The kids in our little neighborhood are pretty awesome. We met them all months back when seeing a bald, pink Kano mowing the lawn piqued their curiosity and trumped their natural shyness. Since then, they have been coming by every day, hanging out, playing in the yard (they’ve pretty much killed our lawn) and taking part in Michell’s afterschool program.
A bunch of them were having birthdays a few months back, and I suggested to Michell that it would be nice to have a MacDonald’s birthday party for all of them. (My inate Kano-ness came out in that idea – I totally overlooked the impact and place that Jollibee holds in the Philippines!) This was a few weeks before we found out that their families were going to be evicted due to a property dispute in the neighborhood. We bandied around the idea and then we found out and reported on our channel the bad news. Almost instantly, we were inundated with offers of money to go to help them out. This was not expected, and I had to figure out with my limited knowledge of WordPress how to set up a donation drive. A few missteps later, we had it figured out. We set up the “Donate” button and five days later we had raised $1,200 USD – $200 to cover the Jollibee party and $1,000 to help out with the costs of the families’ nipa house. (A neighborhood is allowing them to “squat” on an empty lot about three homes from where they now live!)
We swung by Jollibee and set up the details – the date available was March 1, a few weeks away. Groovy. There were a bunch of options and we checked them all – party favors, balloons, Jollibee appearance, special “Happy Birthday Everyone” cake – check, check and……. check!
We filled out the party invitations and gave them to “lola,” Nikki and Nano’s grandmother who is basically the matriarch of the families. We wanted the invitations to come from the parents and not from us as I really hate that “White guy coming to save the place” trope (a la The Last Samurai, Dances with Wolves, and Avatar). Now, all we had to do was wait for March 1st to arrive…..
Sunday arrives and things go smoothly – a EZ-Ride is rented and everyone arrives on time. (I was worried some catastrophe would occur and the transportaiton plan would fall apart….) The kids go running in waving their invitations and head up to the party area, which Jollibee has already set up. The three Jollibee employees (who were AWESOME) greeted the birthday party celebrants and quickly jumped into a Jollibee dance routine to get them warmed up. After that it was time to play “Bring Me” and another game involving cups and straws. After that, a break was taken for the kids and parents to eat dinner – spaghetti, hot dogs, ice tea and lots and lots of ice cream sundaes. Fully sugared up, the kids then played “Dragon’s Tail” where they hold themselves together in two lines, with the kid on the back having a dragon “tail” towel tucked into his shirt. The two groups then run around trying to catch the other team’s tail before they get their own snatched away. This pretty much turned into utter insanity and – logically – was the best game. Another game involving balloons and chicken dancing followed and then it was time that all present had been waiting for – Jollibee him/herself.
Jollibee came out and the kids went totally bananas. I didn’t realize just how integral the fast food chain’s mascot is until actually seeing it – some of the kids were so happy they actually got teary-eyed. Seeing them, I kinda did, too.
Jollibee talked and played with the kids and then had a little dance routine with them. The female Jollibee employee who was Jollibee (don’t tell the kids!) was an excellent dancer and must of gone to the Jollibee Mascot School as she nailed it. Following that, it was time for the cake. A few false starts on blowing out the candles and they finally got it.
Still sugared up, the kids then zoomed off to the playroom and worked out their ya-ya’s on the big plastic jungle gym there.
Full tummies, soaked in sweat and with some awesome memories, it was then time to go home.
Man, that was a GREAT time.
Super special thanks to everyone who donated to make this happen. I see a bunch of people giving us “props” for doing this, but all we did was fill out some paperwork at the restaurant. Your money made this happen, and we all can’t thank you enough!
Thanks also to the North Road Dumaguete Jollibee crew!! They were super-friendly and really made the party come alive.