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Amidst the devastation wreaked by super typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas, causing tremendous loss of lives, property and livelihood, the SSAP JPIC Scholarship Committee members weighed the relevance of holding its once a year fellowship, the Christmas get-together for its scholars. After deliberation, it was decided that a simple celebration for the scholars to come together as a family in the spirit of Christmas would go on.

On December 7, 2013, the triple celebration – Christmas Party for all, Graduation Party (Batch 2012-2013) and Homecoming (Batch 1996-2011) commenced with the 4:30pm Saturday anticipated Holy Mass at the Main Church. The scholars’ harmonious rendition of mass songs drew appreciative smiles from the Committee members. Parish priest Fr. Joel E. Sulse, OFM proudly introduced the scholars to the congregation and briefed the parishioners of the role played by the JPIC Scholarship Program in reaching out to those who have less in life through education and skills training. Now on its seventeenth year, the JPIC Scholarship Program started with twelve scholars in 1996 and has eighty-three scholars this present school year. In his homily, Fr. Joel enjoined everyone to be examples of God’s love through service to others. For the Year of the Faith and in commemoration of Santuario de San Antonio’s 60th year as a parish, Fr. Joel focused on the need to exemplify goodness, happiness, kindness and God’s love to people around us. The scholars and Scholarship Committee members participated in the Readings, Prayers of the Faithful and Offertory Procession, respectively, Commentator was Mrs. Chloe Periquet.

At the newly-renovated Parish Center festooned with lights and a Christmas tree decorated by Renato and Charo Apacible, with Mama Mary white figurines and other items, the Christmas program started with the singing of the National Anthem by Mary Ann Ramirez of Maligaya. Fr. Joel Sulse, OFM delivered the Opening Prayer and a Christmas Message. Charming co-emcees were Maevic and Annie of the SSAP Single Young Adults. PPC President Jayme Blanco and PPC VP Edmund Lim graced the affair with their presence and distributed the mementos (the St. Francis Prayer) to our scholar graduates from our partner schools, namely, Don Bosco Technical Institute, Makati, Monark Foundation, Laguna, Punlaan School, San Juan, Maligaya Institute and Culinary Arts Services and College scholars. Prizes for Technical and Conduct Excellence and Perfect Attendance were also distributed. They, along with Fr. Efren Jimenez, Bro. Angelo and the Scholarship Committee members; gamely posed with the scholars for group pictures.

There was frenzy in the hall as the scholars donned costumes to perform their numbers in the variety show: the much-cheered Latin ballroom dance exhibition with rhythmic hand and feet movement and hip gyrations; a bouncy hip-hop, sing and dance by an all-girls group which drew a resounding applause; all-male singing group, etc.

Upon registration, each scholar was given a stub for the raffle gifts donated by parishioners. There were prizes for the “Bring Me” game, Christmas singing contest, “Paint Me a Picture” where scholars grouped themselves to re-enact scenes like the “Last Supper”, “Noah’s Arc”, “Wedding at Canaan”, “Birth of Jesus”, “Crucifixion”, among many other games. There were cash prizes too. Thank you once again to our parishioners for their generosity! Our thanks and appreciation to Jolly Gomez, Alli Raval, Marie Tycangco, Alex Li, Hani Roa, Jona Cruz, Dian Balingit, Annie Cerdeno, Mara Boquiren, Maevie Ortiz, and VT Roman who ensured that the games were enjoyed by all.

Clyde Ericson Nolasco, a Lyceum Computer Science scholar graduate and the first SSAP JPIC scholar to apply as a seminarian at the San Carlos Seminary, was introduced to lead the prayer for the blessing of the food. A simple fare turned out to be a sumptuous and filling gustatory delight of menudo and pancit capped with a dessert of minatamis na sago, saba, langka at kamote.

With the exuberance of youth fueled by a hearty meal, the scholars flashed their widest smiles and headed for the Photo Booth sponsored by the SYA Committee for a solo or group shot.

The Christmas revelry ended past 10p.m. Bringing along their souvenir photos, and small gifts to be shared with their siblings, it was a memorable evening that years later the scholars will look back to with fond memories. It marked the beginning of an uphill road they painstakingly trekked. Equipped with education and vocational skills, English proficiency and confident, pleasing personalities, they now hold responsible positions here and abroad. With self-discipline deeply instilled in their hearts as they breathed and lived virtues of dedication, honesty, integrity, loyalty and dignity of service, the asphalt jungle wasn’t menacing as it looked. The future looks bright and welcoming!