The prudent or cynical would cast doubt on sex education for children, let alone the HIV virus and the disease it causes, AIDS.
“Bakit mo ituturo ang HIV/AIDS sa mga bata, tapos storytelling pa? Napakainosente nila, baka magkaroon ng malisya ang isip nila. Takot sila na baka hindi maintindihan ng mga bata,” comments one concerned parent.
But veteran storyteller Luisito “Kuya Bodjie” Pascua begs to disagree, saying storytelling is effective in educating children about the health and social issues concerning HIV/AIDS.
Kuya Bodjie should know, with his experience and as education advocate in the popular children’s television show Batibot.
“Ang maganda kasi dito, napapaabot namin sa paraan na nakakarelate ang bata, its not a typical classroom na nagle-lecture ang teacher about AIDS, about compassion, etc, pero nagawa namin in an entertaining way,” Pascua said.
The 54-year-old stage and TV actor had been involved in promoting reading, peace and telling stories to children with cancer for several years now.
Having brought numerous children’s stories to life with his effective use of voice characterization, sound effects and distinct facial expression, Pascua was tapped by the AIDS Society of the Philippines in August 2002 as story-teller and mentor for the its nationwide storytelling caravan.
The AIDS Society is a leading association of individuals working towards the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS in the country.
The native of Nueva Ejica has practically toured key cities and provinces in the country, reaching out mostly to elementary students.
Pascua reads and animates stories of people living with AIDS, simplifying the words and situations of the characters affected by the virus, how the loved ones deal with the situation and the lessons learned from the stories.
A graduate of Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama (Major in Acting) at the New York University, Pascua said that his primary mission is to make children and adults aware of HIV/AIDS and accept that those affected are ordinary individuals whose immune system has broken down.
This way, he said, the stigma and discrimination attached to the dreaded condition would somehow lessen.
When asked what inspire him to support the AIDS campaign, Pascua said: “The opportunity to enlighten ‘yung kaisipan ng mga kababayan lalo na ang mga kabataan sa pagtangkilik o pagtanggap na dapat sa mga hindi lang people with AIDS, but sa lahat ng tao na nasa gilid-gilid ng ating lipunan, kumbaga they need some tolerance, understanding, compassion for the less fortunate.
“It inspires me to go out of my way. In my own little way, however way I could lalo na kung ibabahagi ko ‘yung talent that I have.”
Pascua, who did about 200 plays since he began performing in 1978, admitted that he and a handful of story-tellers were a bit apprehensive when they initially read the story to children.
“Noong una takot kami na syempre ano ang mga posibleng pwedeng itanong ng mga bata. We as adults would be able to answer question about sexuality.
May isip na rin ang mga yan eh. Ako ba ay bukas ang puso at isipan na pagusapan ito na hindi madumi ang isip ko, na hindi ako mabo-bother o madidisturb.
“May magandang sagot na kaming inihanda, pero pagdating naman sa storytelling session wala naman palang problema. Most of the kids anyway ay napakabukas ng isipan about sex,” he recalled. (to be continued)
The red ribbon is an international symbol of AIDS awareness that is worn by people all year round and particularly around World AIDS Day to demonstrate care and concern about HIV and AIDS, and to remind others of the need for their support and commitment.