In Loon, kids look forward to a bright Christmas

BOHOL, Philippines – It's two days before Christmas and 9-year-old Elmer Jun Malinaw is excited over the gifts he'll get and the parties he'll attend. 

In a village in Loon town where he lives, Christmas songs blare loudly from speakers, children play Chinese garter in the middle of a narrow road, and meetings are held to discuss Christmas plans. 

This is Barangay Napo in Loon. A little over two months ago, the village was a ghost town. Residents fled the coastal village after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit central Visayas. Most of the buildings in Napo are still considered inhabitable, and residents still live in tents outside their concrete houses.  

But for the children of Napo, life goes on. Aftershocks, which are still being felt in the town, will not get in the way of a bright Christmas. 

School Christmas parties were held in tents that serve as their classrooms, at least for now. Nine-year-old Elmer Jun Malinaw, a Grade 4 student, admits it's not easy. 

The Loon Elementary School was completely damaged. "Naay sink hole. Mahadlok man sab mi," Elmer said. (There's a sink hole. We get scared too.) 

TENT SCHOOLS. Children attend classes in tents for now. Photo by Bea Cupin/Rappler

TENT SCHOOLS. Children attend classes in tents for now.

Photo by Bea Cupin/Rappler

Classes in Bohol resumed on November 5, more than 2 weeks after the earthquake. 

"Kung muulan, mubaha. Mupatong mi sa bangko kay baha man. Butangan ug kanang bas unya kuanun ra sa baha. Unya ang baha mu-apaw gihapon,"  he added. (When it rains, it floods. We stand on the chairs because of the flood. They put sand but the flood waters still overflow.) 

Loon Mayor Lloyd Peter Lopez says 111 classrooms in Loon were destroyed after the quake. He told Rappler classrooms are among his biggest concerns in the town's rehabilitation plans. 

Lopez estimates it will take P200 million to restore and rebuild Loon to its former self. The amount excludes classrooms, which are under the Department of Education's mandate. 

Rehabilitation will be an uphill climb for Loon and other Bohol towns devastated by the quake. Papers need to be filled, proposals approved. But Lopez is confident Loon will be back to normal before his last term ends in 2016. 

But for Elmer and his friends, classes in tents will do for now. It's not ideal, but it's fun. The resumption of classes helps children affected by calamities copy, says the Department of Education. Elmer agrees. 

"Lingaw sa skwelahan kay daghan bata mag duwa-duwa," he said. (It's fun in school because there are kids playing.) –