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US Marines, Sailors inspire local orphans during Balikatan

Date Posted: 2004-03-04

CLARK FIELD, Republic of the Philippines — The sharing of knowledge and experience between an American and a Filipino pilot is what you might expect to see during Exercise Balikatan 2004.

Even to witness a young U.S. Marine working in the engine compartment of an aircraft alongside his Philippine Air Force counterpart is commonplace here.

However, what’s happening off the flightline, outside the fences that surround Clark, in the hearts and minds of the young boys and girls at Angeles Bahay Bata Center, is what really seals the bonds between the people of two nations.

The center is more than just a place for orphaned children who have been recovered from the streets of Angeles City near the former U.S. Air Force Base of Clark. This is a home to more than 30 children who are getting a chance to succeed at life.

A school was added to the center this year because these kids need nourishing that public school cannot offer. They didn’t have families to help build the needed basics for survival in a public education system p they learned how to survive on the streets, pickpocket, sell drugs and anything else needed to survive.

The schoolhouse sits only 75 feet in front of the dormitory p situated between a small playground with a brightly-colored swing set and a tidy, little chicken coup where the children collect eggs before breakfast each morning.

“I came here because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of these children. It’s my hope that they will become better people,” said Pinky Sy Narciso, a teacher and the school’s administrator. “These kids were brought here because they were either neglected, abused or abandoned; because no one cares to love them.”

“They have no family and because of that they have very little self-esteem and most have no confidence,” she explained.

So, the school’s first mission is to build up the self-esteem and confidence that these children have been denied and the U.S. Marines who accompanied U.S. Navy Lt. Scott Ingram, group chaplain, Marine Aircraft Group-36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, are committed to making sure they do everything they can to help the school achieve its mission.

“This is my first time to visit the Philippines and I’m amazed at how much involvement these Marines are having in the community,” Ingram said. “I’ve only been here four days and we’ve already reached out into the community twice, in large numbers.”

“Yesterday, I only had four people volunteering to visit this orphanage, but by this morning, we had more than 25 and needed to make several trips to accommodate all the volunteers,” he said.

As the Marines walked proudly in to the classroom, the children worked to withhold their excitement, while their eyes darted around the room studying each towering stranger.

“We’ve come to visit with you today to play games, have fun and talk to you about what it’s like to be a Marine and why we’ve chosen this profession in life,” the chaplain explained as he walked around to make eye-contact with all the little faces that filled the large room.

All the little ladies in the room, ranging in age from eight to 16 years old, seemed inspired by what they thought was the first Marine to take the floor, but she was actually a Sailor who is the Ugly Angels’ flight surgeon, U.S. Navy Lt. Jessica Taylor, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron-369, MAG-36.

“Hi, I’m a doctor for the Marines! I chose to join the Navy for two reasons; first, because I grew up in a family that couldn’t afford to pay for my college education and the Navy could; and second, it’s cool to be working among so many men…I’m able to show that men and women are equal, and we can do as much as they can and sometimes even more,” she said to the crowd. Several more Marines inspired the kids with a common message of “you can be whatever you desire.”

Before leaving the center, the Marines presented Sy Narciso with a check for $400 USD and a commitment to return next year.

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