PAGCOR’s school building project reaches remote public schools in Mindanao, Palawan and CAR

Tuesday | October 6, 2015 | 12:00 PM

EL SALVADOR, Misamis Oriental – Everyday Gina Galupo, 35, hikes a muddy and forested terrain while carrying her ten-year-old son Jay on her back to bring him to school.

PAGCOR’s school building project reaches remote public schools in Mindanao, Palawan and CAR
Walking through a muddy and forested terrain to bring her disabled son to school had been a daily routine for 35-year-old Gina Galupo. Despite the hardships, the single mother still wants her children to finish their studies believing that only education can deliver them out of poverty.

Jay, a fourth grader at El Salvador Central School (ESCS) has an unknown disease which has left his lower body paralyzed for three years now. The young boy who has never seen a doctor due to extreme poverty has a long time wish: to be able to move around on his own and not be a burden to his mother.

When the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) went to ESCS recently to mark the groundbreaking of a four-storey 20-classroom building through the “Matuwid na Daan sa Silid-Aralan” school building project, Jay’s wish was finally granted.

PAGCOR’s school building project reaches remote public schools in Mindanao, Palawan and CAR
PAGCOR Chairman and CEO Cristino Naguiat, Jr. (left) fulfilled the long-time wish of ten-year-old student Jay Galupo (middle) to own a wheelchair during the groundbreaking ceremony of a PAGCOR-funded school building project in El Salvador Central School (ESCS) in Misamis Oriental. Since Jay’s lower body has been paralyzed for three years now, his mother (right) had to hike every single day, carrying the young boy on her back so he could attend his classes.

During the groundbreaking rites, Jay and his mother were called onstage to receive a wheelchair from PAGCOR Chairman and CEO Cristino L. Naguiat, Jr. They could not help but shed tears of joy as Jay sat on the  wheelchair for the first time.

Now, Gina need not carry her son on her back anymore. She is also thankful because agencies like PAGCOR have been helping realize their dream of a better future through the agency’s school building project, which will greatly benefit ESCS.

Founded in 1920, ESCS is the oldest public elementary school in El Salvador. Most of its classrooms either need major repair or total replacement, said ESCS Principal Lina Bejiga. “Majority of our classrooms are no longer safe for use. For 95 years, ngayon lang kami makaka-tanggap ng ganito kadaming classrooms. Ganito pala ang PAGCOR. Yung pera galing sa gaming, napupunta pala sa school building,” she enthused.

Meantime, in Busuanga, Palawan, the Arpon siblings - Jerson, Jonalyn and Janjan – also diligently go to school every day believing that education is their only ticket out of poverty. The kids live in Papatsilon Island, which is almost an hour away via boat ride from Maglalambay Elementary School (MES) where they study. Rain or shine, they would paddle their little banca just to go to school.

Eight-year-old Jonalyn Arpon said the meager income that her fisherman father earns is hardly enough to feed their family. Despite the odds, Jonalyn never gives up on her dream of becoming a teacher. “Nagsi-sikap po akong mag-aral ng mabuti para matupad ang pangarap na iyon at para matulungan ko ang mga magulang ko,” she said.

PAGCOR’s school building project reaches remote public schools in Mindanao, Palawan and CAR
Romulo Arpon (2nd from right) paddles his small banca to bring his children to Maglalambay Elementary School (MES) in Busuanga, Palawan. Despite his family’s daily struggles, Arpon is thankful that his children are determined to finish their studies. They live in Papatsilon Island, which is an hour away via boat ride from MES where they study. They would paddle their small banca just to go to school.

Since MES has been around for a century, many of its classrooms are already old and ruined, making learning a bigger challenge for students like Jonalyn. Making matters worse for the school was the devastation caused by super typhoon Yolanda in 2013. All the classrooms at MES were totally destroyed. With the five-classroom, 1-storey building donated by PAGCOR, the MES students can now continue their studies in much bigger and safer rooms.

New Busuanga Elementary School (NBES) in Palawan likewise suffered great damage when all of their six classrooms were washed away by strong winds during the onslaught of Yolanda.

But after the school received four classrooms from PAGCOR, many locals – including New Busuanga’s Barangay Captain Ardon Libarra – heaved a big sigh of relief and became hopeful once again. He views the new PAGCOR classrooms not only as a means to improve the quality of education of their children but more so as a place of refuge where they can seek shelter whenever their areas are inundated by super typhoon.

Libarra narrated that during Yolanda’s onslaught, many people in their barangay were in the middle of open fields, risking their lives because they had nowhere to go. “Ngayon, maipagma-malaki namin na ang lugar namin ay may magandang school. Maraming salamat dahil binigyan ninyo kami ng pansin. Hindi lang sa mga estudyante kundi lahat ng tao dito. Kung may masamang panahon ay mayroon na kaming makukublihan,” he said.

Apart from ESCS and MES, PAGCOR is also building classrooms in 23 public schools in far-flung communities in northern Palawan, Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and Iligan.  More than 11,000 students are expected to benefit from all these projects.

In Northern Palawan alone, PAGCOR recently turned-over 38 classrooms in 12 public schools in Busuanga, Coron and Culion Island. In CAR, 19 had been built in Baguio City and Benguet while 116 more will be constructed in other CAR provinces like Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain Province. PAGCOR will also commence the construction of a four-storey 20-classroom building in a public high school in Iligan City.

PAGCOR’s school building project reaches remote public schools in Mindanao, Palawan and CAR
The Arpon siblings – (from left) Jonalyn, Janjan and Jerson – are among the beneficiaries of PAGCOR’s newly constructed classrooms in Maglalambay Elementary School (MES) in Busuanga, Palawan. Their old classrooms were destroyed by the supertyphoon Yolanda in 2013.

PAGCOR Chairman and CEO Cristino Naguiat, Jr. said the school building project is the agency’s biggest legacy to the Filipino youth. “Through this project, we are able to reach more remote communities and send a strong message that the government goes out of its way to bring basic services – like quality education and comfortable learning venues – to those who need them most, regardless of how far they may be,” Naguiat said.

To date PAGCOR, through the help of its partners – the Department of Education and the Department of Public Works and Highways – has already completed a total of 1,772 classrooms in 363 sites. Thousands more are being built in public schools nationwide, including other areas heavily devastated by super typhoon Yolanda.

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