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Nickelodeon wins kiddie hearts with


CEBU -- Everything's turning up orange in this sunny part of the world, as
orange balloons, pennants shouting Nickelodeon in white printed letters,
buntings and the Nick logo festoon Hadsan Beach in one big event dubbed as
Commotion by the Ocean.


ent2You couldn't imagine seeing so many children everywhere. A six-year-old
bespectacled boy from Cebu had to be coaxed into speaking English to this
writer (thanks, mom!). He broke into a grin and said that that, yes, he adores
SpongeBob square pants, a disarming yellow sponge that lives in the
subterranean sea of Bikini Bottom.


Mary Nicole Geva, 9, and sister Katrina, flew from nearby Bacolod where they
study at the University of Negros Occidental Recoletos and La Salle,
respectively, to join the treasure hunt that later won them Nickelodeon
souvenirs. Farther down the beach, seven-year-old Sonia was having her arm
painted in gay colors of bright green and orange. At the caricature painting
booth beside her, Sonia's brother Dingdong watched intently as an artist bent
over to draw a caricature of the boy's favorite cartoon character.


Dads and moms strode all over the place, watching their swimsuit-clad daughters
and their little boys in trunks gobble one ice cream cone after another. The
feel of warm sand tickled tiny and big feet alike. Heads bobbed in and out of
the water as instamatic cameras clicked away. Orange and black backpacks with
the Nickelodeon logo were as commonplace as beach towels and impish smiles.


Party fever soared the minute the main event, the treasure hunt, kicked off.
The children (their names were picked from the thousands of entries sent all
over the country), grouped into teams from Bacolod, Manila, Davao and Cebu,
were all ears as the host gave the clues, consisting of city landmarks, leading
to the treasure.

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Non-Cebuanos got a lot of help from a treasure hunt map with highlighted spots.
Among other things, the map pointed out five treasure stops: Fuente Osmena
Circle, the historical Fort San Pedro, Ayala Center, Mandaue 2nd Bridge, then
back at the beach.


Upon reaching each stop, the teams face a challenge to get the clue to the next
post.


For instance, at Fuente Osmena Circle, the post is dressed as Eureka's Castle,
one of Nickelodeon's popular pre-school program. The "castle" is filled with
balloons and the teams must pop them to find the characters -- Magellan, Batley
and Mr. Knack -- inside.


Upon a successful find, the teams are handed the next clue to the next stop.


As if racing for dear life, the little sleuths rushed to the stops with all
the energy they can muster. Little feet scampered all over the place, sending
oohs and ahhs from spectators, led by Nickelodeon director for marketing and
communications Christine Leo-McKerrow.


"Imagine, we planned to wrap things up at 4 p.m., but the kids finished at 2:30
p.m.!" the young executive exclaimed.


Asked what it was that propelled her to finish first (with her three teammates
from Bacolod, Katrina Geva, Eunice Ciocon and Melissa Geva), Mary Nicole Geva,
grinned from ear to ear and said, "Oh, the prizes!"


The Bacolod kids emerged on top of the four-man teams from Manila (second
place), Davao (third) and Cebu (fourth).


It was not hard prodding their parents to go with them. After all, it's not
everyday one gets to appear on the widely-viewed Nickelodeon channel, where
the event will be aired June 10, a Saturday or no-school day when most of the
children are expected to be home (one excited mom even asked this writer, "When
is the article coming out?).


Neither is it everyday one gets to bring home animal-shaped balloons, courtesy
of the balloon art booth (there's also one for face painting, caricature
drawings and kiddie tattoos).


Little hearts race like mad as they fish for a spongebob in a light blue wading
pool. Faces brighten up as the winners get their prizes on stage after the
treasure hunt.


And this is just the start. Up next for these kids and others is the chance to
go to Orlando, Florida, as Nickelodeon searches for a Filipino family to
take part in Double Dare 2000, a game show that premiered in the TV
channel last May 22.


To enter, families must write a letter of 100 words or less, explaining why
they have what it takes to tackle the physical dares and mental challenges on
Double Dare 2000, together with a photo and/or videotape, names of all
family members, address, day and evening contact telephone numbers, and
e-mail.


Four families will be chosen to join in live auditions at SM Megamall on June
18, and will be flown to Manila and billeted at the New World Renaissance
Hotel. One family will then be chosen to represent the Philippines in the US
and be flown to the Nick Studios in Florida.


Of course, all members must be passport and US visa holders. The four members
should be made up of two adults and two children aged 8 to 14. They should be
able to travel to Manila for live auditions on June 17 and 18, and to the US
from July 13 to 17.


Ahh, the joys of being young and oh so full of fun, just like Nickelodeon!

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