By CHRIS V. PANGANIBAN, Contributing Editor
KINAMAYBAY, Esperanza, Agusan del Sur --- Their inspiring story of how they built their schools, day care center, a small road network and farm inputs through bayanihan spirit in this far-flung isolated village of predominantly Higaonon tribes has now drawn national attention.
Social Welfare Undersecretaries Camilo Gudmalin and Luzviminda Ilagan went out of their way to ride on 4-wheel drive cars negotiating more than two hours of rugged roads from the town center just to reach here to specially see for themselves how the 5-classroom two school buildings for elementary and high school students were built by the residents themselves through volunteerism.
The new schools finished in September last year consist of one 2-classroom for elementary level and another 3-classroom for secondary level designed with a concept of Higaonon culture have been utilized by some 211 elementary pupils and 99 secondary grade 7,8 and 9 students .
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) provided the P3.9 million fund for the materials of the school buildings save for the labor cost as residents mostly parents devoted a day or two of their time every week to help construct the classrooms.
The project is under the Kapit Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-Cidss) program of DSWD.
Kinamaybay is an isolated community inhabited by 90 percent Higaonons which can be only reached by habal-habal motorcycles and 4-wheel drive vehicles with its interior roads accessibly only using the national highway connecting La Nieves town in Agusan del Norte.
It was once disturbed by the bombings at the height of atrocities between New Peoples Army rebels and Army soldiers in 2010 but residents confronted their sad plight with a commitment to help one another to uplift their socio-economic condition.
Training the residents
Before the schools were built, the residents with the supervision of Samuel Ampahan, chairperson of Barangay Sub-project Management Committee (BSPMC) has implemented five infrastructure projects including road, day-care center, rice and corn mill, solar dryer and concrete pathway.
Transporting construction materials was not easy not only because of the rough roads but the distance of 73 kilometers from the town center of Esperanza.
Proper implementation of the small projects was achieved as Ampahan and some other selected volunteers underwent trainings from DSWD about the cost specifications and material standards that construction works were completed accordingly to government auditing rules.
He recalled many of those who volunteered to become part of the project monitoring team did not have formal education at school but managed to learn skills from the trainings that taught them the intricacies on the standards and regulations of the projects.
Some of the residents admitted the training and workshops and their exposure on canvassing the materials outside their village helped them better persons to socialize in the outside world, a transformation from the traditional traits of a Higaonon who are meek and shy.
It was the residents themselves who identified their projects through community-driven development approaches enabling villagers to make their own decisions in identifying, developing, implementing and monitoring development initiatives based on their priorities.
Ampahan said the residents’ sincere commitment to participate in realizing the projects which were carried out with transparency and accountability was the key to their success.
Ampahan, a pastor of a Christian church in the village, has been a Kalahi-Cidss volunteer leader for 11 years which made him a finalist in the program’s national awards this year.
Rolando Pinahan, village tribal chieftain and former village chair, said the projects that the community received served as an instrument to develop their ancestral domain.” We never thought the projects would come here,” He added in local vernacular that “Walay man mi kurso kon grado pero ang among pagka kursunada maoy nagpatuman niining tanan ( We did not have courses on education but our strong will and determination made these all happen.)”
More classrooms needed
Even with the presence of well-built schools built under Kalahi-Cidss Construction of Classroom for the Lumad (CCL) modality, students in the secondary level is in dire need of new classrooms for the Grades 10,11 and 12 classes in the opening of school next year.
Without additional classrooms and teachers in these higher grade levels, the students will have to bear the brunt of hiking 9-11 kilometers every day in the nearest public secondary schools in the villages of Lawan-lawan and Casiclan.
Larry Mangsinungdan, Teacher-in-Charge of Kinamaybay Elementary School who also supervises the secondary classes, said they are still processing the documents for the application of a school ID to make the secondary level regular school recognized by the Department of Education.
In the absence of school ID, teachers at the secondary level are just lumad teacher volunteers only paid with a measly P4,000 monthly honorarium funded by the municipal government.
“Our monthly allowance is just good enough for the budget of gasoline of a motorcycle we hire whenever we go home once a month and other personal necessities,” said volunteer teacher Mariafe Baclayo, who just graduated her education degree last March at Agusan del Sur State College of Agriculture and Technology in her hometown in Bunawan.
She and five other volunteer teachers at the secondary level are living in a quarter and their food are provided by the residents through the village council.
The lumad public school in Kinamaybay would be the first in Caraga with complete package using the indigenous teaching curriculum under the K-12 educational program.
The five lumad teachers, even with the absence of teaching materials and textbooks, have taught the elementary school children the different subjects using the Higaonon dialect.
Virginia Talidro, Supervisor of Department of Education District I of Esperanza, said the lumad teachers have undergone trainings during summer time for them to internalize in the K12 program the indigenization and contextualization of the curriculum. “These will be integrated across learning areas of the school children,” she said.
Already, the lumad teachers have been tasked to worked on the orthography of Higaonon dialect and the materials will be given to the tribal leaders for validation.
Uplifting their lives
Gudmalin was impressed by the way Kinamaybay residents diligently built the schools and other infrastructure projects that he encouraged them to now focus on the next level to uplift their still impoverished living condition through DSWD’s Sustainable Livelihood Program.
SLP is a community-based capacity building program that aims to improve the socio-economic condition of poor Filipinos by facilitating opportunities for development and management of resources viable for micro-enterprises and employment facilitation.
“SLP is gearing towards social enterprise to help 4P beneficiaries uplift their living condition from poverty,” Gudmalin said.
For her part, Ilagan said Kinamaybay residents needs to be taught how to efficiently maximize financial assistance to increase their farm production through the SLP. “You go beyond receiving the capital to become entrepreneur,” Ilagan said.
Esperanza Mayor Leonida Manpatilan admitted poverty incidence in her town at 41 percent is still way higher from the national poverty threshold of 34 percent. However their persistent efforts to address this problem had at least bore fruit since poverty incidence went up as high as 78 percent in 2000.
‘We will continue to strive hard to uplift the lives of our residents,” Manpatilan said.
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