you tried to be the best cook, the best driver and the best weightlifter ever.
Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the piggyback rides, the barbel roles, and the way you tenderly carried me each time my tummy ached. You were an excellent weightlifter. You lifted not only my wimpy body but my spirits and let me feel what fatherly love means.
Each 9th of June, I reserve a moment of silence even for a few minutes. I just remember you and how good it was to be loved and tickled by a mustached weightlifter, a frustrated boxer and an excellent cook.
But like an episode of a tv series, like a part of a movie, or a chapter of a book, our story together has ended. Painful and indescribable it was, but life has to go on.
Today I just would like to tell you that your little acts of love, thoughtful cooking of sautéed crabs, stingray wit coconut milk and escabeche that no one has ever matched to this day, no matter how tired you were from work, were not in vain.
Here I am, thankful for having had someone like you for a biological father. But here’s the best thing, Tatskie: in the further part of my life’s journey was an unmatched discovery of the path that leads to eternal bliss.
Every man’s way to Redemption. Freedom. And righteousness.
I lost a wonderful physical father and in the process, found my Spiritual Father. Loss means gain they say. The time I lost you, my eyes turned the other way. I searched for life’s deeper meaning. I learned to look at life in the light of eternity.
You know, my important calling to this path included a vision of you and me together in our living room. Each of us on the two adjacent sofas when he came to call me to stand up and he hugged me so tight I felt the warmth of his breast. I saw that blinding light from his chest. And he gestured you to stand up too. He touched your head. I woke up still embracing myself. I was sixteen. My life would alter radically after that.
And even if life in the present has episodes of bumpy roads and ups and downs, I always remember why, in the first place, I started. I always go back to that day of embracing the Man who would transition me to a different kind of life.
I know that even from childhood you had seen something in me that made you profess I was your favorite child. I felt it too. But the thing is, I had my departure from the physical plane. I’m on a higher dimension that calls for a higher and deeper understanding of a father-daughter relationship.
And though we had parted ways for good, and although the Only One who now owns my heart a hundred percent is my Father in heaven, while I live in this world, I will always think of you and smile at the thought of having you, no matter how short and brief, in one episode of my life.
This Father I’ve come to know is the One who would empower and give me strength to continue fighting and never stop believing in the power of faith.
For he’s the one who lovingly said, “… I want to rewrite the story of your life.”
Yes He’s rewriting the story of my life in eternity. And it is my desire to rewrite other people’s life stories, too, by being an instrument of His love.
Tomorrow, I remember you. And that thought will always drive me to keep on moving forward.
In doing this, He requires me to let go of my old self. I know you’re out there, cheering for me. I’m gonna make it to the finish line.
I’m gonna breast the tape.
 I will make my Heavenly Father proud.

 

The Way Home

It’s the 4th of December and I was brought to years back when I was in the fourth grade when we toured the National Museum. Life then was simple yet obscure. I was too young to realize or even imagine the complexity of the big, wide world I was about to get acquainted with. I was just a small town girl, yeah, like Carrie from Checotah. 

The National Museum regaled me with overwhelming history. I was dwarfed by Juan Luna’s Spoliarium spanning from one corner to another. I cannot forget the galleons, the ancient boats, the dioramas and the mystery that covers each piece of  artifact and treasure of old. I was a skinny girl with long black hair and curious eyes. Little did I know that along with the first adventure of my life would be my first taste of an unforgettable moment of standing alone.
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World-renowned Filipino artist Juan Luna’s Spoliarium (1814) displayed at the Philippine National Museum.

The hours ticked by, and after a trip to some other places like Hospicio de San Jose and the Ayala Museum, it was time to go home. It was dusk and everything around became a little bit scary. The tourist bus dropped us off in a certain part of town. I was all alone – away from home for the first time in my life. I needed to find my way back home. It was growing darker all around and I was jittery inside. I was worried that I wouldn’t find the familiar road that leads home. I was looking around, fighting back tears, until I remembered some clues and landmarks. Little by little while biting my lips and hearing the amplified beating of my heart, I was inching my way home. 
 
I look back 18 years to that day, I had my first solo adventure. I was regaled by history, amused by the mysterious and beautiful World of Arts, and had an experience any curious kid could ever wish for; but I had to find my way home. I had to figure things out by myself. In that circumstance in my life, I needed to grow up and be strong.
 
Life has proven to be like that all the time. There’s always a day of reckoning – a day of standing all alone and fighting back all the inner and outside forces in order to reach the way that leads home.
 
NO matter how dark or obscure the way may be; no matter how uncertain life may sometimes become, I sure will find my way to where I am supposed to be.
 
I was born to fight and survive. I was born to be strong. I will reach ‘that final destination.’

 

Poor Children’s ‘Theme Park’ Dream Comes True

A poor child can only dream of spending a day in a theme park.

He can only imagine what it is like ride a Ferris wheel, to buy an extra-large popcorn or ice cream and or to see his favorite cartoon characters for real. But when amusement parks charge P500 for a single ticket, the dream, alas, remains a dream and as he grows up, becomes nothing more than a wishful thought.

But for 20,000 children in Mindanao, amazingly, the wish has come true!

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Hundreds of indigent children got to blow candles on a huge birthday cake

On April 25, Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy, a known television evangelist, opened his 18-ha compound in Davao City to children from different welfare groups, shelters, orphanages and indigent communities all over the island, to enjoy a theme park he calls “Sonshine Land.”

Apparently, this theme park has been opening 1x a year for the past nine years to celebrate Pastor Quiboloy’s birthday, but he has given the day to indigent children as their very own birthday celebration. The park’s slogan reads, “The happiest children’s birthday party ever!”

Quiboloy’s Sonshine Land has all the elements of a true-blue theme park without the exorbitant entrance fee.

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9th National Children’s Day as the ‘Happiest Children’s Birthday Party Ever’

It has a parade of real princess and superheroes—even the sisters Anna and Elsa from the animated film, Frozen—a carnival, a movie house, rides, plenty of games, unlimited food in huge tents, candies and sweet treats in bulging loot bags, a puppet show—all for free! And at the end of the day, a gigantic birthday cake for all!

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One of the colorful floats inside Sonshine Land

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Quiboloy, also the executive pastor of the worldwide Kingdom of Jesus Christ says that growing up in extreme poverty made him promise that if the Lord blesses him, he would never forget the poor, especially the children.

“I wanted every Filipino child to have a memory of being loved and cared for, and (for them to know) what it is like to celebrate a birthday,” he says, “so that when these children grow up, they will have that beautiful memory of goodness in their heart.”

Pastor Quiboloy firmly believes that this single joyful and unforgettable experience can change a child’s life.

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Children’s Joy Foundation, Inc. Founding President Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy is the brainchild behind the National Children’s Day (Sonshine Across the Land).

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Pastor Apollo Quiboloy speaks before thousands of children, their families and well-wishers after the NCD Grand Finale

He replicates this experience for thousands more children simultaneously in 10 other major cities in the Philippines, around Asia, the Middle East, North America, Europe and as far as Africa.

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All of these children are beneficiaries of the Children’s Joy Foundation, Inc. a non-government and non-sectarian organization that spearheads residential care services, grants educational and athletic scholarships, operates disaster relief, medical and feeding programs, which Quiboloy created in 1988.

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Unlimited rides for all

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One of the booths in Candy Land, giving unlimited sweets to children

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One of the huge feeding tents put up to cater to thousands of children beneficiaries given free lunch and dinner.

Along with this year’s Sonshine Land, Children’s Joy Foundation also built and furnished new day care centers in typhoon-hit Tacloban.

In partnership with Global Giving, the organization also granted brand new fishing boats to 300 fishermen all over Leyte.

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Quiboloy also currently supports more than a thousand academic scholars in Davao City through the Apollo C. Quiboloy’s Gift of Education Program.

He initially built the Jose Maria College (in honor of his late parents Jose Quiboloy and Maria Carreon) to provide quality education for poor children regardless of culture and religious belief.

Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy with around 1,000 of his academic scholars in Davao City alone

Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy with around 1,000 of his academic scholars in Davao City alone

Together with his army of volunteers, the pastor has been quietly doing these good works for almost two decades. His goal is simple: give joy to every child.

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And for the thousands of children who look forward to the 25th of April every year, summer brings the merriest birthday party ever, where everything is free and unlimited, and where love knows no bounds.

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Unlimited rides for all

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Frozen’s Anna and Elsa gave joy to young onlookers during the Grand Street Parade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

His Daughter by Molly Kate Kestner

His Daughter by Molly Kate Kestner

Everything’s gonna be alright

She whispers to herself

She was only 6 years old that night

As she hid behind that shelf

‘Coz Daddy had a little too much to drink

And Mama didn’t want her to feel the pain she felt

But she still felt the pain…

 

Well 10 years they came and went

And dad was gone

So she looked for love in other men

And tried to act strong.

Broken heart and scars in only places she could see

‘Coz she just wanted, she just wanted to feel something

 

And as she sat there on that bed

Thinking ‘bout what those girls said

Tears streamed down her eyes

She cried…

 

If there’s a God out there

Please hear my prayer

I’m lost and I’m scared

And I’ve got nowhere else to go

I’ve come a long, long way

But I’m not sure I can make it much farther…

So if You’re listening, could You give a helping hand

To Your daughter

 

Well her path started to change

She reached out and grabbed God’s grace

And finally, she saw a light

Until that night…

Where she decided one drink was alright

And one thing led to another

Next thing you know, 9 months go by

She’s a mother

 

And as she lay there in that bed

Stroking that small angel’s head

Tears streamed down her eyes

She cried…

 

If there’s a God out there

Please hear my prayer

I’m lost and I’m scared

and I’ve got nowhere else to run

I’ve come a long, long way

But I’m not sure I can be the best mother…

So if You’re listening, could You give a helping hand

To Your daughter

 

Well that baby grew into a boy

Who became her pride and joy

He loved her like no man could

And her heart felt peace, ‘coz she finally understood

God’s love

 

And as she lay there in that bed

99 years old

She grabbed her son’s hand and said

There’s something you must know…

 

There is a God up there

Who heard my prayer

I was lost and afraid

And I had nowhere else to go

I had no clue, what to do

And then He sent me you.

 

So if you’re lost and afraid

and you feel so alone

don’t worry child

‘coz there’s a Father who will love you as His own

Just like He loved His daughter

Like He loved His daughter

Remembering Tito Charlie

It was a long drive from CDO to Davao City, the sky was getting dark and we had to pass by some roads under construction. Everyone in the car sang along with the songs being played from the computer. The driver had to stay alert and keen what with the treacherous roads we had to pass through. 

Among the passengers singing in delight and glee was Tita Binggay, who, while keeping the driver wide awake with her words of caution, was fondly remembering some memories associated with the songs.
In between each singing and story were lots of laughter and her answering calls from somebody who checks on her exact location and proximity. Teasing followed those calls for we knew who was checking on her: her Knight in Shining Armor.
Nighttime fell on our skin. The computer ran out of battery. Our stomachs began to grumble. We were in a certain place before Davao when she called somebody and kindly and sweetly asked him to wait for us somewhere downtown.
With cold hands and empty stomachs, we finally arrived in (downtown) Davao City, in the place where that Somebody would fetch her up.
There in the corner of the nondescript restaurant was Tita Binggay’s Knight in Shining Armor with a trace of excitement in his face; with his signature subtle smile and kind eyes. They hugged and kissed.
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The night he waited for Tita Binggay. This was also where we had supper after a long, hungry land trip.

He served us bowls of piping hot soup and a spread of supper that was next to a feast. He was sitting beside Tita Binggay and was looking at her face as if they were apart for ages. 

I will never forget that night and that journey.
I will always remember his quiet looks and kind ways, his ready smile whenever somebody calls him ‘Tito Friendship’.
Atty. Charlemagne Aldevera was a quiet soul, a humble thinker, a good father, a loving husband and a man who built a family whose humility and kindness reflects on who he had been to countless of friends and extended families.
One thing that will always remind me of him is his favorite Christmas song whose depth and meaning touches the innermost core of the heart.
“A rosy hue settles all around
You got a feel you’re on solid ground 
All across the land no one seems forlorn 
This comes to pass when a child is born”
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Atty. Charlemagne ‘Charlie’ Aldevera

For a quiet, kind soul whose heart was always open for everyone, the Almighty bless and inspire others with your memories.
May He strengthen your family, most especially  the love of your life, the one who will keep you tucked away in her heart. The one you have patiently waited for that dark, dreary night.
Bye, Tito Charlie, Tito Friendship, Atty. Charlemagne.
You have never left after all.
You remain here forever…in our hearts.
In memory of
Atty. Charlemagne B. Aldevera
(Feb. 19, 1950 – May 3, 2014)
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Bye, Tito Friendship!