It was a full day last January 13, 2015 for our partner communities with on-going school projects funded by our kababayans abroad through the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO). CFO is an office under the Office of the President (www.cfo.gov.ph) and is mainly taking care of our migrated kababayans. CFO representatives Eve Duriman (Senior Emigrant Services Officer) and Mary Lolyn Jade Rodriguez (Project Officer) made the rounds of the municipalities of San Dionisio, Lemery and Barotac Viejo in Northern Iloilo to visit four on-going school projects. This was the first time that partner communities met officers from CFO since the projects started September 2014. The one-day schedule was tight but enough to renew the enthusiasm of partner communities to complete their projects for their children. (Please read related article entitled “On Giving Back” to appreciate the background of these projects).
The visit started with Santikan Elementary School in Bgy. Tiabas, San Dionisio. More than a year after Yolanda’s devastation, this school’s damaged classrooms, numbering three, remained unrepaired displacing 115 schoolchildren. For the year 2014, this was the last school to be funded through CFO and the allocated budget (Php 177,036.12) was meant to repair one classroom. Just like what happened in La Fortuna Elementary School (Barotac Viejo) and Cabantohan Primary School (Lemery), the intended repair could not be implemented anymore as the structural integrity of the existing structures could not carry the load of new trusses, roof and ceiling. Typhoon Yolanda’s destruction revealed that these damaged classrooms were built with substandard and inadequate materials by contractors who apparently diverted the public funds at the expense of the community. Closer scrutiny revealed cracks that showed undersized round steel bars. All these years, these substandard school buildings endangered the lives of our schoolchildren.
Earlier, the Project Manager of REBUILD met with the school officials and later, had audience with the Barangay Council with their Chairman, Punong Barangay MilorBalontong presiding in an official session. We disclosed to them the good news that CFO had allocated a budget for the repair of one classroom and shared with them the notarized Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between CFO and REBUILD Project. They were daunted of course with the challenge of constructing an entirely new classroom with such a limited budget. But when I shared with them the new classroom built by the community of Bgy. Cabantohan, Lemery with a budget smaller than theirs (Php 164,142.72), and seeing the picture of the almost finished structure, they got challenged and inspired.
The day CFO representatives visited Santikan Elementary School, school and barangay officials, as well as parents and community members were busy working together building what would become the E-Classroom. The donation coursed through CFO could not have come at a better time when, Mr. Roger Ticot, the Teacher-in-Charge disclosed that the allocated computers from the Department of Education (DepEd) would be transferred somewhere else if they could not have a new classroom to house the facilities. This was another inspiring story that is replicating what happened a few months ago in La Fortuna Elementary School (Barotac Viejo), Nagsulang Primary School and Cabantohan Primary School, both located in Lemery, Iloilo.
For the first time in their careers and terms as teachers and barangay officials, they implemented construction and repairs of classrooms and as they involved volunteer parents and members from our partner communities, the MagagmayKristianongKatilingban (Small Christian Communites), it truly became a community-owned project. We at REBUILD Project are amazed with this inspiring stories where funds coming from our kababayans are matched with significant counterparting from these communities.
In all four school projects, volunteers worked everyday with few paid skilled workers. They donated and hauled wood materials, made their own concrete hollow blocks, hauled filling and mixing materials, and some cooked for the volunteers. And as the structures began to take shape, with Nagsulang and Cabantohan classrooms almost done, the communities take pride in what they have accomplished together. La Fortuna had already constructed 80% of a brand new Home Economics Building aside from the two classrooms repaired. What makes these community-owned projects stand out is that fact that these are impoverished communities. But no matter how disadvantaged they may be financially, what they could achieve when they act as a community could never be underestimated.
These four community-owned school projects are setting a benchmark which hopefully would result to better governance. They are constructing and repairing better classrooms which cost only a third of what government contractors usually peg for such projects. They proudly told their stories when CFO representatives visited them on that day. We are sure that our migrated kababayans, (PAMAS for La Fortuna and Cabantohan, FUN-USA for Nagsulang and various donors for Santikan) would be elated to hear these wonderful stories of how their recipient communities responded positively that “multiplied” their donations. Unprecedented as they are, these are emerging stories we badly need to hear – for communities to keep on believing in what they can achieve together…that they would always remind themselves that their most valuable resource is their sense of community.
POSTSCRIPT: The CFO representatives provided their insights from their visits: The Triumphs behind the Struggles…..
Evelyn C. Duriman
It is impressive to see many good hearted people carrying out a successful mission — completion of a dreamed project!
I am indeed moved — seeing these people display their wholehearted support for a better community. The repair of classrooms in some of the public schools in Northern Iloilo, destroyed by the super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, have become an inspiration to build new home for the school children.
With the support from overseas Filipinos like, PAMAS and FUN-USA, complemented by the CFO, Rebuild Projects, and the members of the local community – parents, teachers, barangay officials, I truly believe that…..we can really move mountains! Your contributions from carrying a piece of wood from the mountain to the school ground, to clearing out of the debris, have significantly provided an impact on the successful outcome.
Let this inspiration continue to flourish……
Senior Emigrant Services Officer
Commission on Filipinos Overseas
The ocular visit conducted last January 13, 2015 at the schools situated in San Dionisio, Lemery, Cabantohan, and Barotac Viejo, Iloilo was an eye opening experience. Before, I was only able to see the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda’s wrath in print and non-print media. But to witness the devastation that it brought, firsthand, was another thing. It gave me a really heavy heart. All I ever felt was compassion for our kababayan. It fueled my desire to help.Many people have extended help in various forms. There was an outpour of donations from various entities.
However, the same problems continue to penetrate the implementation of rehabilitation projects. We have seen it right before our eyes. Funds were wasted from the previous infrastructure projects funded by various entities. Massive funding has been allotted to these projects yet the end-products seem to fall short of the expected results. Most of these projects were deemed to be substandard; whereas, others have not been continued. It is a shame thatsome peoplefurther their personal interests over the general welfare. These projects failed to fulfill their intended purpose – to serve the needs of our Kababayans.
The Filipino individuals and organizations overseas through the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) – REBUILD Project collaboration, have witnessed the success ofcommunity-inspired projects. Under a tight budget, these communities were still able to effectively produce the expected output. It is a delight to see that they united for a common cause. Their efforts are a testament to the saying that “two hands work better than one”. They manifested that the spirit of bayanihangoes a long way. It makes things possible. They are still on their long road to recovery. May we never cease to help them in theirendeavor.Let us show the world that we Filipinos could withstand anything, as long as we work together.
Mary Lolyn Jade Rodriguez
Project Management Division
Commission on Filipinos Overseas