By Sgt. Scott AkanewichApril 7, 2011
SAN ANTONIO, Zabales, Philippines -- Smiling faces were everywhere and laughter was heard throughout the Shepherd of the Hill Orphanage as troops participating in Balikatan 2011 visited children to hand out clothing and toys during a outreach event at San Antonio.
Balikatan is a bilateral humanitarian assistance and military training exercise between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States. Humanitarian assistance and training activities enable Filipino and American servicemembers to build lasting relationships, train together, and provide assistance in communities where the need is the greatest.
"It makes me very happy to see the children so happy," said 2nd Lt. Lloyd Pambid of the Philippine Marine Corps. "It's good to be here with the kids."
U.S. servicemembers and families from Okinawa, Japan, donated clothes and toys for the orphanage as a gesture of goodwill. However, it was more than goodwill that brought smiles to children's faces.
A feeling of fellowship enveloped the San Antonio countryside as both Filipino and American forces entertained the children, said Marjolyn Perez, an administrator who has worked at the orphanage for nearly a quarter-century.
"The donations really help a lot," she said. "But just seeing military uniforms out here in the community makes me feel better."
ASM Carvil Anchurez of the Philippine Air Force said he enjoyed the day as much as the children.
"This is my first time doing this," said Anchurez. "The children are happy to get toys and at the same time, we can build trust within the civilian community through events such as this."
American troops were on hand to assist their Filipino counterparts during the festive occasion.
"It was a good experience," said Sgt. Marion Yocom, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Forces civil affairs team. "Just being here and seeing the happiness on the children's faces makes our support that much easier. After that, it's impossible to have a bad day."
Children of the orphanage remain optimistic despite their living arrangements, Yocom said.
"I was talking with a 10-year-old girl and she already knows what she wants to be when she grows up," Yocom said. "They show a tremendous amount of motivation."
Overall, it was a very successful day, said Regie Gabuyo, a teacher at the orphanage's school.
"Today was a very special day because the kids are so happy," said Gabuyo. "Many of the children here were abandoned by their parents or ended up here by some other means, such as from broken families."
It is important for the children to have a positive view of the military, he said.
"This is a very nice experience for them," said Gabuyo. "They now know the military is not just for war, but to help people when they are in need."