Pamaskong Pambata 2014 – Labney Elementary School, Tarlac

Pamaskong Pambata 2014 – Labney Elementary School, Tarlac

Last December, the UPAAS Pamaskong Pambata was held at Labney Elementary School in Western Tarlac. Labney is a mountainous community of 276 households. With the help of our friends from the Tarlac Mountaineering Club (TMC), our partner organization, UPAAS has brought happiness not just to the children of Labney, but to the whole community.

UPAAS would like to thank the Tarlac Mountaineering Club who did the legwork (literally) and for being our partner in this project. Special thanks to Philippine National Bank (PNB) Singapore for their generous donation and to everyone who shared their blessings. Mabuhay kayong lahat!

Here’s Denise’s recap of the event:

The UP Pamaskong Pambata went to the mountain village of Labney in Mayantoc, Tarlac last December 29, 2014. For this year’s outreach, we partnered with the Tarlac Mountaineering Club (TMC) for the logistics. Labney is the westernmost village of Tarlac, bordering Zambales province. It is one of the remote villages adopted by the TMC for their outreach program called Lahat Mag-aaral Program. The community of Labney has around 276 households, which mainly subsist on planting (rice, sweet potato and other root crops), charcoal-making, hunting and fishing. The men derive additional income by guiding mountaineers and tourists around the mountains. Labney is also the entry-point to the 6-day extreme eco-trail (hiking) called Tarlac Super Loop, that spans 4 mountain peaks- 3 in Tarlac and 1 in Zambales.

The site of our outreach activity was the Labney Elementary School. To reach the village, it takes a 45-minute trip from Tarlac City to Mayantoc town, then another 2 hours to Labney, passing by large areas of rice fields and unpaved zigzagging roads going uphill. TMC coordinated with the Tarlac Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) to provide us with a truck to transport the supplies until Mayantoc and then we transferred to a bigger truck to go up to Labney. I joined TMC members (including my brother, sister-in-law and nephew) and two teachers from the elementary school, as UPAAS representative.

A few weeks earlier, we had asked the teachers to send us a wish-list of items that were much needed by the students: stackable chairs and tables for the kinder students and chairs for the grades 4-6 pupils, ventilation for the classrooms, and school supplies. UPAAS gave first aid kits, electric fans, toys for the kinder to grade 3 kids, and school supplies to the grade 4 to 6 students. TMC provided 24 sheets of corrugated iron to replace the leaking school building roof. They also brought Monobloc chairs and tables.

The village is so remote that the teachers only go home to their families on weekends. From Sunday night to Thursday night, they share a small, dark room with a double deck bed and dirt floor behind the principal’s office. The only toilet and bath with running water is beside the principal’s office, which they were proud to offer to guests like us.

We wanted to stretch our budget and share the meryenda with the community instead of only with the students, so we did not get a caterer to prepare food packs. Instead, we bought ingredients like fresh produce from the market and we cooked special thick macaroni soup on site, with the help of women volunteers from the community. Two of the fathers helped prepare several containers of orange juice.

While we were preparing the food, a few fathers installed the new roof above the kinder classroom. The old roof was so rusty and riddled with holes that a little amount of rain ended up in puddles inside the classrooms. A senior TMC member also provided a short training session to the teacher who will be in charge as first-aid provider in the school.

We had a short program where UPAAS was introduced as an association of UP graduates which has projects to help fellow Filipinos in Singapore and in the Philippines. The host mentioned that the ates and kuyas who sent the supplies also graduated from a public school so they would be encouraged to keep studying so in the future they can, in turn, help other young Filipinos to stay in school. The school principal Sir Jonathan and two teachers were on hand to receive the donations. After the children received their toys and school supplies, everyone shared in the simple food, including the parents and school staff.

We would have wanted to stay longer but we needed to leave before it got dark as it was not safe to drive down the single lane zigzag roads in the dark. In the study of sociology of donating or aid, there are some who say that donations do not work as it promotes dependency on the part of the recipients. In this case I did not see any evidence of that, but they are not proud to accept help either. The villagers were organized, they each contributed to make the day a success, and made us feel welcome like friends, which was more than we could have asked for.

More pictures can be found in our Flickr site. Photos courtesy of Dax Simbol.

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