BALARA, QUEZON CITY, February 14, 2004
 (STAR) While most children believe that Valentine’s Day is for grown-ups, 10-year-old Jerome Lumbaca of Caloocan City feels that he too, deserves to celebrate this red-letter day.

Yes, young Jerome will be going out on a date today to celebrate the special day, not with his crush or childhood sweetheart, but with 3,000 other special children just like him who will participate in this year’s Camp Pag-ibig at the Balara Filter Plant in Quezon City.

Every year since 1976, children with physical and mental disabilities gather together for Camp Pag-ibig on Valentine’s Day, signifying the love and concern of camp organizers for children with special needs.

And every year, camp organizers exert all effort to make the two-day camp more meaningful — where participants can feel that sense of belonging, not only in the eyes of their loved ones, but from their peers and the community as well.

This is probably what the camp organizers had in mind when they initiated Camp Pag-ibig back in 1976. Originally intended to serve children and youth with mental disabilities, Camp Pag-ibig has emerged today as one of the more effective programs of providing children with special needs the opportunities to integrate and socialize into the community.

In its 28-year history, camp organizers have never failed to recognize the vital role that the Quezon City government plays in the task of ensuring the over-all success of Camp Pag-ibig. While it was only in 1979 that the city government began hosting the activity, camp organizers have always felt the city government's commitment and overwhelming support to improve the plight of children with special needs.

It is along this line that Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte Jr., who is the honorary camp director for Camp Pag-ibig ’04 and chairman of the 2004 National Mental Retardation Week celebratiion, enjoined all sectors to extend their full support to the coming day-camp for special children at Balara today.

The mayor stressed that these special children are "members of the city populace where care and concern are not only mandatory but should be willingly expressed."

To date, the mayor has already ordered key offices and departments of the city government to coordinate efforts with the Philippine Association for the Retarded in ensuring the success of this year’s camp, which has as its theme: "Pantay na Karapatan Tungo sa Makabuluhang Pakikilahok."

It is also interesting to note that Belmonte has increased the budget for this year’s staging of Camp Pag-ibig from P150,000 last year to P200,000 this year.

"It’s purely a labor of love," says Councilor and QC Council President Pro-Tempore Jorge Banal, when asked what the organizers feel about the project.

"It is really self-awarding," Banal added. Banal is this year’s camp director.

Personalities who have been tirelessly and selfishly working for the yearly holding of Camp Pag-ibig include Dr. Erlinda Lolarga, president of Philippine Association for the Retarded Inc.; Dr. Teresita Inciong, director of DepEd's Bureau of Elementary Education, National Capital Region; Antonio Aquino, president of Manila Water Co.; Orlando Hondrade of Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System; JV Medina, overall project chairman; Capitol Jaycees Inc. president Martin Salaveria; and various City Hall offices and departments.

Activities at the camp include swimming, painting, nature lore, cooking, outdoor games, music, dancing, arts and crafts and survival skills and sports. There are also pre-camp overnight activities for campers and parent seminars which are conducted simultaneously with the camp proper for parents of children with disabilities.

Feb. 25 declared a special holiday The Philippine Star 02/14/2004

President Arroyo has declared Feb. 25 a special non-working holiday in all government and private offices nationwide for the observance of the 18th anniversary of the 1986 EDSA people power revolt.

There will also be no classes at all levels nationwide.

"The EDSA people power revolution restored our democratic institutions and ushered in meaningful political, social and economic reforms in the country," the President said in issuing Proclamation No. 549.

"It is fitting that the people of the Philippines can be given full opportunity to honor the memory of the EDSA revolution with appropriate ceremonies," Mrs. Arroyo said.

The 1986 people’s revolt catapulted into power Corazon Aquino as the first woman president of the country following the ouster of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was forced to flee to Hawaii after the four-day military-backed popular uprising. — Marichu Villanueva

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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