The Power of ‘Yes!’ –by Frencie L. Carreon

Posted on Friday, February 17th, 2012 and is filed under Feature. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

It was in Isabela City where I heard the resounding voices of Malamawi children, delightfully responding to US Chargè d’Affaires Leslie Bassett’s challenge of improving in their academic performance as they received a new school-building equipped with basic furniture and learning equipment from a joint   grant.

“Yes!” the happy kids of Malamawi Central Elementary School cried out, as school officials, teachers, community residents, parents and barangay officials alike echoed from the sides.

As Bassett graciously acknowledged the contributions of each partner, stressing “the power of ‘yes’,” the lady near me agreed from her seat, “Bueno se affirmation para con maga aquellos ta sinti no hay mas esperanza (That is a good affirmation for those who feel there is no more hope).”

The US Deputy of Mission was in Isabela City then, along with Petron Foundation Incorporated’s  Rex Alenton, to formally turn over a joint education project grant to four schools in Sulu and two in Basilan.  The schools received a two-room school-building each in early February this year as part of a joint collaboration by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Petron Foundation Incorporated, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the US Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTFP).

As representatives of the recipient-schools thanked the American people and Petron’s support, as well as the assistance of the Philippine Navy and the visiting US forces, Bassett reminded each that while “the classroom is important, but teachers and students are more important.”

Petron and USAID’s grant to Sulu were received by Nursiba Jahimuddin, the teacher-in-charge of Angilan Primary School in Angilan in Omar town, Elma Hamsaji, a teacher from Kabungkol Elementary School in Kabungkol municipality, and Edwin Saraji, teacher of the Kanbulak Elementary School in Kanbulak town.

“Kanbulak has problems with accessibility because of non-passable roads.  Transportation is very difficult, and we are so happy we have a new school-building because what we have is really not enough to accommodate also the children.  Now, the mere sight of a new school building is inspiring more children to go to school, even if it is only for a change in their environment,” said Edwin Saraji in an interview.

In Basilan, one school-building was granted to Port Holland Elementary School in Maluso town, and this was received by its principal, Amelia Jalani.  The second school was at the venue of the turn-over ceremony, Malamawi Central Elementary School, and this was formally received by its principal, Elsa Usman, in the presence of the City School Division Superintendent of Schools Dr. Hilda Babon, Basilan Governor Jum Akbar, Isabela City Mayor Cherrylynn Santos-Akbar, and Malamawi Barangay Chair Noel Mirasol.

Mayor Akbar expressed though that “there is more need for development,” and hopes “for more projects.”


An elated Dr. Babon manifested the gratitude of the Department of Education:  “We are thankful for the projects and programs by the American people through USAID,” as she enumerated the literacy programs, particularly the computer literacy programs of the USAID’s Department of Education, acknowledging that thirteen schools across Basilan have been recipients of its EqUALLs Program.

“The performance in the MPS and NAT improved, from a ranking of Number 9 to Number 6 in the entire region,” Babon declared.  The DepED official thus urged both students and teachers to avail of learning opportunities whenever offered, to include those that come from grants by Petron and USAID.  “Truly, generations of children from this barangay will benefit from this education project,” she said.

The military sector’s participation and support to the project was commended, as a 22-man Team Navy was deployed by the Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NavForWM) to man the construction of the school-buildings in Basilan.

“Construction began on 8 August of last year, and ended on 15 November,” Ensign Josef Baccay, the Navy officer-in-charge at the time of the construction in Isabela.  “The JSOTFP personnel were the ones who worked on the school in Maluso,” he added, referring to the school-building for Port Holland Elementary School.

The United States’ support for education in the Philippines is beyond question.  Decades ago, it was the US that allowed free education to all classes in the Philippines when it was still among its colonies.  Even after it liberated the Philippines, it has unceasingly extended aid to the education sector through the construction of added school-buildings especially in remote areas to enhance accessibility by the poor to learning opportunities.  In addition, it has provided training opportunities here and abroad to deserving teachers, and students.  The American people through USAID and various US-based non-government organizations, donated computers, books, references, multi-media, and other educational tools, as well as provided Internet connection,  across schools in the country.

“Am very fortunate that I get to see the good side of Basilan.  We have fourteen American Shelves and American Corners in the Philippines, and Basilan is one of them,” Bassett said, at Basilan National High School, where she also presented additional books and references to its library’s American Shelf.

Argie Sarco, assistant dean of student affairs of Basilan State College, lamented though, “Basilan gets the headlines when there is conflict but there are more good things happening here.  Media should also talk about the good things happening in Basilan rather than just killings and terror acts, ambushes and massacres, which they sometimes make so big that even residents would wonder where these things are happening when all is quiet from our end. Sometimes, we just learn about the incident from politicians.”

In an interview, Task Force Basilan commander Col. Ramon Yogyog said, “We are focused on development.  As much as possible, we will reduce encounters with the enemies.  We will run after lawless elements who are doing the kidnaps.  We will pursue developmental activities.”

“Isabela City is generally at peace now.  It has been a recipient of most civic projects from USAID, Petron, and even peace organizations.  We want to keep it that way,” the Philippine Army colonel said.

To that, Basileños aver a reverberating, “Yes!”  (Frencie L. Carreon, Our Mindanao)

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