MANILA,  November 10, 2004
By Marichu Villanueva - Before it was the Payatas kids. Now it is the Tiaong siblings.

President Arroyo found two new mascots in her administration’s call for the nation to link up in the face of a fiscal crisis: the siblings Zeus and Raya Saniano from Tiaong Elementary School in Talisay, Quezon province, who turned over their combined piggy bank savings totaling P1,392.

The President described the two Grade 1 pupils as "young patriots" during her speech the other night before a group of local government officials.

In July 2002, during her state of the nation address, Mrs. Arroyo had presented Jason, Jomar and Erwin from the Payatas dumpsite in Quezon City.

The three boys had supposedly written a letter to her — containing requests for food, shelter and jobs for their parents — and folded it into a paper boat that was to drift down the Pasig River to Malacañang.

The Saniano kids, however, sent their donation consisting mostly of peso coins in a candy box, a support staff who sorts out the presidential mail told The STAR yesterday.

The letter of the two children, dated Sept. 1, was written on lined Grade 1 pad paper, and informed the Chief Executive about their desire to contribute half of their savings to the fund-raising drive "para hindi na po tayo maghirap (so we will no longer be poor)."

Raya donated her piggy bank savings worth P708 while Zeus turned over his coin savings of P684 to the "Bayanihan" Fund.

The Bayanihan Fund was a fund-raising drive initiated in September by Speaker Jose de Venecia, who was the first to pledge P1 million of his personal wealth while the President pledged an equivalent amount.

The President formally introduced the Tiaong children in her speech Monday night after she inducted into office the newly elected officers of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines at Century Park Sheraton Hotel, Manila.

Mrs. Arroyo related to her audience that night how the Office of the President received the donation from Tiaong.

She said she in turn wrote a thank-you letter to Zeus acknowledging receipt of the money, at the same time expressing her profound gratitude to the siblings’ show of patriotism at such a young age.

"Dinadakila ko sa aking puso ang iyong taos-pusong pagmamahal sa bayan at pagmamalasakit sa kapwa sa kabila ng iyong kabataan," Mrs. Arroyo wrote, adding that she hoped that they would serve as an example to those older than them, especially tax evaders.

The President informed the two kids that she has already turned over their individual contributions to the Bayanihan fund to the Bureau of Treasury as chief administrator of the country’s national wealth.

Mrs. Arroyo first revealed the contribution of the Tiaong kids during her "pulong bayan" (townhall) meeting in Iloilo last week, where she inaugurated the 7th SOS (Save Our Souls) Children’s Village at Poblacion Ilaya, municipality of Zarraga.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved