How a school in Capiz survived a rockslide and Typhoon Ursula
MANILA, Philippines – Barra Elementary School needed help long before Typhoon Ursula (Phanfone) wreaked havoc in Capiz.
Forced to relocate after being hit by a rockslide in July 2019, the tiny school found in Roxas City struggled with a sudden lack of resources and space when they relocated to a repurposed barangay hall.
Their facilities were built as the need called for it: a shoddy bathroom set up on top of a septic tank, thin sheets of plywood to separate classrooms, and insulation sheets fixed on the celing to alleviate the heat.
Barra Elementary School also had yet to receive any aid from the Department of Education since being hit by the rockslide last year.
Come December 25, 2019, teachers found the roof blown off their temporary learning space (TLS), the wires in their classrooms torn, and all of their teaching materials wet and destroyed by the rain brought by Ursula.
Building back up
“Automatically, ginmidyosan man namon sang mga teachers na mabalik siya kay bisan ano matabo, January 6 gid ya ang start sang klase (Automatically, the teachers and I made sure to put things back where they were because no matter what happens, the start of classes is on January 6),” said Barra Elementary School Principal Jonel Arcangeles.
Aileen Arinque, Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Officer of Barra Elementary School, described the extent of the damage.
“Sang pag bagyo, wala na gid ni atop. Subong lang kami kagamit sang kuryente kay sang nagligad, nagkalaukla na di tanan ang mga wires. Wala kami nag gamit kay nahadlok kami na maglupok,” said Arinque.
(When the typhoon hit, the roof was gone. We only got to use electricity recently because before, the wires were torn. We didn’t use them because we were scared they would explode.)
According to Arinque, the teachers and staff managed to clean and fix as much as they could before classes began. They received salvaged materials from Banica Elementary School to fix the roof. The school janitor dealt with the electrical wiring, while some of the neighboring households helped pick up the debris.
The cleanup happened on January 2, 2019, shortly after the teachers and staff had only just finished fixing up their own houses after the typhoon. (READ: For Typhoon Ursula victims, welcoming the year would be difficult)
For Arcangeles, it was only a necessary step to take. “Bahala na kung ano maabot sini, basta ang importante lang maka-serve kami sa mga bata,” he said. “Ano pa gid purpose namon sa kalibutan?”
(Come what may, the important thing is that we can serve the children. What else is our purpose in this world?)
Aid and donation
On January 1, Climb Against Cancer (CAC), a nonprofit organization of volunteer mountaineers, began accepting donations in cash and in kind for a relief goods operation in Capiz.
Nini Sacro, CAC founder and a Capizeña herself, started asking friends and family to help identify villages that were badly affected by Typhoon Ursula and had yet to receive aid from other organizations. Through her sister-in-law, she managed to hear about the situation in Barra Elementary School.
“May ara na kami actually partnership sa isa ka school sa Anhawon,” said Sacro. “Dira kami usually gahatag relief goods kag school supplies, pareho sang sa [Typhoon] Yolanda. Galing kay ginhambalan ko sang sister-in-law ko about sa Barra, and I thought na mas kailangan sila ng help," she said.
(We actually already have a partnership with a school in Anhawon, Capiz. That’s where we usually give relief goods and school supplies, like after [Super Typhoon] Yolanda. But I was told by my sister-in-law about Barra, and I thought that they needed help more.)
Sacro and other CAC volunteers soon visited the school to help the students.
On January 13, all 330 students of Barra Elementary School received school supply kits, which consisted of a plastic envelope with notebooks, crayons, pencils, erasers, and a sharpener. Students in grade 3 and below were also given small stuffed toys.
“Parang pantawid lang for the last 3 months na may sulod pa kamo. It’s our honor na madala ni namon sa inyo (It’s like a bridge for the last 3 months that you still have class. It’s our honor to bring these to you)," Sacro told the students.
The CAC volunteers were also assisted by teachers from Capiz National High School led by Sacro’s sister-in-law Hally Andrada, who helped coordinate the operation while CAC was still in Manila.
Later that afternoon, CAC agave 100 grocery packs to victims in Barangay Tanque, where Sacro grew up.
The work waits
Ernie Borreros, the Barangay Captain of Barra, stood by during the operation with a watchful eye.
“Thankful gid kami kay tungod na nagpanghatag di ang Climb Against Cancer sang school supplies, maibanan sang gastos ang mga parents kay may gamit na ang mga bata nila,” said Borreros.
(We’re thankful since Climb Against Cancer gave school supplies, the expenses of the parents are reduced because their children already have the things they need.)
He had suggested that the school move into the barangay hall after they were forced to relocate. “Kadamo na sang amon naagyan (We’ve already been through a lot).”
Capiz declared a state of calamity in the aftermath of Typhoon Ursula, along with Aklan, Leyte, and Eastern Samar. (READ: Areas under state of calamity due to Typhoon Ursula).
To add to their troubles, Capiz was also hit by a magnitude 4.8 earthquake that was centered in the town of Dumarao on December 26.
Borreros added that they need materials to help rebuild houses in the area.
“Ang problema di namon subong, balay, kay majority gid nawasak. Gahulat kami na may maabot na materials kay may gin-offer ang iban na NGO pero so far wala pa man,” he said.
(The problem we have right now are the houses because so many of them were damaged. We’re waiting for materials to arrive because they were offered to us by some NGOs, but so far we haven’t received any.)
The damage done to the barangay was still being assessed by the city government. They had only received grocery packs, so far. (READ: IN PHOTOS: Buildings, homes destroyed as Typhoon Ursula batters parts of Visayas)
Barra Elementary School still faced several problems. Their recently implemented shifting system, with one section being taught in the morning and another one in the afternoon, barely had any breaks in between classes. Students would get restless and the teachers, overworked.
Whenever it would rain, the students in the classrooms still got wet because the water leaked through the holes in the roof. They still lacked the space and facilities to make the school conducive for learning. (READ: Aklan rushes repair of schools damaged by Typhoon Ursula)
“Tani makita man na kinahanglan namon sang bulig. Indi kaluoy, kundi bulig.” (I hope it can be seen that we need help. Not pity, but help),” said Arcangeles.
Donations to Barangay Barra, Barangay Tanque, and other affected areas in Capiz and other provinces would be greatly appreciated. More details on how to help can be found on Rappler’s #ReliefPH storypage on Typhoon Ursula. – Rappler.com
Dorothy Andrada is a Rappler mover from Roxas City, Capiz. She is currently based in Quezon City as a college freshman at the Ateneo de Manila University.