The Ivatan boy who wants to be a carpenter

Jee Y. Geronimo
The Ivatan boy who wants to be a carpenter
17-year-old Christian Enciso wants to learn carpentry in Batanes, where carpenters are few, so he can work in Manila and send his siblings to school

BATANES, Philippines – It was Christian Enciso’s first day back in school.

He graduated from high school in 2014, then spent the last year working in different part-time jobs.

He was the boy who served during catering services, the boy who carried gravel and sand for construction work, but never the boy who studied architecture.

On March 30, he went back to school again – not in any of the two colleges in Batanes, but in a small classroom in Basco Central School, where he could learn carpentry.

In his 17-year-old mind, it’s the next best thing to architecture.

In Batanes, carpenters are now few in number, and fewer young people are interested in learning it.

“Nobody is attracted to carpentry,” said Wivina Gonzales, the schools division superintendent of the Department of Education (DepEd) in the province.

They don’t realize it, that if it is based on the real need of the community, eh sigurado na yung gusto nila at kung ano ang magagawa nila, mayroon silang market,” she added.

(They don’t realize it, that if it is based on the real need of the community, rest assured what they want and what they’re doing will always have a market.)

While Ivatans’ main sources of income are agriculture, fishery, and government employment, Batanes can use more carpenters.

After all, storms come and go in the northernmost province of the Philippines, and there are always houses to rebuild in their aftermath.

Christian is one of the 109 learners under DepEd’s Abot Alam program in Basco. The program provides interventions on education, entrepreneurship, or employment for the out-of-school youth.

Many Abot Alam learners in Batanes finished high school but were not able to complete or pursue a higher education, and are unemployed.

They want to learn different functional skills like food processing, carpentry, welding, and weaving so they can earn for their families.

Ivatans, and the value of education

With Batanes’ high literacy rate, there is no doubt Ivatans value their education – to the point some of them sell possessions just to pay tuition.

“Even the ordinary farmers have children who really graduate not only in high school but even in college because they value education very much,” Gonzales explained.

BACK TO SCHOOL. Christian Enciso, 17, is going back to school after a year of part-time jobs. Photo by Jee Geronimo/Rappler

But the lack of opportunities in the province can discourage even the best of dreamers. About 574 out-of-school youth – most of them high school graduates – were mapped by DepEd in the past year. 

Batanes is taking baby steps to solve this. (READ: Education for all by 2015? Not happening, says Unesco)

As of March 2015, Batanes has already achieved a zero out-of-school youth status – the first province in the Philippines to be able to do so.

To sustain this, education officials will track future high school graduates so they don’t end up idle and unemployed.

Christian is the eldest of 4 children, the son of a baluster-maker and a grocery vendor. He wants to learn carpentry so he can earn more and save enough for a plane ticket to Manila. 

There he will work again – at most, 4 years – to send his younger siblings to school. Maybe he’ll study too, if there’s extra cash, but he wants to save up first for a furniture store of his own in Batanes. 

Then, he will come back. To him, Batanes will always be home. (READ: Beautiful Batanes: 10 things to do)

Babalik po ako dito…kasi mas maganda po dito (I will come back because it’s more beautiful here),” he said. – Rappler.com

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.