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A one-of-a-kind ‘Brigada Eskwela’ in the sky

Jade Gamas-Chiu | June 20, 2019

Sitio Kanacan in Brgy. Tamugan, Marilog District, Davao City sits atop a mountain at 1,500 feet above sea level. Standing at a  the peak, the lush green view of the Baguio, Marilog, and Calinan Districts, the winding Tamugan and Davao Rivers, as well as the Davao-Bukidnon Road can be seen. It is definitely a breathtaking sight.

 

“Abi ninyo diri sa amua, diyes sentimos para langit jud ni (Here in our place, it’s only ten centavos to reach heaven),” Sitio Kanacan community leader Tatoy Tandangan said in jest, immediately drawing laughter from the crowd. 

 

Sitio Kanacan boasts of majestic overlooking views of (top to bottom) Tamugan River, BuDa Road, and Davao River.
Sitio Kanacan boasts of majestic overlooking views of (top to bottom) Tamugan River, BuDa Road, and Davao River.

 

 

It was May 25, the last day of the week-long Brigada Eskwela in Kanacan Elementary and High School for which a hundred volunteers gathered for a short program before starting their work. This moment of excitement was in contrast to the feeling they had in the journey to reach the community.

From Brgy. Lacson junction, it takes 40 minutes or 16 kilometers to reach the school by vehicle, traversing a combination of paved and unpaved roads lined with wild grass and cliffs. A one-lane uncemented road unfrequented by 4-wheeled vehicles will greet travelers on the ascent. The bare earth turns muddy and slippery when wet and makes the road difficult to pass.

These types of [CSR] activities have always been integral to the Aboitiz Group. This is a significant activity for Apo Agua as this is the farthest and highest we’ve come so far. It has been an adventure for us.

– Ones Almario, General Manager, Apo Agua

In his welcome message, Kanacan Elementary School Head Teacher Darcy Centillas said:

“Nalipay kaayo mi ug dako nga naa mo. First time nahitabo nga gianhi mi dinhi. (We are very happy that you are here. This is the first time we’ve been visited.)”

He went on to share how, before their school was established, students from their sitio would have to travel for an hour to the nearest national high school. In the rainy seasStudents needed to walk even under extreme weather conditions, too, which would lead to many already dropping out by August.The road then was almost impassable and motorcycles making their way to the village would get stuck in the mud. 

Today, Kanacan High School’s Grades 7 to 9 have a total of 51 enrollees, most of whom belong to the Obu Manuvu, Bagobo, Ata, and Diangan tribes. While they wait for their new classrooms to be built within two years, they are occupying the former classrooms of Grades 1 to 3. The three-classroom building, built in 1972, is made of wooden planks and has undergone countless repairs and maintenance since.

The Brigada Eskwela volunteers breathed new life to the single-storey building and its surroundings. Teachers, parents, and students assisted Apo Agua, its Project Development and Execution Team, and the JCI Davao who banded together in a collective effort to clean and paint walls, doors, and used tires, do carpentry work, and groundskeeping.

 

 

Apo Agua also donated much-needed tools and materials: gallons of paint, paint brushes, plywood, brooms, and trash cans. JCI Davao donated first aid kits and books.

Conchita Tandangan, a mother of three, joined her family in the activity. “Mura rag nagdula-dula (It’s just like we’re playing),” she said, brushing paint up and down a wall. “Salamat kaayo, ma’am. Wala man mi nagdahom ani. Abi namo’g pasagdan lang mi diri. Lipay kaayo mi, ma’am ui! (Thank you very much. We didn’t see this coming. We thought we would be left out on our own. We are very happy!)”

After the morning’s work was done, as the group of volunteers prepared to head back out, one of the students came running from the back of their newly painted classroom and shouted to her classmates, “Nindut na kaayo! (It looks very nice now!)” That was enough to carve a smile on the team members’ faces as they bid Kanacan High School goodbye.