"To give and not to count the cost"
- Scott Lee Chua () - October 16, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - When Fr. Johnny Go, SJ watched the PETA play “William,” he knew that the show would make Shakespeare’s works relevant to us, the youth of today. Instead of trying to decipher figurative speech written in old English, we can now understand what the Bard said about violence, love, and family, since Shakespeare is finally speaking to us in our own language.

“William” is Shakespeare in the modern world.

Fr. Go is not only the head of Xavier School, but the chairman of the board for ERDA High School, which provides technical and vocational ed

ucation for underprivileged high school students. He knew that the ERDA students would love “William,” and PETA head CB Garrucho promised to do a special show for them.

But the whole thing would cost so much! So Fr. Johnny asked his friend Charlemagne Yu, president of Empire East and father of my friend Ol

iver, to help raise funds. Thus it came to pass that my mom got a text from Uncle Charley asking for donations, and she showed the text to us.

A week before that, I had received a letter from the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, saying that my essay “Of Pixels and Power” won Second Prize in the Kabataan Essay Division, English Category. After hollering my voice dry and prancing around the living room, I decided to use the prize (P5,000!) to go on a shopping spree at National Bookstore.

I had been eyeing certain books for months, and I could barely wait to get the check. I am not ashamed to say that half the excitement of getting a Pala

nca was receiving a check made out to Scott Lee Chua. I felt like a grown-up! But once I read the text, all my plans changed. I knew that I could not buy my books in peace if I ignored Fr. Go’s request. Right then and there, I pledged all my winnings to buying tickets for the ERDA students.

The author poses with ERDA High School principal Jane Natividad and students at the lobby of the PETA theater.

Uncle Charley texted back immediately, thanking me. I got the warm fuzzy feeling everyone gets when they do something good, but more importantly, I knew I had done the right thing. Then I forgot about it; until a week later, when Fr. Go emailed me. He congratulated me on my generosity, and thanked me. I was shocked, because I didn’t tell anybody that I had donated anything. My parents didn’t tell anyone either, except of course, Uncle Charley, who told Fr. Go. On top of that, I was invited to watch the play with the ERDA students.

“William” is a musical, full of Taglish rap and production numbers, but a lot less cheesy and a lot more memorable than “High School Musical.” For two hours, we followed the journey of five Pinoy high school students as they (and we) tried to answer the simple question: “Why do we need to study Shakespeare?”

As each of the actors takes a Shakespearean character as an avatar, each one embarks on a journey of self-discovery. Shakespeare helps the students become better people, who they were meant to be. As St. Ignatius says, they strive to do “magis” (more). They become more understanding, more confident, more accepting, more loving, more giving.

After the play, I got another surprise. Marc Magsalin, who used to be Xavier School Assistant Principal and now holds the same position at ERDA, suddenly introduced me to the crowd. Before I knew it, I was on my feet, and a mic was thrust into my hand. I felt a bit nervous, but by that time, it was too late to rehearse anything, so I decided to say what I really felt.

 I faced the ERDA Tech students. “You know, I come from a private school. Sadly, I cannot say that all our students value education as much as you do. Education gives all of us a future, and I appreciate what you are doing for your future. All of you are here now because education is your priority, and I applaud you for that.”

Indeed, I was extremely touched by the ERDA students. They were very kind to me, and very polite. They shook my hand, and repeatedly said, “Thank you.” Many asked, “Kayo po ba si Scott?” I had never been addressed with a “po” before.

In a conversation with Jane Natividad, our former school principal and now ERDA head, she said that many ERDA students lead difficult lives. The teachers and administrators often have to share their lunch with them because some students had nothing (or only candy) to eat. Ms. Lau said that some students even hide in the library because they are embarrassed to go down to the canteen since they have no money to buy food.

I was very disturbed by that, and I knew my friends would be, too. So the giving cannot stop here. I have written six children’s travel books (“Top Ten Travels”), and I will donate my royalties to ERDA students for their needs, especially for food. I hope to enlist the help of my army of friends again, and I am sure they will respond once more. So if you buy any of the books, you will be helping ERDA also!

The play was supposed to be a gift to the ERDA students from so many generous donors; I just happened to be one of them. But I walked away with the bigger gift. They shared with me their time, their laughter, their hearts.

“Marami na po sa inyo ang nagpasalamat sa akin, pero wala po kayong utang sa akin. Ako po ang may utang sa inyo. Maraming salamat, at mabuhay.”

 

The author is a Grade 7 student at Xavier School which, since 2009, has adopted ERDA Technical and Vocational High School, a school for the underprivileged established by French Jesuit Fr. Pierre Tritz, SJ. To know more about ERDA, please email erdafoundation@gmail.com.

ERDA HIGH SCHOOL JANE NATIVIDAD SCHOOL STUDENTS UNCLE CHARLEY XAVIER SCHOOL
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