By Juan Escandor Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Tomas Leonor walks the highways to raise funds for children with cancer. In Sorsogon City, he took another course to pay tribute to the environment.
Leonor, an activist and struggling artist who founded “Step Juan,” a program which aims to raise funds for the treatment and medicines of poor cancer patients, was the guest storyteller of the read-along session held on Oct. 22 in conjunction with the celebration of the Kasanggayahan Festival in Sorsogon.
In tandem with local storyteller Rose L. Enerio, Leonor interpreted before 120 pupils the story of “Flying Trash,” which was written by Mary Ann Ordinario-Floreta and illustrated by Pepper O. Roxas.
Reflecting on his experience while walking to push his advocacy, Leonor delivered allegorical lines of highways complaining about different trash thrown by commuters. The story’s characters are mainly major roads where assorted trash has accumulated.
Reeling from the garbage, the highways choke and develop bumps all over, which, they figure out, would lead to death if they did nothing about it. They agree to shake these off and, with the wind’s help, blow these away to barangays, cities and provinces.
Soon enough, the wastes find their way into houses, buildings and everywhere, making people sick. Maharlika Highway tells the people that the garbage came from them and were going back to them.
The people start cleaning their surroundings, knowing that if they do not, they will get sick and die. They cleaned the roads, rivers, seas, bridges, houses and backyards for many months, and installed garbage bags inside cars, buses, trucks and trains.
When the whole place was clean again, the highways rejoiced.
Asked what she learned from the story, Ma. Fiona D. Duran, 10, quipped that it was very clear that people needed to clean their surroundings and dispose their garbage properly.
What people threw carelessly would always affect them in many ways, like clogged drainage or bad air, Duran said.
Oliver Grant Escolano, 10, said the story taught people not to throw their garbage just anywhere because it would come back to them.
“It also teaches us to always clean our surroundings,” volunteered Glory Reenah Charmy F. Aquino.
Leonor said the storytelling activity of the Inquirer has enriched his advocacy for children’s welfare and is in line with his environmental advocacy as a member of the Greenpeace movement.
He commended the distribution of books to the children which, he said, is a concrete encouragement to them to read books.
Leonor revealed that his campaign to help cancer patients had so far yielded P2 million, which helped provide medication and sustain chemotherapy to some 400 kids, in partnership with the Philippine Children’s Medical Center.