Visiting White Cross Children’s Home, San Juan, Manila. An overwhelming experience.

Back in November 2010, when I decided I was going back to Manila, I told my friend Leah I wanted to do some kind of charity work aswell. We did a lot of talking back and forth regarding what kind of activity would be the most suitable, but after Leah visited the White Cross Children’s Home and showed me the pictures, I quickly decided that was what i wanted to do. We decided to do it on Valentine’s day, and Leah did all the planning and arrangements with the orphanage. I focused on raising some money from my friends so that we could make the day a memorable one for the kids.

Fund raising

To raise funds i decided to simply ask my friends, family and relatives for contributions. I asked for monetary donations, since it didn’t make much sense to transport stuff across the world; especially when the Philippines is so much cheaper than Sweden. I didn’t expect to raise much, but i managed to raise close to $1000 in just a few weeks, and from a quite small number of friends. I was really amazed by the response and I am forever grateful to the ones that did contribute and offer me support.

Planning & preparation

Me and Leah did a lot of the planning online before i left for Manila. We decided to buy each child a small gift bag, to feed them lunch and to spend the rest of the money on milk that we would donate to the orphanage. The gift bags should contain some items they could use for some time, something fun and also some little piece of candy.

The day before the visit I teamed up with my friend Lenore and went to the Baclaran market in Manila to do some serious shopping. It was a really hot day, and I had to drink a whole lot of water to get through it, but it ended up great. We went back to the hotel with 60 pcs of soap, 60 small towels, 60 toothbrushes and a lot of different toys and candy bars, so that we would have something that would fit kids of all ages. Back at the hotel, Leah joined us and we started packing the gift bags for the kids. This was a tedious task indeed, but we finished in a few hours.

Next up was preparing the pabitins. A pabitin is a typical thing at a filipino children’s party. It’s basically a bamboo frame that you hang treats, small toys and other goodies from. You then hang the pabitin high, and lower it teasingly so that the kids eventually can grab the stuff. Stringing the toys, candy and little treats to the pabitins did take a lot of time, but i turned out really great. Dead tired, but with anticipation for the coming day we went to sleep.

Meeting the kids

We met up the other people joining us for the event at noon and then proceeded to pack the stuff and ourselves into three cabs that would take us to the children’s home, located in San Juan.  After all of us had arrived at the children’s home we started setting up the pabitin, preparing the gift bags and making sure the milk and lunch would be delivered as arranged. After about 15 minutes of preparations, the doors to the orphanage opened, and the kids came rushing towards us. The kids are between 2 and 9 years old and it’s just overwhelming how curious yet well mannered they are. We started with writing name tags for the children and ourselves. My name was the source of much laughter and the kids had a good time trying to pronounce it. I sat at a table with a few girls aged 4-5 and they were all talking to me, trying to tell me things. I was so happy just to be there to listen to them even if i couldn’t understand what they were saying.

We started our schedule with some games, and the kids loved playing them. All of us got involved and there was laughter and happy faces all over. The winner of each game got a small prize, and it really touched my heart to see them share their small prizes with the other kids.

After the games i handed out some candy to them, and it was nice to see how the older kids helped the younger get candy before they took a piece for themselves.

Time just flew by, and it was soon time to serve the kids some spaghetti. It got a bit messy, but it was once again nice to see the older kids taking care of the younger ones. The meal was spaghetti, hot dogs and marshmallows. A true Filipino kids meal, I’m told. It was a bit too sweet for my taste though, but the children loved it, and that’s all that counts.

We all helped clean up the place, and then brought out the pabitins. The first one for the older kids, and the second one for the younger. They really enjoyed this, and i had a really good time watching their joy. It was also heartwarming to see them proudly show off their new things to all visitors.

After this we handed out the gift bags, and i spent a long being surrounded by children wanting to show off their new toys. I got swarmed with kids climbing me, hugging me and talking to me. It’s obvious that what these kids miss most is to be recognized by adults. To be loved, to be seen, to be touched.

It’s getting late, and it’s time for us to pack up the stuff, before we leave.  Since many of the kids have been abandoned in life, it’s better if the kids leave us and we sit in the courtyard as the children give us some last hugs and wave goodbye. After this we do some cleaning and hand over the donations to the woman managing the children’s home. She expresses gratitude and I express my gratitude for allowing me to have one of the most meaningful days of my life with the childre.

Reflections

This was one of the most emotional experiences i have ever been through. I felt like i had all possible emotions hit me throughout the visit, from euphoria to hopelessness. As i carried one of the small girls in my arms, and she clang onto me, my eyes were actually tearing up, and I had to take a few really deep breaths just to keep it back.  The same thing happened as we were leaving and the older girls were shouting my name and “kuya” after me from the balcony. In the other end of the spectra, I can’t really recall a bigger smile on my lips than when some of the kids were proudly showing me their new toys.

But most of all, it was a very humbling experience. It made me realize that my daily problems are indeed pretty insignificant from a wider perspective. There’s nothing i can do in life that would mean i would end up in a situation where i have no one and nothing to rely on, and the visit made me realize that just being born in Sweden makes me a winner in the lottery that is life.

It was with mixed feelings I went to bed that night, but I am very glad I had thi experience, and it is indeed one I highly recommend to everyone.

I’ll end this post with a great video that one of the other attendees made after the visit. Very touching indeed.
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32 Comments to “Visiting White Cross Children’s Home, San Juan, Manila. An overwhelming experience.”

  1. Elle 12 March 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    This is such a great write-up. I think it’s really awesome that you were able to raise that much money and do something wonderful for those kids. Cheers!

    • Tobias 12 March 2011 at 9:52 pm #

      Thank you, Elle!
      Something I think everyone should experience. Such a humbling moment.

  2. anpingen 27 March 2011 at 2:03 am #

    I was here last April 2009 to celebrate my birthday. It was really a great feeling and fulfilling experience. I hope to see them again this year – to celebrate my birthday & have fun with them.

  3. flip 14 May 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    thanks man for helping out my countrymen… more than the gifts, toys and food… the presence of someone who cares for them (even for awhile) is what made everything special for the kids…

  4. diana 27 May 2011 at 3:32 pm #

    Hi, it´s really impressing reading your article.

    I used to live in the philippines for some months and since this time I really love the philippines and their beautiful people. In December I will go to the Philippines with my family. And I would like to visit, of course with some presents I alread collected, the white cross children´s home. Maybe you can give me the exact address and a email address, so I can ask, what they need the most. Thanks a lot in advance,
    Diana

    • Tobias 28 May 2011 at 2:50 pm #

      Hello Diana.

      It warms my heart to hear that more people think of visiting these kids. I hope you will have a great trip to Manila and a great time with the kids.
      White cross Children’s home is located at 276 Santolan Road, San Juan, Metro Manila
      phone number: 724-2145
      email: whtcross@iconn.com.ph

      • diana 23 November 2011 at 7:00 am #

        Hello Tobias,

        I wrote you in May 2011. Now its just a few weeks left to go to Manila and visiting the White Cross Children`Home. Because its christmas time we selected a lot of toys for the children there. I tried to write a email to white cross but it came back. I will try it again, but maybe you have an alternative email address? Maybe you can tell me how many children live there and which age? Are there boys and girls? We would like to bring each child a christmas present. If they do need things like soap, teeth brush, brushes etc. I think I will do it like you and buy it in Manila. Thanks a lot in advance. Much greetings from a very cold Black forest,
        Diana

        • betinasbed 23 November 2011 at 8:38 pm #

          Hi Diana,

          You can contact Wilma ( she’s the Stewardess and Admin Head of the orphanage ) and this is her mobile number : 0063+9205750521

          Have a great time at White Cross. Also, December is a very busy month for them since a lot of organizations celebrates Christmas Party with the kids, call early and have your visit scheduled.

          Regards,

          Leah

          • betinasbed 23 November 2011 at 8:43 pm #

            They definitely need milk and toiletries. The last time Tobby and I were there, there were 62 kids all in all but I am not sure now.

            If you need any help, don’t hesitate to contact me.

            Regards,

            Leah

  5. diana 29 May 2011 at 7:16 am #

    Thanks a lot – we will go there in December (so still some time left) and of course I will tell them how I find th white cross children`s home.
    Once again thank you so much and all the best for you.
    Diana

  6. Jacs_13 22 June 2011 at 1:59 pm #

    So generous of you to donate your time and energy to this cause Tobias. What an awesome example, you Sir, have set the bar very high for everyone! :) Very cool!

    • Tobias 22 June 2011 at 4:01 pm #

      Thank you! It was a great experience, and very humbling. I wish to do more of the same…

  7. Lariza Gabad Cernal 7 July 2011 at 10:12 am #

    Hi! this is Lariza Gabad-Cernal a former client of White Cross 23 years ago.This is a great write up. Nakakatuwang muling nagbalik sa alala ko ang mga panahon na isa rin ako sa mga bata na iyan noon.Now I’m a registered Social Worker and presently working at Onesimo Bulilit Foundation. I do believe that like me, ay magkakaroon din ng bright future someday ang mga batang tinutulungan ninyo ngayon. I wish I go there. thank you White Cross.

    • Tobias 8 July 2011 at 10:09 pm #

      Hello Lariza.

      Thank you ever so much from the comment. It warmed my heart and made me smile. I’m glad to hear you story, and I’m glad you did good in life despite the struggle in your childhood! Go back and see them, I am sure it would be a nice meet for you, and for the kids!

  8. Megan 3 November 2011 at 2:02 am #

    Your whole write up made me tear up. It made me realize how wonderful these kids are and that more people should really appreciate them. I’ve been wanting to do a charity work like this for a long time but since I’m still in school, I couldn’t find the right time to execute it.

    I really want to celebrate Christmas with them. I feel like it’s my duty -as an adopted child- to give back and to give them hope. I didn’t come from an orphanage but I was one of the few kids who got lucky and I want to share my blessings with them. Thank you, because your article finally made me push through with my feelings and start working on my plans for my visit to White Cross this coming Christmas.

    Thank you.

    • Tobias 3 November 2011 at 7:51 am #

      Hi Megan,

      Thank you for your wonderful comment. I hope you will have a great time at the White Cross and I’m sure it will be a very strong experience for you. Please let me know how your experience was. I still think of the kids on a daily basis and I wonder how they’re doing…

  9. DNL 24 November 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    Hello! I was very glad to read your post about White Cross. We just visited the children today for my good friend’s birthday, and it was really overwhelming.

    • Tobias 25 November 2011 at 8:45 am #

      Hello. I agree that it is an overwhelming experience. I checked your link and the pictures take me back. I recognize some of the children in your pictures and it really made my own memories come to life more clearly.

      • DNL 25 November 2011 at 11:57 pm #

        Thank you for sharing your blessings and taking time to make those children happy. As a Filipino, I salute people like you who has a heart to help the needy.

  10. Diana Schatz 28 November 2011 at 8:26 am #

    Hello Tobias,

    I wrote you in May 2011. Now its just a few weeks left to go to Manila and visiting the White Cross Children`Home. Because its christmas time we selected a lot of toys for the children there. I tried to write a email to white cross but it came back. I will try it again, but maybe you have an alternative email address? Maybe you can tell me how many children live there and which age? Are there boys and girls? We would like to bring each child a christmas present. If they do need things like soap, teeth brush, brushes etc. I think I will do it like you and buy it in Manila. Thanks a lot in advance. Much greetings from a already very cold Black forest,
    Diana

    • Tobias 28 November 2011 at 7:16 pm #

      Hello Diana. My friend Leah Answered you before with the only contact info we have. here’s her reply again

      “Hi Diana,
      You can contact Wilma ( she’s the Stewardess and Admin Head of the orphanage ) and this is her mobile number : 0063+9205750521
      Have a great time at White Cross. Also, December is a very busy month for them since a lot of organizations celebrates Christmas Party with the kids, call early and have your visit scheduled.

      Regards,
      Leah”

  11. Gracey 21 December 2011 at 4:28 am #

    I would like to spend my time here… I would like to donate all what i can give this christmas vacation too since i have im free.hahaha…. :))) btw this article is really inspiring …hahahahaha

  12. Nhet 8 January 2012 at 11:16 am #

    Hi did anyone here know how many children in white cross orphanage as of this january 2012

  13. annmadrid 13 January 2012 at 9:16 pm #

    i am a Filipino who migrated in Australia. ive always wanted to give back to the less fortunate kids the great blessings God has has showered on my family. couldn’t help but to tear up when I read your article. very inspiring. for ages now, I’ve been planning to do this but for some reason it never happened. thank you for sparking the desire in me to do this in my life.

    • Tobias 14 January 2012 at 3:14 pm #

      Hello. Thank you for your kind words. Even if it has close to a year since i went there now, i still carry the memories and i would like to think the experience has made me a more humble person.

  14. Tony 27 January 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    You’re such a great “Samaritan” Tobias! Thank you so much for taking time with the less fortunate children of my country. I hope i can also do the same. Keep up the good work!

    • Tobias 28 January 2012 at 2:27 pm #

      Thank you, Tony.
      It was a very nice and humbling experience. Still think about it on a daily basis :)

  15. scorpio1948 19 February 2012 at 11:56 pm #

    Way back in the early 80′s I worked in a private financial institution in Makati (Private Dev. Corporation of the Phils.). I remember our company hosting a children’s party every year in White Cross. We would bring our own kids to mingle with them. Even now when my children are all grown ups, and have children of their own, they have fond memories of those many years of going to a children’s party in White Cross. So I salute those who give their time and money for the welfare of the children in White Cross. May your tribe increase.

  16. Telly How 7 March 2012 at 10:13 pm #

    I searched White Cross to find out how it’s being run now. I used to go visit there to give BCG and other immunizations when Sor Margarita Duran DC was still there. She just passed away last year and I have lost touch. I just know that WC was originally established to take care of children of TB patients. Since i am very active with the Philippine Coalition Against TB, I was wondering how we could do to help.

  17. chris 27 April 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    Hello Tobias- What a sweet story.I was in San Juan in February for a medical mission trip but did not get tp visit the White Cross children. I plan on going back again next Feb.for another medical mission trip and would love to contact them in advance but the email address says it is not valid. Is there another email contact that I may use to contact them? Again, great story. I do agree that volunteering changes your perspective on life . We should not sweat the small stuff.:]

    • Tobias 28 April 2012 at 12:21 pm #

      Hello Chris,

      I’m sorry but i don’t have any other contact info for them. Try calling them! Best of luck!

  18. Mark 31 December 2012 at 4:49 am #

    Hi Tobias

    Thanks to you, i chose White cross as my charity of choice.i started my first donation on Christmas day…hope more people like you will be there to help these wonderful kids….


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