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Heart of Gold: Finding the Real Treasure in Camarines Norte


Dense forests and craggy mountains surround the former gold town of Jose Panganiban in Camarines Norte. This is the first-time Knowledge Channel Foundation (KCFI) has reached this remote area as four of its schools have been chosen as recipients of educational television (ETV) systems under the “100 for 100: The Knowledge Channel Project”.

This Global Grant Project initiated by Rotary Philippines District 3830 and Rotary International aimed to connect 100 ETV systems to more than 80 public schools in the Philippines to provide them access to Knowledge Channel’s on-air programs and other resources like videos and games stored in portable media libraries.

On the list is Calogcog Elementary School located at a mountainside 30 minutes away from town. With a population of roughly 500 learners, the school caters to students who help their parents in different jobs to make ends meet. This includes doing laundry for affluent families who live at the town proper, chopping wood for selling, and even engaging in small-scale mining, locally called “pagkakabod”.


Meeting Francis

From a place called “Radar”, a known mining zone, is a student named Francis. He walks for two hours just to attend classes. Instead of riding a tricycle, he squeezes his seven-peso daily allowance for a piece of bread and ice water to get him through the school day. Unlike other students who played after class, the thin-framed boy has seemed to forget about childhood as he juggles school and working for a living.

“Minsan po ‘pag wala na akong gawa, ‘pag gusto po ako ni Tiyo patulungin sumasama po ako sa pagkakabod,” said Francis in an interview. “Si tiyo po ay pumupunta sa ilalim ng lupa, minsan naman po ako ay sa ibabaw. Nagdudukal po siya ng lupa tapos yung nakukuha po naming bato, iniaahon po namin tapos pinipitpit po namin. Tapos po nilalagay namin sa sako tsaka po pinapagiling na namin.”

(“When I have nothing to do, I join my uncle in mining for gold. He digs a hole in the ground while I stay above. He then breaks the soil apart to get rocks and we put them in sacks for grinding.”)

Pagkakabod is a common source of income for underprivileged families in Jose Panganiban. Though risky not only for the environment but for Francis’ safety, it helped his family meet their  basic needs. But a hard day’s work cannot fully suffice their finances. At times, Francis even shared he had to skip class after working a long day with his uncle.

“Kapag po nagsimula kami ng alas-sais ng hapon, minsan po naahon po kami mga alas-otso po ng gabi, minsan po hanggang alas-dose. Minsan po hindi na po ako nakakapasok dahil napupuyat po gawa po ng overtime,” Francis shared.

(“When we start our work at 6 PM, we usually finish by 8PM or sometimes even midnight. I don’t get to school sometimes because I worked overtime.”)

When Francis’ father died, his mother left him and his sister under the care of different relatives. The siblings have been separated from each other and both have lost contact from their mother ever since. The last call Francis received from his mom was from two years ago. That time, his mom promised to see him but never did.

Francis broke down in tears.

“Simula po nung namatay ang tatay ko, iniwan na niya kami. Siguro po ayaw na niya sa amin kasi ‘di na niya kami kayang buhayin. Nung tumawag po siya noon sabi nila (ng mga tiyahin ko) dapat nasusumbatan ko na ang nanay ko pero hindi ko po magawa,” he tearfully said.

(“Since our father died, she left us. Maybe she doesn’t want us anymore because she can’t help us survive. When she called, my aunties were telling me to scold my mom but I couldn’t.”)


A teacher’s response

“A quiet and reserved student” was what his adviser Mrs. Gloria Artana said about him. Francis usually enjoyed the company of friends. But it was during half of the school year that she noticed his usual absence.

“Ang gusto ko sa kanya kapag ako po ay nagtuturo nang HEKASI (Heograpiya, Kasaysayan at Sibika). Magaling siyang magpaliwanag ng mga nangyayari sa paligid,” Artana opined. “Pero nito pong mga huli napansin ko na halos tumatagal na ang kanyang paga-absent at saka nakikita ko talagang naaapektuhan ang kanyang pag-aaral.”

(“I like it that he can explain his thoughts well when I teach History. But I noticed that his absences were increasing and it’s affecting his studies.”)

Mrs. Artana became very concerned about his class standing. She then discovered that Francis needed to run errands for his family and that he, too, is one of the many kids who are entering the mining trade. In a theme paper that Francis wrote, she realized that the young boy is a big mission for her as a teacher.

“Sabi ko nga sa kanya na kahit wala ang magulang, mas marami ang dumadagdag  para punuan ang mga pagkukulang. Kaya nga po dito sa school namin kasama siya sa feeding program kasi bukod sa mababa ang kanyang timbang, malayo pa ang kanyang pinanggagalingan pati po ang kanyang uniform ay pinagtutulung-tulungan naming mga teacher.” Artana explained.

(“I told him that even if your parents are not with you, there will be people who can and will fill in for them. Here in our school, we do our best to provide him food since he lives so far and is underweight. We also help him with his uniform.”)

Golden Boy: Despite challenges, Francis does his best to go to school everyday

A dream for the future

Despite the challenges, Francis strives to go to school to keep learning. He believes this is his way to live a better life in the future. He was also one of those kids whose eyes lit up when he saw the large flat screen television delivered by KCFI and the alumni of Jose Panganiban National High School.

Even his teacher, Mrs. Artana, couldn’t hide her excitement knowing that this will help her and other teachers make class discussions more interesting. Serving for more than 20 years, she proved that multimedia learning is a big help to students like Francis.

“Sa experience ko po sa pagtuturo, mas nagiging active ang mga bata at mas nagiging madali para sa teacher kasi nga may naririnig at may nakikita sa TV,” Artana said.

(“In my teaching experience, students are more participative and it’s easier for the teacher because they can learn through television.”)

This year, Francis finally graduated from elementary and is now studying in Daet through through a scholarship given by the generous hearts of Ms. Beth Alvero and the Jose Panganiban Alumni Association. Regardless of his struggles, he was able to march with pride and continues to reach for his dreams believing that family is still his biggest inspiration.

“Yung ate ko po, sabi niya po kapag nakapagtapos po kami, tutulungan po namin lahat ng nagpalaki sa amin at hahanapin po namin yung mama namin. Tuparin daw po namin yung mga pangarap namin,” he confidently said.

(“My sister told me that when we finish school, we’ll help all of those who helped us and then we will find our mother. We will fulfill our dreams.”)

Up to this day, Mrs. Artana and the community of Calogcog Elementary School continue to use Knowledge Channel as a way to keep students engaged and more importantly, inspired to keep learning.

Public School Children of Muntinlupa Receive Six Years of Educational Help From Insular Life Employees

A new batch of 140 indigent Grade 1 pupils from Muntinlupa Itaas Elementary School (MIES) will receive annual educational support for six years from the Insular Life employees through the Adopt-A-Scholar Program of the Insular Foundation.

It was during the turn-over ceremonies of school materials held recently at MIES, New Bilibid Compound in Muntinlupa, that the first year of educational assistance was fulfilled by Insular Life employees. Each pack of school materials contains school shoes, school uniform, and assorted school things and will be given to the selected scholars every year starting Grade 1, until they finish the Grade 6 level.

The adopted scholars and their parents came to receive the pack of school materials from Insular Life Executives, President and COO Mrs. Mona B. Lisa dela Cruz, Senior Executive Vice President Mr. Jesus Alfonso G. Hofilena and Senior Assistant Vice President Ms. Ana Maria R. Soriano, with the Insular Foundation staff, Ms. Teresita Melad and Ms. Mitzie Casibang. The MIES School Principal, Mr. Raul T. Felix, MIES Coordinator, Mrs. Rebecca V. Kondo and other Grade 1 Teacher Advisers were also present during the event.

Mrs. Mona Lisa B. dela Cruz, in her message during the event, said that “Isa sa pangunahing layunin ng programa ay makatulong sa ating pamahalaan upang mapataas ang bilang ng mga nagsisipagtapos sa mababang paaralan. At upang makamit ito, inaasahan ng mga Sponsors na pagbubutihin ng mga Scholars ang pag-aaral sa pamamagitan ng pagpasok sa paaralan araw-araw na laging handa, nag-aral ng leksiyon, nakikilahok sa talakayan at may mataas na marka sa mga pagsusulit.”

Since the program started in Muntinlupa Itaas Elementary School in 2001, 242 scholars have already benefitted from the educational assistance given by more than 100 Insular Life employees.

Adopt-A-Scholar Program is one of the many educational programs of Insular Foundation that seeks to improve the quality of education of the country and be able to help fellow Filipinos make their lives better.



BDO Foundation upgrades health center in Agusan del Sur

More than 80,000 people from 27 barangays are expected to benefit from the rehabilitation of the Rural Health Unit and Reproductive Health Center of San Francisco, a project undertaken by BDO Foundation.

The people of San Francisco in Agusan del Sur celebrated the unveiling of the town's health center, which was recently rehabilitated by BDO Foundation. At the inauguration and turnover of the Rural Health Unit and Reproductive Health Center of San Francisco, the community thanked BDO and expressed their commitment to maintain the upgraded facilities.

Rural health physician Dr. Eddie Cabanban noted the significant improvement of the health center's facilities, saying these will encourage patients to visit and consult more frequently.

BDO Foundation improved the offices, consultation rooms, treatment rooms, dental clinic, laboratory, various furniture and fixtures, breastfeeding area and birthing clinic of San Francisco's health center. A play area for children and a waiting lounge for senior citizens were also installed.

The rehabilitated rural health unit was officially turned over to local government and health officials in an event attended by BDO Foundation president Mario Deriquito, BDO Agusan del Sur-San Francisco Gaisano banch head Mary Grace Alday and One Network Bank branch operations officer Wendle Fernandez.

The health center is located in the municipality of San Francisco, which is touted as the commercial capital of Agusan del Sur. Originally constructed in 2006, the Rural Health Unit and Reproductive Health Center of San Francisco delivers as many as 20 child births per day.

The upgrade of the health center in San Francisco is one of many completed by BDO Foundation, the corporate social responsibility arm of BDO Unibank. Through the rehabilitation of rural health units all over the country, particularly in disadvantaged communities, the foundation aims to help improve the delivery of primary and maternal healthcare services. The corporate social responsibility initiative is backed by the wide network of BDO and ONB branches nationwide.

BDO Foundation's rehabilitation project in Agusan del Sur and other parts of the region help alleviate the plight of Mindanaoans affected by armed conflict and natural disasters.

Aboitiz Foundation turns over library and research center

Photo shows (Top, from left) City Councilor Atty. Darwin Icay, Vice-Mayor Ricardo Cruz, Jr., Faculty Club President Antonio Santiago. (Below, 2nd from right) Aboitiz Foundation First Vice President & Chief Operating Officer Maribeth Marasigan with Grade 1 special science students.

The Aboitiz Foundation, the corporate foundation of the Aboitiz Group, recently turned over a newly-refurbished library and research center to Taguig Integrated School (TIS) as part of its commitment to develop science-based skills among young students.

“I am sure this newly refurbished library will be a place of many inspiring stories like that of our scholars, and of the Taguig Integrated School’s very own young Filipino inventors. Our dream in the Foundation is to help every student that we assist reach his or her full potential and eventually reach his or her dreams. We are inspired by our purpose of driving change for a better world in doing more and striving harder to turn this dream into a reality,” said Aboitiz Foundation First Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Maribeth L. Marasigan. She also encouraged everyone to read books because it can “take you to places, unleash imagination and creativity, and bring you to a world of your own.”

“What is beautiful with this partnership with Aboitiz Foundation and the Department of Education TaPat (Taguig-Pateros) is that it is basically trying to emphasize and strengthen the love for reading among our children,” Office of the Assistant Schools Division Superintendent Officer-in-Charge Dr. Carleen S. Sedilla said.

Now on its 5th phase, the program of developing a Taguig Science Elementary School aims to establish facilities necessary for effective science-based education and hopes to enhance teachers’ imparting skills as well as students’ academic performance.

Aside from the library refurbishment, books and computer units were also donated. Grolier International, Adarna House, and the National Book Development Board also donated additional books to the library.

BDO Continues Support for Marawi Evacuees

BDO Unibank continued to serve people affected by the armed conflict in Marawi City through various corporate citizenship initiatives. The largest bank in the Philippines joined other companies in providing financial assistance to the families of at least 100 soldiers and police personnel killed in the Marawi siege. Facilitated by BDO Foundation, the bank's P2-million donation was turned over to the families in an event in Malacañang Palace. 

BDO Foundation, the corporate social responsibility arm of BDO Unibank, also partnered with Makati Medical Center (MMC) Foundation to support a medical-surgical mission for injured soldiers. The foundation donated 200 hygiene and grooming kits to the Marawi Mercy Mission for military personnel confined at Camp Evangelista Station Hospital in Cagayan de Oro City. The mission was organized by MMC Foundation in partnership with the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation and the Adventist Medical Center in Iligan. 

For an estimated 33,000 school children displaced by the fighting in Marawi, classes were inevitably disrupted. In response, BDO Foundation and One Network Bank, the rural bank subsidiary of BDO, provided 238 teachers with educational kits to enable them to continue teaching students in temporary learning spaces in evacuation centers. 

These donations are on top of the relief goods previously provided by the foundation for around 3,000 families displaced by the fighting and 300 soldiers injured in the military operations.

Through various corporate citizenship initiatives, BDO Foundation continued to pursue efforts to support civilians, police and military personnel affected by the Marawi City crisis.

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