Me being pushed on the swing by one of the little boys.
“Higher higher higher!” The little kids screamed with glee while simultaneously pulling on the swing’s chain that was catapulting me into the air.

“Oh no! Baka mahulog ako! Nakakatakot ito!” I jokingly yelled back. (Oh no! I might fall. This is scary!)

“Okay lang yan, Ate. Sasaluhin namin ikaw!” Came their witty reply. (It’s okay. We’ll catch you!)

With the wind in my hair, it was such a liberating feeling being on the swings. What made playtime even better were my companions.

There were constant sounds of laughter all around me. Little boys everywhere were chasing each other and every now and then were yelling, “Ikaw yung It!” (You're It!) A little boy even got on the swing next to me and tried to copy what I was doing. Instead of sitting down on the swing, I was standing up. When I told the boy that it was dangerous and only big kids should be doing it, he told me, “Matapang ako! Don’t worry,” which put a smile on my face. (I’m brave! Don’t worry)

I found myself surrounded in chaos once again but it was a wonderful kind of chaos.

Me teaching the boys how to do a flip on the monkey bars.
Me helping one of the boys do a flip.
Me on top of the playground with the boys.
Me about to go down the slide with one of the little boys.
For the next 30 minutes, my friend Reggie and I found our selves acting like little kids in the playground. Every time a kid went down the slide, we were sliding right behind them. Every time a kid climbed a ladder to the top of the playground, we were climbing right behind them. I even taught a kid how to do a flip on the monkey bars and he rewarded me with a delighted hug after he accomplished it.

When playtime came to a close, I talked to someone who was also visiting Boystown for the day.

The person I talked to was a woman named Marissa and she has been visiting Boystown for several years.

“These boys have come to mean a lot to me. It makes me happy spending time with them and seeing their smiles.” She fondly told me when I asked her why she has been visiting for such a long time.

When I told Marissa that one of the things that I remembered from my first visit 2 years ago was their genuine and vibrant smiles, she told me, “That’s the best part eh, knowing that they’re not faking them. They are genuinely glad to have your company.”

When I asked her if she finds it a little strange that they’re so happy despite their situations, Marissa replied, “I personally don’t find it strange. I find it extraordinary how they are able to find something positive in their surroundings no matter how horrible their situation is.”

After thanking Marissa for her time, I thought long and hard about her insights and came to the conclusion that she was right.

It was astonishing how optimistic the boys are despite their hardships in life.

It reminded me of the times in my own life where I felt like giving up because something got too difficult.

I then realized that I was being selfish. My problems suddenly seemed very insignificant compared to theirs. While I worried about how I was going to pass the next math long test, these boys worried about whether or not they were going to eat for the day.

If these boys could find happiness and positivity in their less than ideal life, why couldn’t I?

Someone that by most standards is living the ideal lifestyle.

This whole situation reminded of the quote, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

In translation, make something good out of something bad.

From this visit to Boystown, I learned how important it is to always find a silver lining in any situation.

There is hope in every situation and the boys of Boystown have taught me that.

For that, I will always be grateful.
Me handing out candy to the boys.
Me posing with the boys and their candy.
Boys gather around for more candy.
"Omphh!" I exclaimed as an animated little boy around the age of 7 came barreling into me. His excitement was palpable and his grip on my shirt emphasized his enthusiasm.

"Hi Ate! Visitor ka ba ngayon?" (Hi! Are you a visitor today?)

“Hi! Yes, visitor ako ngayon.” I replied with a smile. (Hi! Yes, I’m a visitor today)

“Yehey!” The little boy yelled and before I could ask him what his name was, he ran away into a little house nearby.

This gave my friend Reggie and me an opportunity to observe our surroundings.

The first thing I noticed was how bright and lively the location was. There were trees and grass everywhere giving the place a very peaceful and homey feel. The sun was also shinning brightly and it established the feeling of being at home.

There was also a playground nearby that gave a burst of color to the otherwise earthy feel of our surroundings and it added a touch of youthfulness to the atmosphere.

Lost in awe of my surroundings, I failed to notice the large gang of rowdy boys that were running my way. The boys immediately circled Reggie and me and we were slightly overwhelmed by the amount of little boys that were surrounding us.

One of the caretakers of the orphanage came running after them and told them to give us some space but that didn’t deter the boys from voicing their curiosity.

“What’s your name?”

“Ilang taon kayo?” (How old are you?)

“Ano yung nasa loob ng plastic?” (What’s inside the plastic?)

That last question caught my attention. The boys were very observant.

Reggie was carrying a yellow plastic bag that carried little bags of chocolate that we were planning to give to the boys.

“Regalo ba yan?” One little boy asked. (Are those presents?)

Reggie and I looked at each other and simultaneously nodded our heads.

“Nagdala kami ng chocolates.” I told them. (We brought chocolates)

Next thing we knew, it was pandemonium.

Little hands everywhere were grabbing for the bag and Reggie and I were shocked at how excited they were about something that we often take for granted.

It was heartening to see how something as simple as chocolate could bring the boys such sheer happiness.

One by one, I handed each boy a bag of chocolate and after they received their bag, they either stuck around to observe the chaos or ran off to tell the other boys of our presents.

Once the chaos calmed down and everyone got their chocolate, the little boys sat quietly enjoying their treats.

Sitting down next to the boys, I thought about what I had seen and their reactions towards such a simple gift.

The chocolates were left overs from my family’s Halloween candy stash last October and for months were just sitting around in the house because no one wanted them.

It reminded me of how blessed I am and how I often take little things such as chocolate for granted because it’s readily available to me even though in reality, it’s not the same for everyone else.

Instead of dwelling on an issue that was evidently out of my reach, I instead focused my attention on the boys who were still happily munching on their snacks and were telling me about their Christmas day.

Once they were done, one little boy grabbed my hand and exclaimed, “Ate, maglaro na tayo!” (Let’s go play!)

Although I knew that I couldn’t solve a major world issue such as poverty and greatly improve the lives of these boys, I knew that it was the simple pleasures that mattered to them.

With that thought, I followed the little boys into the playground with the full intention of bringing even the slightest bit of happiness into their lives by providing them with my time and company.

It was the little things that mattered the most.

To be continued…
Me posing once again with the boys.
My friend Reggie with the boys.
Selfie with the boys.
Me standing in front of Foundling Home, a home for young boys in Boystown.
Christmas decorations everywhere in Boystown.

I was nervous with anticipation when I stepped out of the car on the morning of December 26. It was Boxing Day. I knew that the citizens of Boystown would either be bursting with excitement or battling melancholy due to the festivities that came with Christmas day. I hoped that for those who were on the lonely side because of their lack of family would make me their sister or even just a friend for the day.

Today, I visited a section of Boystown called the Foundling Home. It is a home for young orphan boys. I brought my friend Reggie along with me to experience Boystown because she’s never been before and I wanted her to feel the satisfaction that I felt when I first visited several years ago.

The first thing I noticed was that Boystown was decorated with Christmas decorations; from the trees, to the doors, to the windows. Parols, ornaments and bells everywhere. It made me happy to see that Christmas spirit was very much present in the institution. The sight gave me the same sense of hope that I felt the first time I visited because I knew how difficult it was to uphold the Christmas spirit especially when majority of the people in Boystown have suffered tremendously in their lives and do not have a lot of family to account for.

 The uplifting sight of Christmas alone washed my worries away and I had a spring in my step as I walked along the institution to meet the staff members and boys of Boystown.

It felt like coming home.

To be continued...

Taken from: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=463595293722057&set=a.405042842910636.94512.348111318603789&type=1&theater
One of the many things that I love about the Manila Boystown organization is that it's heart is as big as it's land.

When I first entered the institution years ago, the first thing I noticed is that it's boundless. This is because Manila Boystown is 23-hectare orphanage that provides shelter for the abandoned, forgotten and voluntarily surrendered children, teenagers and elderly of Manila. That's a lot of people, especially since Manila is one of the most populated cities in the world and the heart of the Philippines.

What's inspiring is that just one glimpse of the organization at work shows how dedicated the members of the organization are to providing better lives for the less fortunate males in Manila. It doesn't matter how difficult and time consuming the task of catering to the children, teenagers and elderly are, the members do it relentlessly.

Manila Boystown was founded in 1949, which is 64 years of service towards these underprivileged people. That shows a lot of dedication. The organization's mission is, "To Give the Children and the Elderly a Better Hope, Care and Love they deserve" and it is a statement that the members of the organization practice faithfully.

Manila Boystown's is owned by the Manila city government
and it is a non-profit based organization.

For more information about Manila Boystown, visit: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Manila-Boystown-Complex-Parang-Marikina-City-Philippines/348111318603789 or

Taken from: http://www.chattingatthesky.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/filipino-boys.jpg

That was the first thought that came to mind when I first entered Manila Boystown two years ago. I remember being confused when my mom told me that we were spending her birthday in the institution. I had no idea what it was and when I asked her, all she said was, "It's an shelter for young boys who are homeless." As it was my first time, I didn’t find it that significant going to an orphanage on my mom’s birthday and donating food and books.

However, when we pulled up into the driveway of the shelter, I was astounded by the genuine hope and happiness that each boy exuded as they greeted us with warm hugs. It didn’t matter to them whether or not we had gifts to give them, they welcomed our company with open arms. Coming from a privileged background, it was heartwarming to witness how such a simple thing like Jollibee Chicken Joy can bring authentic delight to these children.

Manila Boystown serves as a sanctuary and a symbol of hope for those who are trying to rise above their shortcomings in life. Whenever I picture hope, I picture the smiles on the boys' faces with no trace of the real life difficulties that they are facing.

Because of the impact of that one visit, visiting Boystown once more has always been something that I longed to do again. I only hope that I will have even the slightest bit of impact on the boys as they had on me, when I visit them again in the near future.