Why Sorsogon?
FAMILY JEWELS - Michelle Dayrit-Soliven (The Philippine Star) - April 28, 2013 - 12:00am

When our hearts led us to supporting the Divine Healer Academy, a mission school in Cabid-an Sorsogon, many people asked us: “Why is your school in Sorsogon?” 

Way back in 2003, Sorsogon-based Sr. Ellen Ramayrat of the Sister Servants of the Divine Healer, filled with compassion for poor children,  boldly approached Fr. Gerard Deveza, a  healing priest, to request if he could send children to school. Fr. Gerard said yes right away without knowing that he was being asked to support the education of 43 poor children. But the priest was undaunted even if he had no resources yet in hand. Somehow he knew God would provide. And God did. To this day, He still does. From the kindness of people was born the Divine Healer Academy in 2003, which was first fashioned from an old convent turned into a classroom for 43 kindergarten pupils.

The school is now going strong on its 10th year. It now stands proudly on the lush three-hectare property — bound by rice fields, coconut groves and pili trees — of the Sister Servants of the Divine Healer in El Retiro Compound, Cabid-an, Sorsogon. There are now classrooms for the 365 students from Kinder to 4th year high school. These students get the best education from the caring faculty and staff of the school. 

Every year, we, the members of the Healing Servants  Foundation, together with our families, friends and benefactors, look forward to attending the graduation of our students at the Divine Healer Academy. It is a chance for us to thank God together and see how the children have bloomed and grown.

During the recent graduation rites of the Grade 6 students, Cynthia Tinsay Gonzalez,  a passionate educator and benefactor, delivered a speech  inspired by Saint Marie Eugenie’s words. “Our life must be a constant YES to God!” She told the graduating class, “We are all here because we said yes to God. Your teachers said yes to God. Your parents said yes to God. Fr. Gerard and your benefactors said yes to God.”

Inspirational speaker Danelle Ruth Palang, Dusit Thani Manila senior PR and new media manager, shared how touched she was last December when she met first honor student Isabel Fundales and second honor student Nikki Lou Nicomedes during the tree-lighting ceremony of the annual Christmas tree competition at the hotel. The Divine Healer Academy Christmas tree made by our students bested nine other grade schools to win the grand prize.

In her speech, Danelle reminded the young graduates of the parable of the talents. Her message rang loud and clear. “Do not be afraid. God is always with you. Develop and use your talents. Share them to do good and help others,” she said. 

At the appreciation dinner after the graduation, the nuns made us feast on a luscious spread of fresh sea scallops, sigarillas and pako simmered in coconut milk, laing, juicy crabs and tiger prawns. The company we kept that moment was another blessing all together. Our special guests that night were three families who are benefactors of our school — Ram and Judy Antonio with their children Paolo, Rafa and Maia; Lito and Cynthia Gonzalez with their children Issa and Angelo; and  Louie and Udit Galvez with goddaughter Shiela Ona.

The highlight of that unforgettable dinner was the presence of the  gracious Sorsogon Singing Ambassadors who sang our old favorite Bee Gees and VST songs as we all took to the dance floor for swing dancing. Guest performers Maia, Rafa, Paulo Antonio and Benny Soliven brought the house down.

 

Rewards from Sorsogon

After the successful graduation came the bonus to our spadework the whole year — a chance to experience Sorsogon’s natural beauty, the grandeur of God’s handiwork.  

Lucy Lee, our foundation treasurer, planned a three-day adventure for our group by tapping Omar Nepomuceno, the best and kindest local tour guide in Sorsogon. We started the day early by swimming with the whale sharks in Donsol.

In the afternoon, we enjoyed a splashy picnic, frolicking in the invigorating waters of the Orok cold springs.

On our second day, Omar took us to Matnog aboard two bancas to explore a paradise of numerous islands with white sandy shores. Here we swam into ocean caves safely guided by Omar. It was also in Matnog where we snorkeled in a lobster farm and fish sanctuary.  Squeals of excitement were heard from us as two pawikans emerged.  

At Subic Beach, also in Matnog, we played with blue starfish on baby pink sand. We had a picnic of succulent lobsters, triggerfish, grilled squid and lapu-lapu in sweet and sour sauce courtesy of our kind school contractor Eric Yau, our surprise chef who expertly cooked in his wok atop a charcoal fire.

In the afternoon, Omar took us aboard two vans to Bulusan Lake National Park where we marveled at the scenic tranquility of the lake. Imagine the unique beauty of a lake in the crater of a volcano where you can kayak away peacefully to your heart’s content.

Our last stop was San Benon where we immersed ourselves in the soothing healing hot spring waters as the crimson sun began to set.

The next day, in the town of Camalig, we explored the stalactites, stalagmites and crystals in Hoyop-Hoyopan Caves. We visited the Cagsawa ruins in Albay. Also in Camalig, we tasted the best pinangat at Let’s Pinangat restaurant.

Fr. Gerard also drove us to Una Pizzeria for dinner, a quaint Italian restaurant across Fernando’s Hotel in Sorsogon City with unforgettable food.

So, why Sorsogon?

When you say YES to God, He provides all that you will ever need (plus a lot of bonus surprises along the way). 

God gave us a school in this beautiful province of Sorsogon to do His work and enjoy the grandeur of His creation. What a gift this school has turned out to be. Not just for  the students but for us servants and benefactors who come to visit as well.

 

(Omar Nepomuceno can be reached at 0927-998-9289 and 0915-656-1607 and Fr. Gerard Deveza at 0917-538-2033. Would love to hear from you at miladayjewels@yahoo.com.)

 

DIVINE HEALER ACADEMY GERARD GERARD DEVEZA GOD MATNOG OMAR SCHOOL SORSOGON
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