Thursday, August 8, 2013

July 20th: Bayan-bayanan Aeta Cultural Immersion Update - Tree Planting Program

Bayan-bayanan Principal Juvy and teachers conferring with us on various needs of the school and the local Aeta kids.

Hello Pinoyjeep Blog followers...

Here's what happened after the reading sessions I blogged about earlier. We briefly met with Principal Juvy and the teachers of the Bayan-bayanan Elementary School to discuss the pressing needs of the school, especially their Aeta students. Of course, with the start of the rainy and hurricane season, their main concern was the safety of the children and the welfare of the Aeta kids in their care during school days. The Philippine Department of Education has already promised to build new classrooms on land being donated by the town (thanks to the Barangay officials and the Town Mayor), although it may take some time before this happens. Nevertheless, it's good news.

The town's Drum & Lyre Band Competition is also around the corner so they are busy preparing the kids but would need additional support to pay for music instructions and additional instruments (lyre and drums) for the new Aeta school children who wanted to join. Of course, they will also need band uniforms.

Another pressing need was supplemental funding for the school's nutrition/feeding program. Instead of the breakfast fare, they are looking at providing needy kids with a heavier lunch offering that will not only provide better nutrition but will also encourage the students to stay in school for the whole day. They have also identified ten malnourished pre-school Aeta kids living up in the mountain that would definitely benefit from a nutrition/supplemental feeding program.

Once we heard Principal Juvy's report, Tita Naty also updated the group of the commitments made by Commissioner Lulu Castillo regarding provision of uniforms for the school's newly formed Drum and Lyre Band. In response to Sierra and the South East Asia (SEA) Club's appeal, additional donations were promised by an anonymous donor to help purchase additional band instruments as well as provide one-year's worth of direct funding support for the nutrition/supplemental feeding program of the ten Aeta pre-school kids residing up in the mountains. Additional funds were also donated by the Fadrigalan family for the purchase of additional lyres and support for the school's general nutrition/feeding program and a lyre was donated by the Lane-Smith family. Sonia also promised mailing of books for both the Aeta Halfway Home and the school's family outreach program through the generous help of Bagong Kultura Pilipino (BKP - New York City Chapter), which will be coming the first week of August. Tita Janeth also promised to provide some of the needed school supplies through donations to her charitable foundation.

Dear Pinoyjeep blog followers, hearing all of these was music to my ears. My heart was honestly overflowing with joy, as it has been for most of this trip. The task is not finished yet, and there's more that needs to be done. With community support, a little help goes a long way! And despite the baby steps, I believe we're making good progress! At this point, all I can say is, God bless everybody for their generous outpouring of kindness and support.

View inside the Bayan-bayanan Elementary School's classroom that was destroyed by the recent landslide. Unstable
soil conditions threaten more landslides so the school children were evacuated and are currently holding classes
in the Aeta  Halfway Home, inside the town chapel and in the open stage at the town plaza.
After our meeting with the school teachers, Principal Juvy led us on a half kilometer trek to the Bayan-bayanan Elementary School compound. Located near the foot of a steep-sloped ridge, the whole school was sitting at a very precarious location. As we entered one of the classrooms, we saw right before our eyes the aftermath of the landslide. As the photograph shows, the landslide literally punched a big hole through the classroom wall. It was fortunate that no school children were present when the disaster happened. The adjacent classrooms were not faring any better either. Slumped outside all the way to the edge of the roof are tons of soil and loose debris that could also crash through the classroom wall at any moment.

A typical Aeta family hut around the Bayan-bayanan Elementary School
compound. Note the precipitous drop in the land where it sits.
The school is located on a steep ridge a few meters away from this house.

It was fitting that one of the major activities planned for the occasion was for each IP Rondalla kid and local student partner to plant hardwood trees in commemoration of our visit. So, with shovels in hand, we all hiked down into the site where the trees are to be planted. The names of each of the 25 IP Rondalla member and their local school partner were written on the protective bamboo enclosures prepared ahead of time by the Barangay officers. We even added Tito Karl, (because he said he wanted to do the tree planting activity in his comment!) and Reyna, since Tita Janeth came back with us to the school. Some of the Bayan-Bayanan students who stayed helped bring the bamboo structures down the hill for us.

I looked for my name among the bunch of bamboo enclosures. Then I dragged it and the tree sapling with me to the spot where I decided to plant my commemorative tree. Gosh, I gotta tell you. It's really difficult and tiring to dig a hole in the ground, especially under the intense heat of the tropical sun, but I did it! (Of course...with the help of a few volunteers and my parents.) Now, Pinoy Jeep bloggers, It's official. You can look for everyone's tree in Bayan-Bayanan, Dinalupihan, Bataan!

Later I'll post all 25 of the IP Rondalla trees (plus the two extras) later.
For now, though, time for a nice, long nap. ;)

What a day.

Sierra Jamir

IP Rondalla (represented by Sierra) and some of the Bayan-bayanan school children and teachers take a brief break
to pose for a picture during the tree planting phase of the program. Planting of hard wood trees is not only a symbolic
gesture of the link between IP Rondalla and Aeta kids, but is also meant to stabilize the soil around the future site
of the new Bayan-bayanan Elementary School compound.
Sierra wielding a shovel to firmly plant the tree on the spot allocated to her and her Bayan-bayan student partner,
Jimmylin Durana, who is also a Majorette in the school's Drum & Lyre Band. The band was established through
 the fund raising efforts of Sierra Jamir, Dr. Mary Kantor, Phillips Academy's South East Asia (SEA) Club,
and donations of various family friends, both in the U.S. and in the Philippines.
Tita Janeth planting Janrey's and partner, Sam Lea Salmasan, who is also one of the Majorette
in the Bayan-bayan Elementary School's Drum & Lyre Band.

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