Reading in the rain
LINGIG, Surigao del Sur –Their blouses need ironing and their feet are spattered with mud, but there are no missing uniforms among the teachers of the Pagdilaan Elementary School.
On Dec 4, 2012, typhoon Pablo (international name Bopha) ravaged Eastern Mindanao, leaving more than a thousand dead and hundreds missing. Towns on the borders of Davao Oriental were also affected, like Lingig in Surigao del Sur. The river rose to flood the small town, residents who fled to the elementary school were forced to seek other shelter when heavy winds tore off the school's roof.
“What I did during the storm,” says second grade teacher Esperita Esperanza, “I took all my uniforms from the cabinet, put them inside a sack and then I ran. Imagine, I brought them all, even my uniforms from 1986.”
Maricris Leonor, the school’s 33 year-old 4th grade teacher, said she wrapped all her uniforms in plastic, grabbed her three children, and ran for an evacuation center. She laughs while patting down creases on her yellow blouse.
“The television can be replaced. Not our uniforms.”
Most of the residents of the third-class municipality of Lingig are farmers, dependent on the several thousand brought in by the coconut harvest. Today the fields are flattened, and planting season is almost past.
The story is the same in Lingig as it is in the rest of the towns that suffered through Pablo—there was little preparation because residents had never experienced a typhoon before. In the weeks after Pablo, residents swarmed over the village hall, intent on the relief packages delivered every two days. The 3 kilos of rice, packs of noodles and 5 cans of corned beef and sardines are tied to the backs of motorcycles or carried on foot to roofless homes an hour away.
On rainy nights, fathers stand guard outside patchwork houses, their small children creep under tables or stretches of blue tarp.
There are 351 students studying at the Pagdilaan Elementary School. On the first day of classes of 2013, only 12 of Esperanza’s 45 students walked through mud to sit under two tents donated by the Department of Education. Other grades had 3, sometimes 4 students, the first grade class had 16 out of 40. There were no school uniforms or schoolbooks, chalkboards were damp, and the only reading materials left were reference books that teachers themselves had taken home before the storm.
Education is important here, in a place when many parents cannot read or write. It is the children who tutor their parents and assist in casting election votes. Expectations for further education are low, very few expect to graduate from high school, but most complete the sixth grade.
Esperanza, 52, has been teaching here for more than 20 years. Pagdilaan was her first teaching post. She will teach for as long as she is needed by the students she calls her children.
"I feel terrible," she says. "It's almost more than we can take to see our children without slippers, without books, without anything."
Today, 3 weeks after the opening of classes, the blue tents are gone, destroyed because of heavy rains on January 19th. There are still no new books from the Deped, only notebooks, brown envelopes and pens. The teachers read under the sky, while the children of Lingig watch for rain. Rappler.com
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