I spent this past Christmas in the Philippines with the kids at
One of my favorite moments during my trip was when I witnessed the kids receive and opened their Christmas shoebox gifts. They were so excited, because it was probably the only Christmas present they would get. When I saw them open their gifts, I felt so happy seeing their joy, particularly seeing a boy name Shaun open his gift that was from me. It didn’t bother me that I didn’t have any gifts to open, because it wasn’t about me. It was about giving to others. I gave my clothes that no longer fit me to some of the boys. They were very grateful to get them! One of them even wore my shirt five days in a row.
One day, my mom brought pizza to the learning center. I was surprised to find out it was the first time for many Sparrow Music students to eat pizza. It was a weird experience for me, because
I eat pizza all the time. I realized I take a lot of things like pizza for granted.
Making friends was one thing I didn’t have trouble with. When my mom and I took some of the kids on a field trip, I got closer with the boys who came. We went to an aquarium in Manila, ate lunch at a seafood restaurant and had food like sisig, sinigang, Kare-Kare, calamari and for dessert, we had halo-halo. After, we watched Star Wars. We had so much fun, and at the end of day, it felt good that we were able to give them a few “first” experiences—first time in an aquarium, first time in a restaurant by the water, first time watching a movie in a theater.
I also had the opportunity to serve God by taking part in Sparrow Music’s Shower of Blessings ministry. This is an event where other children in Payatas can learn about God through fun activities. I helped gather children living in an area that was right next to the dumpsite. It wasn’t a pleasant experience for me, because of the strong, garbage smell. It made me sad to know that they have to live in those conditions every day. The clothes worn by the kids were torn and dirty, their homes were tiny and surrounded by garbage. But despite this, the families living here still greeted us a good morning with smiles on their faces. After bringing the children to the church, we sang, danced, played games and I even had the opportunity to participate in a skit for the kids. Afterwards, I assisted in the washing, soaping, and bathing of the kids. We were having so much fun that nobody wanted to leave.
Although our trip wasn’t long, I learned a lot from being around the Sparrow Music kids and gratitude is one of them. I learned that I should not complain about what I don’t have, because they have very little compared to me. Maybe it’s because their parents have no money to get them anything, but even if they may not have a lot to eat, clothes to wear, or toys to play with, they are still grateful and happy. They are also very helpful, and they do things without being asked. In my opinion, that is one thing that sets them apart from many kids in America.
The Sparrow kids also display a really strong faith in God. They are at the learning center to not just learn about music, but most importantly, to be together and learn about God. They read and study the Bible every day. They always pray for each other, for their families, their teachers and friends, and also for Sparrow Music supporters. Unlike me, they are not afraid to pray out loud. I wish I, too, had the courage to pray the way they do. God has changed them in many ways—attitude and behavior, a reflection of their growing relationship with Him.
I’m thankful to God for the opportunity to visit Sparrow Music. I’m looking forward to coming back.
Nathaniel Balilo, 12, is the son of Sarah Balilo, co-founder of Sparrow Music. He is currently in 7th grade and is also involved in music as a trumpet player.