GIFT-GIVING. The names of 100 children from conflict areas in Sta. Catalina, Negros Oriental are written down in "stars" that hang from a Christmas tree at the Robinsons Place mall in Dumaguete City in this undated photo. The gift-giving activity, dubbed "Wish Upon A Star", resumes on Dec. 15, 2022 after being shelved in the past two years due to the pandemic, targeting to make the Christmas wishes of children-beneficiaries come true through sponsors. (Photo courtesy of Aidalyn Arabe)

DUMAGUETE CITY – A total of 100 children from conflict-affected areas in Sta. Catalina, Negros Oriental look forward to their Christmas wishes coming true this year with the resumption of the yearly “Wish Upon A Star” gift-giving activity.

“Wish Upon A Star”, launched 12 years ago by the Oriental Negros Children’s Advocacy Network, with its sub-group Bayanihan Para sa Kabataan (BPK) in the lead, was shelved in the past two years due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

“Now that the pandemic restrictions have been eased, we agreed to resume this Christmas gift-giving activity with our partners but since we were pressed for time for the preparations, we only have 100 slots available for this year,” Aidalyn Arabe, BPK convenor, said on Thursday.

In previous years, the program benefitted as many as 250 children from remote villages that were affected by the communist insurgency, she said.

The Philippine Army, a consistent partner in this endeavor, identifies the beneficiaries and transports them from their barangays to the event venue, the Robinsons Place shopping mall, in this capital city.

This year, the 11th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, based in Siaton town, chose the children from barangays Talalak and Nagbinlod in Sta. Catalina.

Arabe said a Christmas tree has been put up at the mall, with stars bearing the pictures and names of the children and their wishes, being hung for sponsors to choose from.

The gift-giving is scheduled for the afternoon of December 15 at the mall’s atrium, where a meet-and-greet between the children and their sponsors will take place, she said.

They are also working out the details for the feeding program of these children on the same day, she added.

This year’s "Wish Upon A Star" will also pay tribute to its founder, the late Marietta Jambora, who passed away in April last year.

“We will continue her legacy,” Arabe said.

Other partners in this event are the Robinsons mall, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Philippine National Police, and volunteer groups. (PNA)