Delivering books, delivering hope
- Kelly Austria () - May 24, 2009 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Grades 1 to 4 students of Sitio Saybuan, Barangay Tinongdan in Itogon, Benguet share one classroom and one teacher. Students walk many kilometers over muddy terrain just to reach school. Their uniforms are the work clothes they use when they tend their vegetable plots. School supplies like pencils and notebooks are scarce, and textbooks are often unavailable.

This is the story that inspired a group of mountaineers to organize an outreach program called Trails to Empower Kids (TREK), with educational publisher Diwa Learning Systems and Bato Balani Foundation as partners.  

Diwa has been supplying textbooks and scholastic enhancement materials (SEM) to schools nationwide for more than 25 years. Together with Bato Balani, the educational publisher fulfills its vision of a better Philippines through quality education for all.

One of its projects is Tulong sa Paaralan, Tulay sa Kaunlaran  (TSP-TSK), which provides deserving schools in underserved communities access to quality textbooks and other reference materials.

Bringing with them Diwa’s textbooks and SEMs, plus donations from other citizens, the mountaineers trekked to Sitio Saybuan and began a series of outreach programs to other isolated areas in the country.

The students showed up early in their Sunday best for the turnover. The village elders joined them in welcoming their first-ever visitors, who organized a fiesta-style party with food, games and prizes.

“At first, the children were very shy but they responded positively soon after,” says Myrla Punongbayan, one of the TREK organizers.

After Sitio Saybuan, TREK reached out to the Dumagat students of Sentrong Paaralan ng mga Agta (SPA) in Casiguran, Aurora, then to the village of Lubo in Kalinga.    

“While some students take textbooks for granted, there are students who haven’t ever owned one. Textbooks are very prized possessions for students from the schools we visited and delivering them gives us much joy,” says Punongbayan.

The TREK experience with each school is a unique and heartwarming story.

“SPA students go home on weekends and their return to school on Monday is not assured because of the long travel. Hopefully what we brought them would encourage them to keep on striving, “ explains Jong Navarro, also a TREK organizer.

Its most recent project in the village of Lubo in Tanungdan, Kalinga was their biggest so far. A bumpy six-hour ride from Tabuk City plus a steep hike did not dampen their enthusiasm. “Even if we had to walk an extra eight hours after the truck carrying our supplies broke down, it was still a good experience for all of us,” says Punongbayan.

The students of Lubo used to consistently top the schools in the province, and many of them grew up to become judges, engineers, and leaders of the province. 

But their tradition of excellence is becoming more and more difficult to maintain because they are deprived of the resources available to other students. 

Again, with assistance from TREK, Diwa and Bato Balani, the students of Lobo can again aim for the top.

Since its implementation in 1993, the TSP-TSK program has benefited more than 1,200 public schools nationwide.

AFTER SITIO SAYBUAN BARANGAY TINONGDAN BATO BALANI DIWA DIWA AND BATO BALANI DIWA LEARNING SYSTEMS AND BATO BALANI FOUNDATION EMPOWER KIDS LUBO SITIO SAYBUAN STUDENTS
  • Latest
Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
X
Login

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

SIGN IN
or sign in with