Talentadong Pinoy grand prize winner Wanlu charmed the nation with his skills in puppetry and ventriloquism. For him, however, these passions have become more than just tickets to fame. They have also become a means to uplift and make a difference in the lives of others, especially those who are most in need. “What’s the point of having talents if you’re not going to share them?” he said.
This is the inspiration behind Wanlu’s Papet Bisig, a series of puppet-making and storytelling workshops for underprivileged children, especially those affected by Typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas. The project aims to make education—from literature and mathematics to good values—more fun for kids, while teaching them a special talent that they could use as a source of livelihood someday. “Because each session is just like playing, they are more attentive, more involved and more responsive,” he said.
Bringing new endeavors to life.
Wanlu had been sharing the wonders of puppetry with public schools and orphanages for years, but he felt compelled to do more after he joined Cebu Pacific’s Pasko ni Juan sa Tacloban last December 25. During the Christmas day event, Wanlu and other volunteers, which included CEB employees, entertainers and private individuals, brought holiday cheer to 800 Typhoon Yolanda survivors through special performances, Christmas carols and fun games. “As soon as I left Leyte, I knew that I wanted to go back soon,” he shared. “I realized I could bring Papet Bisig there and hold regular workshops for the people.” Wanlu got in touch with his friend, Efren Peñaflorida, and agreed to have Papet Bisig join the CNN hero’s Kariton Klasrum (pushcart classroom) program on its trip to the typhoon-hit province. A number of like-minded organizations also pledged help, donating art materials and pairs of socks by the hundreds. Cebu Pacific also offered to shoulder their airfare. “By God’s grace, everything just fell into place,” said Wanlu.
The group went to San Fernando School and Rizal Central School in Tacloban. “Initially, a lot of the kids didn’t want to join the classes. They’ve been through a lot—they lost their parents, their siblings, their homes. ‘What’s the point of going back to school?’ they would tell us,” shared Wanlu. The puppets, however, had better luck in getting the children to warm up to them. “When we brought the dolls out, even those who weren’t interested at first, approached us and said that they want to be a part of the session,” Wanlu shared. He added that it was nice to see the kids laughing and playing with their peers, engaged in the class and answering the puppet whenever it asked questions. “They’re learning the lesson for the day without realizing it. They would even memorize and mimic the puppet’s spiels,” he added.
A talent for others.
Papet Bisig turned out to be a promising complement to Kariton Klasrum’s advocacy to give the young survivors hope, and encourage them to go back to school and continue rebuilding their lives. This inspired Wanlu and Efren to make the storytelling and puppet-making workshops a regular part of the pushcart classroom program, not just in Tacloban but also in other hard-hit regions in the Visayas. “It would be an incentive program for the kids. Only those who attend Kariton Klasrum sessions regularly and achieve a perfect attendance record will be given the chance to join the Papet Bisig workshops,” he said. Wanlu shared he wants to touch more lives with the gift he has. He revealed that when he joined Talentadong Pinoy, he had only been a puppeteer and ventriloquist for a year. “I was a newbie in the field, but I won and was even inducted into the hall of fame,” he shared. “That’s the biggest lesson that I want the kids to learn. Even if you’re just starting out, no matter how young you are, you can excel as long as you have the passion and the dedication,” he said.