Duo brings Yokosuka toy drive to Philippine children
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — No white beard — abundant facial hair would get hot in the Philippines, as would a fur-lined red suit.
Besides, Santa’s physique doesn’t really fall within Marine Corps regulations.
Dress code notwithstanding, Yokosuka’s Marine Sgt. Paul Ylanan and Fleet and Industrial Supply Center civilian contractor Reynaldo Soriano acted the part of the jolly old soul this year when the pair went to the Philippines to deliver toys to some of the country’s impoverished children.
The two — both native Filipinos — traveled to the archipelagic nation on their own dime and spent vacation days furthering Yokosuka’s Toys for Tots program, passing out 300 toys collected at Yokosuka Naval Base.
While the Marines collect Toys for Tots every year, this year they decided to cast their net wider than usual, said Capt. Edward Carpenter.
“One of the things we’ve tried to do this year is reach out to children who, without our help, might have had no hope for Christmas at all; Filipino orphans in the vicinity of Clark Air Base,” Carpenter said.
This meant the pair handed out gifts at a home for street children called the Munting Tahanan Apostolate Foundation Inc. They also gave gifts to 41 kids at Mary’s Cradle Children Home and to 15 boys of Casa Miani Foundation. Visits were made during earlier this month. As of press time, Ylanan had one visit left and Soriano had already returned to Yokosuka.
Besides the homes, they also handed out gifts in the barrios, Ylanan said in a phone interview from the Philippines on Friday.
“It’s humbling,” Ylanan said. “The children are so happy to receive any kind of toy, even the smallest toy you give them … you just see the joy in their faces.”
Soriano works close by the Marines at FISC, and offered his services when he overheard their plans to collect toys for the Philippines, he said. The visit coincided with his leave, he said.
He described the look on the kids’ faces as “priceless.”
“They are praying and hoping that we can come back again next year,” Soriano said. “The worst part is that there are so many orphans around the country and unfortunately we cannot reach all of them.”
Yokosuka’s Marines — through donation boxes and a 5k “fun run” — collected a total of 1,400 Toys for Tots this year with help from several Yokosuka commands, Carpenter said.
Toys were distributed in Japan to the St. Joseph’s Children’s Home, the Children’s Hospital in Yokohama, and the Aijen Orphanage.
Even closer to home, toys also went to Yokosuka’s naval hospital, dental clinic and child development center, plus five active-duty families, Carpenter said. They are looking for names of more local people to help, he said.
But reaching out to the Philippines this year — even with the red tape and politics involved — was a Christmas tradition that they hope to continue, Carpenter said.
“Some people ask, ‘what about all those orphanages and homes that you haven’t helped?’” Carpenter said. “To that I can only answer with the words of ancient Chinese proverb, ‘that it is better to light one candle than curse the darkness.’ This year, we have succeeded in lighting a few candles in Japan and the Philippines; we hope to do more in the future.”