NUEVA ECIJA, Philippines - The travel to Cuyapo, the farthest municipality in Nueva Ecija and a mere hour away from Baguio, took almost 4 hours. But our intention of traveling this far was not only to visit the beauty and feel the serenity of far-flung barrios.
We went there for a very specific purpose – to visit the public elementary school of Cuyapo Central School. We came to bring brand-new books and educational materials for children and teachers.
From the main highway, getting to the place means taking a right into a little road you’ll likely miss unless you’re specifically looking for it. Then you follow the thoroughfare where you see more tractors and tricycles than cars. Never-ending rice paddies line the either side of the road where carabaos bask in the early morning sun. And just when you feel that you might’ve taken a wrong turn, you arrive in the little, quiet town of Cuyapo.
Our friends from “Books for a Cause” recommended Cuyapo Central School to be the next partner-school of the Acts of Hope for the Nation or Ahon Foundation. Cuyapo Central School has a nice campus gifted with a sprawling field and spacious learning parks. Its library is however noticeably neglected and suffers from a lack of quality materials.
Before our partnership, the school had only a simple room with a humble collection of books. Termites made it to the place, destroying books and shelves. Cracks in the floor had been an eyesore. But within the span of one month, after finding cheap but creative ways of fixing the place, they were able to re-create the reading space into one that is so different from what it was.
Ahon Foundation is a non-stock, non-profit organization that helps bring books and children together. In an effort to effect positive behavioral and culture change, the foundation seeks to challenge and develop the capacity of the people it works with. At present, only 1 out of 5 public elementary schools in our country has adequate and functional libraries.
Under the leadership of Dr Cristina Miranda, principal of Cuyapo Central School, the faculty, administrators and parents worked together to acquire enough resources to give their library a new look.
Bingle Divina, the Federated Parents-Teachers Association president said, “It had indeed been a challenge. The parents went around soliciting donations. At first it was difficult, but we persevered. Nagulat nga kami, may nag-donate bigla ng pintura, may naipon kami na pera.” Then she added with pride, “Kaya naman pala namin.” (We were surprised because unexpectedly someone donated paint and we were able to save money…we realized we can do things.)
With the money they were able to raise, they painted the tables, shelves and walls with colorful murals. When we arrived at the school, their library was what a library should be.
Ahon Foundation, for its part, personally delivered boxes of brand-new quality books, a combination of Time-Life reference books in English, Math, and the Sciences, and other donated books.
With this, we hope that the school in a far-flung barrio is now at par with the best private schools in the country.
Ahon Foundation chairman Hector Tagaysay always says during library inaugurations, “Gamitin po natin ang mga libro. Wala pong kwenta ang library kung hindi po ito magagamit. Kapag nasira dahil sa kakagamit ang mga libro, bibiyahe po uli kami ng pagkalayo-layo upang palitan ang mga ito.” (Let’s use the books. The library is useless if it’s not used. Once the books are destroyed from use, we will travel even from a distance just to replace them.)
Cuyapo Central School is the 66th adopted and partner public elementary school of Ahon Foundation. The foundation welcomes any donations in cash and in kind and welcomes volunteers who could help collecting book donations and painting school murals, among others. – Rappler.com
Herbel Santiago works as program officer of Ahon Foundation. To know more about the Ahon advocacy, check www.ahonfoundation.blogspot.com or follow Ahon on Facebook, www.facebook.com/ahonfoundation. Ahon Foundation may also be reached via (02) 433-1440 or email@example.com.