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No more classes under Banaba Tree

Ma’am Evelyn Urieta-Rivera, Principal of Sta. Lucia Elementary School in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro

When Evelyn Urieta-Rivera, 57, received her new assignment as an elementary school principal three years ago, she was ecstatic. On her 33rd year of service as a public school teacher, Ma’am Evelyn would finally set foot at Sta. Lucia Elementary School, a quaint learning institution situated at the center of Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro. This small school, oozing with that childhood energy and innocence, was built atop her family’s ancestral land.

“Kasi itong land area nitong school na ito, sa family namin nanggaling as donation. Kaya sabi ko nga, sa lahat ng school, ito ang pinakamahal ko (My family donated this land for the construction of this school. So among all schools, this is the one dearest to me),” she added.

In 2016, when Ma’am Evelyn reported for her first day however, a heart-wrenching sight welcomed her. Entering the school from the main gate, she saw a Banaba tree, and under its shade sat 25 or more Grade 2 students intently listening to their teacher.

Three years have passed and the Banaba tree has gone transformations to at least give some level of comfort to its 7-year-old patrons. First, a roof was built, then wooden walls and thin cement flooring were added to give the pupils a sense of a normal classroom set-up, she said.

In 2019, the community of Brgy. Sta. Lucia finally found a solution to address their problem. This community used cooperation and volunteerism to pave the way to finally end the years of having school children learning outside the four corners of a classroom.

CLASSROOM. This makeshift classroom under a banaba tree serves as the second home of the Grade 2 students in Sta. Lucia Elementary School.

Classroom Under a Tree

With a total land area of 2,188 sq. kms, Sablayan is considered as the largest municipality in the Philippines. Located at the central part of Occidental Mindoro, it is famous for the Apo Reef Marine Natural Park, the second largest contiguous coral reef in the world next to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Sablayan may be blessed with a one-of-a-kind natural wonder, but this laidback town hasn’t been exempted to one of the most pressing problems of the Philippine education system – the shortage of decent classrooms for students.

“Andun sa puno lang [sila nagkaklase]. Kapag umuulan, kawawa talaga ang mga bata, tumutulo syempre (They were conducting classes under a tree. When it rains, the roof starts to drip.),” said Ma’am Evelyn, pointing to the make-shift classroom which houses the Grade 2 pupils prior to the completion of the new building.

There were more or less 30 students sharing in the small space under the sturdy Banaba tree, she said. Its large trunk, moreover, looked like the classroom’s centrepiece – a wooden column planted in the center of the room. The children’s future had been literally depending on its branches for many years.

Imagine being a wide-eyed 7-year-old kid staying under a tree for eight hours, five times a week, rain or shine, learning the difference between a noun and a pronoun.

“Kasi kung malalaki ung ilalagay namin doon hindi sila kasya kaya maliliit ung nilagay namin doon (We couldn’t give the makeshift classroom to older students because they wouldn’t fit.),” said Ma’am Evelyn.

These Grade 2 pupils were the perfect tenants then, small enough to fit to the small space provided, yet big enough to take care of themselves when the rain drips from the clouds to the leaves and eventually find their way on their thin cement flooring.

Building School, Building Future

TURN OVER: The newly-constructed 1 unit, 2 classroom building has been formally turned-over to Sta. Lucia Elementary School

“Sobrang thankful kami na nagkaroon ng Kalahi, sobrang tuwang-tuwa ang mga teachers eh, kanina binisita nila ‘yan, ay meron ng ceiling fan, makakalipat na kami (We are very thankful for Kalahi, the teachers are very happy. We visited the new classroom earlier, there’s a ceiling fan already, we may be able to transfer soon),” said Ma’am Evelyn, pertaining to the 1 unit, 2 classroom building sub-project of the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

To date, Kalahi-CIDSS has a total of 206 sub-projects in the province of Occidental Mindoro, 48 of which are in Sablayan. The poverty alleviation program which uses the Community-Driven Development (CDD) approach ensures that community members are in the heart of decision-making especially in identification, prioritization, establishment, and operationalization of the community sub-projects.

In July 2019, the makeshift classroom under the Banaba Tree finally ceased to shelter the Grade 2 students of Sta. Lucia Elementary School. Due to the combined efforts of the community, the school, and the barangay and the municipal local government unit, having classes under a tree is now a thing of the past.

VOLUNTEERISM. Community volunteer Juanita Jarabe proudly posed in front of the school building she helped build.

“Madami pong naitulong [ang Kalahi] at malaki talaga. Ang pangunahing pangangailangan sa community, natutugunan po talaga. Tulad nitong classroom (Kalahi has helped us a lot. With Kalahi, we were able to address our most pressing concern, thus, this classroom),” said Juanita Jarabe, a community volunteer.

Juanita, and the rest of the 16 active community volunteers of Brgy. Sta Lucia, has ensured the smooth implementation of their new classroom worth a little over PHP 1.5 million. Complete with amenities such as tables and chairs, fans, and own restroom, the classroom was constructed from the combined budget of the stakeholders.

Kalahi-CIDSS total grant was at PHP 780,000, to which the municipal LGU gave a counterpart of PHP 500,000, the barangay LGU at PHP 250,000, and even the school has set aside PHP 36,000 from their budget.

For Ma’am Evelyn, the help of the community volunteers and the LGU officials has been vital for the realization of their dream to provide the students the facilities they deserved.

“Nagpapasalamat talaga kami kina Juanita, isa rin sa nagpursige na magkaroon talaga kami nito, sa mga konsehal, sa lahat na nag-counterpart (We are extremely grateful to Juanita and to other volunteers for their efforts, to the councillors as well, to everyone who provided counterpart),” she said.

Juanita, whose youngest child is currently enrolled at Sta. Lucia Elementary School, claimed that she finds volunteer work fulfilling.

“Sabi ko nga sa mga kasama ko masaya ako at nakakatulong ako at nalalaman ko yung mga pangunahing pangagailangan ninyo para magawan ng ng paraan para makahingi ng mga pondo katulad nyang school building (I told my co-volunteers that I am happy for extending a helping hand. At least we’ve identified the major concern and we were able to address it, asking for funds, if needed),” she said.

More than the infrastructure, the lessons imparted by the program has made the community volunteers more devoted to volunteering.

“’Yung mga katulad namin na ordinaryong mamamayan lang ay na-empower po, natuto kaming ipaglaban kung ano talaga ang aming mga karapatan dito sa community (Ordinary citizens, like me, were empowered. We’ve learned to fight for our rights),” Juanita added.

The product of the community’s collective effort is a safer, more conducive for learning classroom for the students – something that Ma’am Evelyn would be thankful for forever.

“Sabi ko nga ma-itransfer man ako bilang principal…masaya na ako kasi makikita ko ang mga bata na maayos ang kalagayan (If ever they have me transferred to other schools, I would still be happy knowing that I would be leaving the kids in a better condition),” Ma’am Evelyn added. ###

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The Wharf of Bancalaan: Reaching the Heart of Balabac, Palawan

Community volunteer Diana Abdula, while cradling her daughter Fatima, narrates how the newly-constructed concrete wharf is helping the island barangay of Bancalaan in Balabac, Palawan.

For the longest time, Diana Abdula, 33, haven’t thought that her feet would be able to step on a hard concrete wharf in their far flung barangay in Balabac, Palawan. For the longest time, there’s no other way out but a 100-meter walk over a creaking – sometimes slippery – rickety wooden wharf under the scorching heat of the sun in summer or the cold needle-like piercing of raindrops during rainy days.

But Abdula, and the rest of the community members, proved that the people have the power to make their lives better.

For a short while now, the 100-meter stretch of hard cement stands proud and mighty – as if announcing to every person who alights from the passenger boats that it is a product of sweat, passion, and hardwork of the Muslim community of Brgy. Bancalaan, Balabac, Palawan.

The Wooden Wharf

The 100 linear meter concrete wharf which replaced the accident-prone wooden wharf that the barangay was using for the longest time.

The island municipality of Balabac is considered as the westernmost point of the Philippines, just a few kilometres away from Sabah, Malaysia. Due to its geographical location, it has long been deprived of easy access to government services and opportunity for growth and development.

To say that the journey to Balabac is rough is an understatement. One has to leave capital city Puerto Princesa in the wee hours of the morning – 2AM is safe, 4 AM is a risk – to travel 272.5 kilometers away to Rio Tuba in the municipality of Bataraza. From there, two passenger boats depart daily at around 11:30 AM.

But the beauty of the municipality is worth the whole day travel. Balabac is home to unspoilt long-stretch of white sand beaches and pristine clear waters.

So it has not been a surprise that this paradise is increasingly gaining attention from local and foreign tourists alike.

For the past years, however, the first thing that welcomed tourists to the municipality was a wharf made of wooden boards. The boards, which were around two inches apart, paved the way to reach the island after more or less 3 hours of sailing along Sulu Sea and Balabac Strait.

Safety, as expected, wasn’t guaranteed.

“Yan dati kahoy lang s’ya, so madalas yung maintenance, madalas masira. Nasa tabing-dagat kasi ‘yan, ‘pag yung pako kinalawang na, automatic ‘yun, luluwag na. Pag lumuwag na, makakalas na yung mga tabla tabla, tapos madalas, may mga nahuhulog, nalulusot (Before, the wharf was made of wooden boards, so the maintenance was frequent. Since it was near the shore, nails become rusty easily. When that happens, the wooden boards would then be unusable,and there were incidents of people falling down the holes),”said Rolly Reyes, Brgy. Captain of Bancalaan.

Maintenance cost for the wooden wharf was also a problem for the barangay due to frequent retro-fitting.

“Kapag may nasira doon, nabulok ang kahoy, di naman pwedeng ang papalitan mo yun lang, kailangan totally buuin mo lahat kasi mabilis lang din masisira (When one wooden board gets damaged, we couldn’t replace that specific board alone. So we usually overhaul the whole wharf or at least large segment of it),” he added.

The wooden boards, moreover, were bought from mainland Palawan adding more logistical costs. The price of the boards alone was estimated at around PHP 1,000 per piece. Add the transportation cost and the price ballooned to an amount that took its toll to the budget of the barangay.

Cementing the wharf, Cementing progress

Bancalaan Brgy. Captain Rolly Reyes

Home to 14,500 individuals, around 99% of whom are Muslims, Brgy. Bancalaan is composed of two islands. The wharf, which costs PHP 4,831, 623. 79, is situated in the major island is considered as the entry point to Balabac.

For Brgy. Captain Reyes, this wharf serves as the face of the municipality, giving tourists their first impression of what Balabac is and what it has to offer.

So when the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan – Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) of the Department of Social Welfare and Developmemt (DSWD) reached their municipality, the people of Bancalaan did not think twice on proposing a better, and definitely safer wharf.

Not only does this new wharf look so much better, but it also helps in the economic development of this far-flung community.

The 100 linear meter concrete wharf, completed on May 2019, eases some economic burden to the residents of Bancalaan.  For the longest time, they would pay the porters Php 30.00 per sack of goods that has to be carried across the wooden wharf up until it reached the beach area.

Abdula, born, raised and eventually started a family in Bancalaan, recalled how hard and expensive it has been for them to transport goods from neighboring town Bataraza to their barangay.

“Kapag galing pa sa Rio Tuba, namasahe ka na sa passenger tapos nagpa-estiba ka pa d’yan tapos namasahe ka pa sa motor. Kaya medyo mahal ang paninda dito (From Rio Tuba, you’ll pay for the passenger boat fare and then for porter services and then for tricycle. So the goods sold here are relatively more expensive than normal),” said Abdula.

Involving the community, Creating a legacy

The residents of Barangay Bancalaan waiting for the passenger boat to Balabac mainland. When the concrete wharf was constructed, motorcycles have been able to reach the docking area easing some economic burdens for the community. 

If Brgy. Bancalaan is the heart of Balabac, the community volunteers are considered as the heart of the barangay.

If not for them, we wouldn’t be able to step on a wharf made of hard concrete, said Brgy. Capt. Reyes.

The first-termer Brgy. Captain believed that the community’s involvement in the process of project development – from planning to implementation – has contributed a lot to the completion of the wharf which benefits all of the residents of barangay, neighboring barangays, and even tourists that are starting to flock their municipality.

“’Pag involved ang tao syempre mas aalagaan nila ang proyekto, ‘pag involved ang tao, concerned sila, ‘pag may nakita silang [mali], may mag-rereact. Kasi syempre, merong makikialam, merong makikiisa, ‘yun ang advantage talaga pag involved [ang community]. Saka sa lahat ng proyekto,  ‘yun ang tama, involve mo ung community (When the community is involved, they would definitely take care of the project, they are concerned so when they see something odd, they would react. There are people who would show no indifference, who would cooperate; that’s the advantage of community involevement. And that’s the right thing to do in project development),“ said Brgy Capt. Reyes.

In the Kalahi-CIDSS process, the beneficiary community are in the frontline. Community volunteers are chosen to execute the processes needed for project completion. Decisions for them are made by them. For Brgy. Captain Reyes, this has led to the community’s sense of ownership over the wharf.

“Amin ‘yan. Kami ang gumawa n’yan. Pinaghirapan namin ‘yan. Involved kami d’yan. Alaala namin ‘yan (That’s ours. We made that. We exerted effort for that. That’s our legacy),” he added.

From now on, for a very long time, the legacy of the volunteers of Brgy. Bancalaaan will surely be of great use to the community. The wharf, created with passion, vigor, and the undying hope to make life in the island easier, will let this generation – and the ones that will follow – boar the passenger boats safer and free of worry. #

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Quenching the Thirst to Progress: A barangay in Balabac, Palawan’s journey towards clean, potable water

When the water services in Metro Manila were suddenly cut off early March in 2019, a fiasco ensued.

Residents from all walks of life lined up for water. Social media were saturated with disappointed, angry comments, just like how the streets of the nation’s capital were suddenly filled with rows of water containers, pails, and just about anything that could hold the precious liquid.

But in one of the barangays in the island municipality of Balabac, Palawan, the recent scenario in Metro Manila was the norm – up until the community, Local Government Unit (LGU), and Kalahi-CIDSS project of Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) worked hand in hand for the completion of a water system.

Shallow Wells

PUBLIC WELLS.  Prior to the completion of Level II Gravity-Fed Water System of Brgy. Poblacion 1, Balabac, Palawan, residents could be seen lining up to fetch water from shallow wells.

The municipality of Balabac, the southernmost town of the province and westernmost point of the Philippines, is gradually becoming famous for its Maldives-like pristine waters and white sand beaches. Unknown to many however, the town is facing one of the usual but probably the most challenging problem for islands – the scarcity of clean water.

From capital city Puerto Princesa, a trip to Balabac means a four-hour land travel to barangay Rio Tuba in Bataraza. Reaching the port past 8 AM, however, would most of the time guarantee another night’s stay near the area. The tickets for the two passenger boats sell like pancakes. Not surprising though since only these two trips daily cater for the municipality’s 40, 142* residents.

After more or less 4 hours of travel along Balabac Strait and parts of Sulu Sea, Balabac Island, which is only around 50 kilometers to Sabah, Malaysia, would be reached. There, near the gateway to the island lies Barangay Poblacion 1, the island’s center of commerce and government activity.

Poblacion 1, or Pob 1, as people fondly call the area, not just houses the Municipal Hall, the Rural Health Unit and the National Power Corporation, but also the home of some shallow wells – the resident’s source of water.

Holes ranging from 2 to 4 meters deep could be seen near the roadside. Just wide enough for a pail to be brought up and down, these wells provide the residents water for doing their laundry, for washing the dishes, and for quenching their thirst.

The problem though was that these shallow wells weren’t producing abundant water enough to supply the demands of the barangay. On bad days, the residents could only fill one pail every 30 minutes.

Jonathan Montalba, 38, recalled the usual scenario every summer season, the time of the year where the minimal water from the wells became even harder to fetch.

“Oras na ganitong tag-init minsan hindi nakakatulog yung mga tao sa kababantay ng tubig kasi pila pila [During summer, residents sometimes didn’t get to sleep since the queue for fetching the water were longer than usual),” said Montalba, a community volunteer.

In fact, there was a time that he had to queue for 20 hours just to bring home water enough to make their 30-gallon container half-full.

“Ang hindi ko talaga makalimutan ay yung mag-iigib ako dun sa may Brgy. Poblacion 2, tapos inaabot pa ako ng alas-kwatro ng madaling araw magbantay kasi ang daming nakapila. Pumunta ako dun ng 8 o’clock ng umaga (I really couldn’t forget the time when I fetched water near barangay Poblacion 2 and I ended up going home at 4AM. I went there at  8 AM the previous day),” he added.

The 15-gallon water Montalba had fetched was used to wash dishes, for cooking, and for drinking.  Fortunately his family owns a piece of land in another barangay near the river.

THE COST OF WATER. For the residents of Barangay Poblacion 1, filling a gallon of water could mean losing sleep and and getting into heated argumantes.

“Tapos ung panglaba, pangligo, dumadayo pa kami sa bukid. Sa brgy 6 naman kami umuuwi kasi  may bukid kami dyan. Dun na kami naliligo, dun na kami naglalaba, pag umuuwi kami ng bukid, dinadala na namin ung labahin namin doon (For laundry and taking a bath, we go to our farm in Brgy. Poblacion 6. There is a river there),” said Montalba.

But not all 374 residents of Barangay Poblacion 1 were as stark lucky as Montalba. Most of them, aside from those who have their own private wells and those who could afford paying PHP200 for a drum of water, were reliant to the public wells for all their water needs.

And when the heat of the weather clashed with the thirsty residents of the barangay, misundertandings were inevitable.

“Dati nagbabaranggayan pa yan, nagsusuntukan dahil lang sa tubig, nagmumurahan dahil sa tubig (Before, there were cases of heated arguments and fist-fighting just because of water. People were even cursing each other),” said Montalba.

Making and sustaining the “Oasis”

Since November 2018, the residents of Barangay Poblacion 1 were no longer clawing their way through the long queues of pails and containers waiting for their turns. When the Level II Gravity-Fed Water System was finally operational, the residents no longer have to line up for hours for water just enough for their families’ drinking needs.

Now, the residents can enjoy clean water from 14 tap-stands situated within the barangay.

But what has changed in the barangay that led them to find a solution to the generation-aged problem?

When the Kalahi-CIDSS program of DSWD went to Balabac, the Local Government Units, from municipal down to barangay level, community volunteers, and the community members did not let the opportunity of finally addressing their most pressing problem pass.

Montalba, and the rest of the community volunteers, poured all their dedication and commitment to the program since the start of the sub-project. They gave their efforts, time, and even used a part of their meagre income just to make clean water adequate and accessible to their fellow ka-barangays.

It wasn’t an easy process, Montalba recalled.

Documents had to be submitted on time, barangay assemblies had to be conducted to get the people’s decision, and materials have to be procured. And although DSWD staff were there to guide them, the community volunteers were the lead in every step of the way.

As an island municipality, procurement of materials for the construction of the water system became a problem.

“Doon talaga kami nahirapan sa paghahanap ng supplier kasi naka-ilang beses kaming nagbigay ng quotation, walang nagku-quote. Kasi ang layo nga naman ng Puerto Princesa sa Balabac (When we were looking for supplier, that was when we had it difficult. Nobody was giving quotations because Puerto Princesa is really far from Balabac),” said Montalba.

Excluding waiting time, the travel from Puerto Princesa to Balabac is more or less 9 hours on good days. Rainy and typhoon seasons, completely paint a different picture.

But the volunteers didn’t lose hope and found a strategy.

“Ang ginawa namin hinati-hati namin. ‘Di ba kasi dapat ‘pag kumukha ng supplier deliver on site? Ang ginawa namin, hinati namin yun, nagkuha kami ng supplier, nagkuha din kami ng transpo. Kasi kung isasagot pa yung transpo doon sa supplier, ‘di nila papatusin (It should have been deliver on site, right? But what we did was we find a supplier, and we pay another entity for the transportation. We figured that if we wouldn’t be able to find a supplier who would shoulder the transportation expenses),” said Montalba.

And with that, the construction of the water system was completed.

Now, the volunteers from Barangay Poblacion 1 is making sure every household in their barangay gets enough water.

With the creation of Poblacion One Water System Association (POWSA), an organized group of community volunteers who manages the water system, a scheduling of on and off hours per tap-stand is in placed to ensure proper distribution of water.

For Montalba, however, the Kalahi-CIDSS program gave them more than just clean water.

“Hindi na nagkakaaway-away, kung mayroong problemang ganyan [hindi nakaka-igib], lumalapit na agad sila sa kung sinong nakatoka doon (Misunderstandings between neighbors have stopped. If someone was not able to fetch water, they immediately file their complaints through proper channel),” said Montalba.

The water system indeed gave the barangay the clean water they’ve been dying to have and the system that makes their relationship to each other better.

Now, residents of Barangay Poblacion 1 no longer line up for hours. They no longer have to manually bring a pail up and down the well. They can now sleep peacefully at night knowing that there’s enough water in their containers, and the feeling of thirst is just in passing and can easily be quenched. #

 

*data from 2015 census

Note: The Level II Gravity-Fed Water System of Brgy. Poblacion 1, Balabac, Palawan is one of the sub-projects of Kalahi-CIDSS program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Through the Community-Driven Development approach, the said sub-project was identified, implemented, and owned by the community.

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Building Hope One Library at a Time

Paluan, Oriental Mindoro – Located in the northern part of the Mindoro region, this municipality is home to over 3,500 people of diverse ethnoliguistic tribes dominantly of Hanonoo Mangyan origin.

Despite its peaceful terrain, the municipality experienced gun violence in this once peaceful town due to political turmoil.

However, efforts poured in the recent years by the government and civic organizations contributed much to its gradual decline in the recent years.

With a violent past shadowing this fifth class municipality, people here are slowly turning their focus on education with high hopes on the younger generation to shed brighter light and eventually lift them from poverty.

“The children of Paluan have all the equal potentials of becoming great leaders and excellent professionals,” Rolando Blanes said. A native son of Paluan, he chose to serve his own people at his residence in barangay Toon as a teacher for over two decades before promoted to principal in adjacent barangay Harrison in 2011.

 

Library of hope

Having spent nearly half of his life in Paluan public schools, Blanes was a witness to the plight of children especially in the town’s outskirts.

Harrison Elementary School where he is head, is the second largest school in Paluan with close to 200 students. It caters to children not only from Harrison but from the neighboring barangays of Poblacion and sitio Tumawan as well.

Despite having more than half of its students as recipients of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, Harrision Elementary School has turned into one of Paluan’s top performing schools- even representing the province in many competitions.

It has, however, one problem – children in the said school never saw a library.

“We know what a library is but we never get to experience having one,” Grade 5 student Jeremiah Bulda said in vernacular.

The establishment of a two-unit building intended for a library and a clinic was almost close to realization last 2013.

Under the Kapit-bisig Laban sa  Kahirapan – Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS), Paluan was granted  a total of over P2 million to implement infrastructure projects from 2015 to this year.

 

However, the building proposal did not reach the priority cut-off point and was shelved.

The Kalahi-CIDSS is one of the poverty alleviation programs of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) which anchors on community empowerment and grassroots approach in implementing its projects.

“We were a little saddened because the community was pushing for it,” Blanes said. In a series of consultation, the community even agreed on the site and vowed to help in its construction, he added.

However, Paluan was able to receive a blessing early this year as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) will be funding proposals to build educational institutions.

Two projects in Paluan were given grants: one is the two-unit building in Harrision Elementary School and a Day Care Center in Brgy. Toon.

“With the library, we can truly open more doors of learning through books and equip our children the knowledge they can use in the future. After all, our hopes of a better Paluan lies in our children,” Grade 4 teacher Archie Pre stated.

Once fully furnished, the clinic and library will be open not only to Harrison Elementary School students but to nearby schools and the community as well, according to Blanes.

 

Basic necessity

In nearby Brgy.Toon, similar feelings of euphoria swept a small community on learning they will no longer use a dilapidated stage as a classroom soon. They, too, have proposed this project under the Millennium Challenge Coorporation funding of  Kalahi-CIDSS but did not also make the cut.

Day Care teacher Leonora Anting, 26, described it as a “very big blessing” to the community she has served for quite a few years.

Like Blanes, Anting opted to serve her own community despite a meagre salary of P3,000 a month. She sewed basic education in Toon as a kindergarten teacher for three years before becoming a day care teacher, now on her second year.

Typically, a Day Care classroom consists of a lot of visual materials posted across the four walls such as color charts, animated alphabets and animals, or attendance charts. But this is not the picture in this barangay.

Anting said classes were once held in a condemned building before it was moved in a narrow classroom shared with the kindergarten. This year, they transferred to the small stage of Toon Elementary School with only a roof and a wall on one side of the building separating the users from the elements, but it is the only space available.

Without the 2-by-3 foot plain chalk board, it looked like a scene from a children’s mini play tea party.

Carmencita de Lara, 64, knew very well the hardship of getting basic education here.

“Classes are cancelled even if it only drizzles a little because the wind sprays rain on the children,” de Lara lamented.

On school days, she checks on the weather before accompanying her granddaughter Kristel, 4, walking 500 meters to school as she has done for the past six years. Kristel is her sixth grandchild to escort going to the very same Day Care institution.

De Lara said she made it a commitment to see her grandchildren attend and finish school.

“Right now, it is a basic necessity. If they will do well in school, they have better chances of staying out of poverty like where we are,” she said.

Anting said the construction of the Day Care Centre would not only provide a conducive environment for learning but will entice more children to enroll. As of this writing, Toon Day Care Centre has 23 enrollees.

The two projects in Paluan were selected based on the local government unit’s willingness to provide a financial counterpart. These will be implemented using the process of the Kalahi-CIDSS Project whereas the local government unit and the community members will provide their counterpart through finance or labor. The community members will also lead in its implementation including the preparation of program of works, procurement of materials, disbursement of funds, monitoring and evaluation, among others.

The DFAT has allotted P1.088 million for the two-unit clinic and library building in Harrision and over P586,000 for Toon.

Like Anting, Blanes banks his hopes on the younger generation to get the most of education as he says could be people’s key to unshackle themselves from ignorance and poverty.

“As they say knowledge is power and one thing is for sure, knowledge from education can never be stolen,” Blanes said with a smile.

 

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To the Top: A Journey Towards Volunteerism and Leadership

ACTIVE VOLUNTEERISM- Giovannie Fabro, 32 represents their community’s Operation and Maintenance Group on the Organizational Development and Management Training of Kalahi  CIDSS.

Traversing the coconut plantation in the morning and organizing youth groups in the afternoon has been the routine of Giovannie, a dark, well-built man in his early thirties with a face chiseled by hard work and a heart molded by volunteerism.

Giovannie Fabro, more well-known in his community as Giovan is the Barangay Sub-Project Management Committee (BSPMC) Chairperson of Barangay Toctoc in Banton Romblon. From a by-stander to a volunteer, Giovan said that he has found more meaning in life when he was immersed in volunteerism and in Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi CIDSS).

New Chapter

Like many of the youths in Banton, Giovan worked in Manila. Numerous factories hired him until he has worked himself to exhaustion. Realizing that his income was not enough to support his family in the province, Giovan decided to go back home to take care of his parents.

He worked on their copras business to earn a living. Even with lesser income, he admitted that going back home was one of the best decisions he has ever done.

His caring and gregarious personality earned him a lot of buddies in Brgy. Toctoc. They usually hang-out and play basketball on the community court where the Kalahi CIDSS Barangay Assemblies (BA) were frequently conducted. This hobby of his had introduced him to the program and to volunteerism.

The raising hands of the people in the half court intrigued Giovan as they rest after a basketball game and he listened to what they discussed. He learned that the people were voting for a sub-project that they wanted to have in their community. Amazed on how the people are given the freedom to have a project of their choice, Giovan decided to join the next meetings.

In the beginning, he admitted that attending the assemblies of Kalahi CIDSS was like learning a foreign language. “Napakadaming acronyms yung nababanggit nila at hindi ko talaga maintindihan kaya tinatanong ko yung katabi ko.” (I do not understand the numerous acronyms that they mention thus I ask the person next to me about the meaning of those acronyms.)

He chuckled as he added, “umabot na sa pagkakataon sa assembly na nainis na yung katabi ko sa katatanong ko kaya linayasan nya na ko.” (One time, during the assembly, my seatmate got tired of my asking thus he walked away.)

The Heart of a Volunteer

On the second cycle of Kalahi CIDSS, he actively participated and was elected as a member of the Project Implementation Team (PIT).

A sudden change in Giovan’s routine had happened when he became a volunteer. His usual lazy afternoons were changed to attending meetings of the BSPMC and studying the community procurement manual.

Eventually, he discovered his passion to volunteerism when he attended the community volunteers’ training. This has also been his inspiration to organize a youth group called Uswag Banton. The group aims to re-plant trees in the area.  In addition, he encouraged the members of the group to take part in Kalahi CIDSS and they help the community empowerment facilitator to gather people during barangay assemblies.

The community members witnessed his industry as a community volunteer. Thus, they decided to elect him as the BSPMC chairperson of Barangay Toctoc on the third cycle of the program. Mrs. Yolly Felita, one of the elders in Brgy Toctoc said that she is convinced that Giovan will be a good BSPMC chairperson.

Despite this, Giovan admitted that he had second thoughts on accepting the new post.

Nevertheless, his dream of giving his community a safe and sustainable drinking water has surfaced than his fear of greater responsibility. “Sabi ko sa sarili ko, ngayon pa ba ako titigil kung kelan malapit na naming makamit ang pangangailangan ng aming komunidad?” (I said to myself, would I stop now, now that the need of our community is almost within our reach?)

Community Empowerment Facilitator of Brgy. Toctoc Shirley Vallez recounted a story on how Giovan has shown his dedication to the project. According to her, “Si Giovan ang nanguna noong kailangang i-konekta pababa sa bundok yung tubig kahit medyo masama yung pakiramdam nya. Na-amaze ako sa batang yan kasi kita mo sakanya yung passion na tumulong kahit may sinat sya.” (Giovan lead the community to connect the water from its source in the mountain down to their community and he was not feeling well when he did it. I was amazed on that kid because you can see his passion to help even he is sick.)

Beyond service

Giovan saw how the community driven development process has transformed his flat and passive community into an active one. From his account, he was amazed on how his community was able to work together in spite of political ramifications because of their common goal of having access to clean and potable water.

Consequently, Giovannie discovered his leadership talents in becoming a Kalahi CIDSS volunteer. From the timid man, he was now able to speak in front of his community and other crowds. He recounted the moment where he shared his reflection during the BSPMC training in Makati and he said he never felt so proud before.

“Kung may sasabihin ako at alam kong tama at makakabuti, sasabihin ko yun” (If I have something to say that I know is right and will contribute to the greater good, then I will say it) said Giovannie. He added “Sana ganun din ang gawin ng mga ka-barangay ko“(I wish that the people in my community would also do the same.)

Giovannie has been a volunteer of Kalahi for 2 years now and as a volunteer he had a lot of realizations in life, in his community and in the municipality of Banton. “Sana ay tigilan na ng kababayan ko ang panlilibak sa iba dahil lang sa pulitika. Panira sa pag kakaisa ng Bantoanon yang ganang gawain.” (I wish that people would stop destroying others for the sake of their political endeavors. This kind of action destroys our hope of uniting the Bantoanons for the common good).

All of Giovannie’s BSPMC colleagues have previously held posts in public service. With this, he was teased by his ‘kuyas’ that he must try his luck in politics and run as a barangay councilor. He said that he feels awkward whenever such topics are being discussed.

All Giovan know is his true calling is to serve his community beyond Kalahi CIDSS.

Kalahi CIDSS is a poverty alleviating program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development that employs the process of community driven development to empower the community which would empower the people, promote good governance, and alleviate poverty in the community. ###

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Be a Volunteer

Be a VolunteerThe Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) MiMaRoPa is looking for volunteers to help with its relief operations for the victims of Typhoon Nona in Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon provinces

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Urduja of Seaweeds Production in Taytay Palawan

Seaweeds

Gaudiosa M. Alto, president of Bagong Pag-asa Association, is known as Urduja of Seaweeds Production.

Urduja is a legendary Filipino heroine recognized for her strong leadership and passion for serving the people. Deviating from stereotype about woman being weak and passive, Urduja showed that she is a ruler who can mobilize and defend her people. She is a true legendary warrior.

In the midst of sea paradise in Taytay Palawan, there is also a strong, independent and dedicated woman recognized as Urduja of Seaweeds Farming.

Gaudiosa M. Alto, 63, is the president of Bagong Pag-Asa Association (BPA), an organization guided by Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) IV- MiMaRoPa Sustainable Livelihood Program.

During the field visit, as the cold breeze touched her skin and splash of water lingered in her feet, Gaudiosa started to tell her story. Her stories pierced the heart and soul of the listeners. She looked straight into our eyes and sincerely told every chapter of the book of her life: every journey she had encountered, every failure she had tasted and every triumph she had reached.

As she gazed in the sky painted with mixture of  gray and tangerine triggering a feeling of longing, she reminisced her experiences before the SLP Seaweeds Production.

Life dark as a coal

 

Life before the SLP seaweeds production was full of hardship and uncertainty.

“Mahirap po ang buhay namin dati bago ‘yang SLP, para pong laging may pangamba,” recalled Gaudiosa.

Coal mining was her primary source of income.  As a coal miner, Gaudiosa’s life was full of darkness and fear.  It was always like a vacuum: sufocated with emptiness and no direction.

Her life was always at risk.

“Dati po kaming nag-uuling. Para kami ay maka-survive (pinasok na namin ang pag-uuling). Ay mahirap mag-uling! Buhay ang nakataya dyan,” said Gaudiosa while trying to control the crystal clear tears from falling in her eyes.

Aside from being illegal, coal mining posed risks in her health and her environment.

However difficult life has been, she didn’t lose hope.  Risks of her previous work pushed her to look for greater opportunities.  With the help of Edilberto Y. Felizarte, Pamantulon Taytay Palawan Barangay Chairman, Gaudiosa discovered the opportunities offered by SLP.

“Huminigi si kapitan ng tulong sa SLP kung pwede raw bigyan kami ng hanapbuhay. Ito nga ang binigay, ang pagse-seaweads,” Gaudiosa stated.

 

Seaweeds: treasure in the heart of sea paradise of Taytay, Palawan

 

Sustainable Livelihood Program introduced Seaweeds Production in 2013.  This project has been offered by DSWD-SLP to Gaudiosa since the municipality of Taytay provides a sustainable environment for seaweed production because it is strategically located in a relatively typhoon-free area having wide reef areas, extended marine coastlines and wide coastal shelves.

Aiming to improve their knowledge and skills in seaweeds farming, Gaudiosa, together with other partner-beneficiaries, undergone the six (6) day training of SLP provided by the Department of Agriculture Bureaus of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Regional Fisheries Training Center Palawan and DSWD-SLP.

This six days of training changed their lives forever.

Asked about her life transformation, Gaudiosa answered genuinely. Her voice rattled and became more sincere.  Her eyes widened as if letting you glimpse into her soul.

“Napakasaya ko po. Malaking tulong talaga pag-seaweeds sa amin. Laking pagbabago po talaga,” said Gaudiosa while posing her sweetest and sincerest smile.

She was able to breakaway from dragging and hazardous livelihood. No more sleepless nights worrying what will happen to them during their work. No more despair on things they can’t give and promise to their family. No more emptiness, risk and darkness — only light and future full of hope and prosperity.

 

Godsend Wealth: Benefits of Seaweeds

Seaweeds2

Seaweeds farmers preparing the propagules for planting in the sea paradise of Taytay, Palawan.

Treasure in the heart of sea paradise of Taytay Palawan brought illuminating light in the dark life of Gaudiosa.

Every strand of seaweeds is like a rope made of gold, a discovered wealth.  Seaweeds served as the primary source of income, it strengthen the tie of relationship with her family and knitted her closely with the community.

Gaudiosa’s wealth is her family. As bread winner,  she spends all her income for her family, most specially for the education of her grandchildren.

“Dito kami kumukuha ng pagkain at mga gamit na pampaaral sa aming mga anak.”

Seaweeds also transformed the lives of members of her community.

With the help of DSWD-SLP, two major associations were organized: Bagong Pag-asa and Taytay Palawan Seaweed Farmers Federation.

Gaudiosa is the president of Bagong Pag-asa. It is noticeable that all her members are all men and yet, everyone of them has high regard and respect for Gaudiosa. She really shows great leadership in the members of her association. Indeed, she is Urduja of the seaweeds production.

During the  planting and harvesting season, everyone gathers together —  sharing unceasing stories, unwavering hopes and never-ending laughters.

 

Everlasting Treasure: Sustainability of Seaweeds Production

 

With the success she has tasted, Gaudiosa don’t want to remain dependent on what SLP and other agencies have given them. She wants a sustainable business. She is dreaming of being in full control of seaweeds production, free from the abuse and cruelty of middle men.

“ Malaki na po ang tulong ng SLP. Pero syempre po hinihiling ko po na kami na talaga mamahala sa seaweeds. Para po hindi na kami umaasa sa mga middle man. Madalas po kasi lugi kami,” emphasized by Gaudiosa.

Seaweeds is in demand in the market all year round thus making it more sustainbale with the technical support from partner agencies in the areas of organizational development and marketing.

 

 

Victory of Urduja of Seaweeds Production

 

Gaudiosa like Urduja has tasted countless battles in her life but she remained standing like a true warrior. In her journey, no matter how many gigantic waves will come and collosal combats she will encounter, she will alsways give a whirl in order to protect and serve her family and her people.

For all the victories she has achieved, she is grateful to her family and seaweeds farming: the true treasure of her life. ###

 

 

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I’m a 4Ps scholar

They call us the lower class, the twerps, a burden to the government. They dub us dependents, supposedly merely after government doles. They call us the poorest of the poor, the beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

Let me tell you people, we are less fortunate but we are not stupid. Yes, we are receiving a certain amount from the government, to alleviate our current situation, which is the program’s primary objective. But, is it really a basis for social discrimination and bullying?

I am a 4Ps scholar, one of the beneficiaries of the Expanded Students’ Grant-In-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA), to be particular about it. So, what do you think? I am giving you the freedom to say something about it. Are you one of those judgmental persons or among the rational ones?

When I first heard about the opportunity to avail myself of the ESGP-PA, I thought of my dreams becoming possible. It was as if chance had found a deserving student who desired to make a difference in her life, in her family, and in her society. Eventually, I became a lucky grantee. I consider that a significant gift that drew me closer to achieving my aspirations.

For me, tuition and other school fees, academic and extracurricular expenses, the purchase of textbooks, the lack of stipend and transportation fare ceased to be constant worries in the pursuit of a college degree. Each grantee is entitled to P30,000 per semester, and that has been making a difference.

But, the difference includes social discrimination and bullying. Some fellow students say something to this effect: “Those 4Ps scholars, they already have the scholarship, and they’re also given special treatment.” Those students who belong to well-off families look down on us when they learn that we are ESGP-PA grantees, as though we were unsightly.

The worst thing was when, in class, a professor presented his opinion on the program’s “dependency” on the government and how our expenses as grantees were being shouldered by taxpayers including himself, all because of irresponsible parenthood. His opinion just seemed so biased. It appeared that he did not realize: What could this mean, how could this affect, an ESGP-PA grantee in his class?

These have happened, not just to me, but also to my fellow 4Ps scholars. It’s like being a 4Ps scholar is a sin, that being less fortunate is a sin.

We are not the proponents of this program; we are merely the chosen recipients. I’ve come to think: What if everyone is a 4Ps beneficiary? Will their views still be the same? Will the treatment be just and fair? Why does social hierarchy matter a lot in building a community? Irrationality will never unite a country.

This is not all about irresponsible parenthood; this is reality. Poverty is present in the country. We are not building a poverty society. In fact, we strongly want to get out of that status. We strive to lift our families out of poverty and eventually give back to the economy.

I feel that I should just shut my mouth whenever they throw gibberish at us and degrade the ESGP-PA. Yet my open mind cannot fathom the fact that those words come from supposedly educated people who should know better than us. It is just a manifestation that someone can be educated but not learned.

Still, I extend my thanks to the government for providing a great opportunity for deserving students to complete tertiary-level education. I will focus on the positive goals. We’ll eradicate poverty; we don’t need irrationality. We are less fortunate, but we are not stupid.

Rose J. Bongon, 20, is a third-year IT student at Camarines Sur Polytechnic Colleges. She is associate editor of The Spark (the official CSPC school–community publication) and blogs at https://miraqrose.wordpress.com/.

Reposted from Young Blood, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Thursday, February 5, 2015.

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/82291/im-a-4ps-scholar#ixzz3QpoJbh3D

Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

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