In just a few days, classes will begin. While most parents and students are busy buying school supplies and teachers are sprucing up their classrooms, a tribal community in northern Philippines is looking for ways to ensure that their children will be able to go to school this June.
BY MAYETTE INIGUID
TINGLAYAN, Kalinga – In just a few days, classes will begin. While most parents and students are busy buying notebooks, ballpens, books and uniforms and teachers are sprucing up their classrooms, a community is looking for ways to ensure that their children will be able to go to school this June.
When typhoon Yoyong struck the country last December, it left several persons dead and millions worth of property damaged. While no one died in Barangay Ngibat, this town, strong winds blew away part of the roof of the community’s school building, as well as the walls and other equipment. Books were soaked and scattered on the mountain slopes.
Ngibat is one of the five barangays (villages) populated by the Butbut tribe in the municipality of Tinglayan, Kalinga, a mountainous province more than 400 kilometers north of Manila. In 2004, it had a population of 270. The main source of livelihood is farming, both wet rice agriculture and swidden farming. To reach the community, one takes a two and a half hour jeepney ride from Bontoc town in the nearby Mt. Province to Barangay Maswa (Lower Basao) which is the nearest entry point to the barangay. Then another one and a half hour hike on foot trails through cogon grasslands and rice fields will bring you to the village.
The community school catered to the learning needs of children from grades one to five. Sixth graders have to hike for an hour to attend classes at the bigger school in Tinglayan Proper.
When asked where the children held classes after Yoyong, village chief Pedro Bumon-as said they used the unfinished barangay hall and the Baptist church building as temporary classrooms.
The children, its three teachers and other community members helped in recovering equipment and books damaged by the typhoon. These were left to dry in the sun in order to be used again. When we visited the area as part of our community immersion, we saw pages of schoolbooks scattered on the mountainside. All that remained were a few chairs and a blackboard. Beside the schoolhouse is the Roman Catholic church, also damaged by typhoon Harurot which also blew off its roof.
Kapitan Bumon-as added that the barangay bought a lot located at a lower area of the barangay for the construction of another schoolhouse. The area, he said, is safe from strong winds. The old building was constructed at a higher part of the barangay, on a ridge with a view of the Sleeping Beauty Mountains. The municipal government took care of the roofing materials while the barangay was in charge of the posts and other parts. But even with the availability of land for the new school building, the children will have to stay in their temporary classrooms for lack of funds.
The children still go to the old school building to play and act out the dramas they hear on the radio. With the Sleeping Beauty in view, they continue to dream for new books, notebooks, ballpens and a new classroom. Nordis / Posted by Bulatlat