The one-classroom high school building in Mt. Diwata built through DSWD Kalahi-CIDSS PAMANA.

Monkayo, Compostela Valley – “Ang edukasyon ang isa ka bahandi nga among maikahatag sa among mga anak. Mao kini ang ilang bulawan nga dili makuha sa ilaha (Education is one treasure that we can give our children. This is their brand of gold that could not be taken away from them),” shares Elenita P. Lampera, 43, a mother of three and a Kalahi-CIDSS volunteer.

Considering the remoteness of the village, it was a dream come true for the community of miners in Upper Ulip, Mt. Diwata when the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Kalahi-CIDSS PAMANA funded the construction of a Php 679,175.00 one-classroom high school building.

Furnished with armchairs and blackboards, the classroom has concrete walls and painted inside and out. It now stands proud, right at the treacherous hills of Mt. Diwata because of the passion and cooperation of Kalahi-CIDSS volunteers.

Need for a classroom

A relatively cold and quiet mountain village with 1,000-meter high range and known for its rich gold ore deposits, Mt. Diwata has an estimated population of 40,000 people based on National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) figure.

“Our community here is dependent on gold. Small-scale mining has been our major industry since the 1980s,” said Lampera.

Separated from Poblacion Monkayo with a 45-minute rough ride, one of the pressing needs of the community is a decent classroom building to accommodate the increasing number of high school enrollees who are presently using the barangay gymnasium as classroom.

The people didn’t feel the pressure to have better classrooms until now because for a very long time, all they cared about was earning more and managing their livelihood as small scale miners.

Barangay Captain Pedro J. Samillano, Sr said one of the reasons why people devote themselves into mining instead of aspiring to provide education to their children was that they felt neglected by the government.

“Daghan naabot nga mga proyekto diri, pero dili kini mahuman-human tungod sa kalisud sa sitwasyon sa amoang barangay. Layo kini ug dakong kwarta ang kailanganon sa pagpadala sa mga materyales sa konstruksyon. (There were a lot of projects which were started here but they never got done. This is far and hard-to-reach and hauling cost of construction materials is quite high).”

Students hold their classes at the gym-turned school building. A low-hanging makeshift ceiling made from recycled tarpaulins protects the students from the heat and rain since the gym is kind of open-sided covered court.

“When the rain pours, students race to a dry corner and huddle until the rain stops,” Samillano said.

Worse, the makeshift classrooms divided by a thin plywood don’t make learning as conducive as different levels of classroom clatters are impossible to contain, he added.

Enters Kalahi-CIDSS

Kalahi-CIDSS or Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services is one of DSWD’s core programs that aims to empower ordinary citizens to directly participate in local governance by identifying their own community needs and collectively responding to it.

PAMANA or PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn is one of the modalities of Kalahi CIDSS that aims to improve access of conflict-affected barangays (CABs) to quality basic social services and responsive, transparent and accountable local governments.

The implementation of Kalahi-CIDSS PAMANA in Upper Ulip, Mt. Diwata has motivated a group of miners to work together for the benefit of their children.

Sans monetary remuneration, miners, women and barangay officials gathered and volunteered. They agreed on a shifting scheme during the construction.

“Sila tanan nagsakripisyo para sa proyekto. Para sa ilaha, ang paghatag sa ilang mga anak og edukasyon maoy solusyon aron mouswag ang ilang komunidad. (They all sacrificed for the project. To them, educating their children is key to development),” related George Nasula, Kalahi-CIDSS community facilitator.

He said the parents wouldn’t wish their children working in unsafe tunnels in the future. They’d rather that their children pursue careers in the big cities or land other jobs apart from mining.

“Since the sub-project implementation is directly carried out by the community, they felt that they are valued by the program,” Nasula said.

It’s a big deal for them that the grant is released directly to the community account and managed by community volunteers themselves, he added.

The Local Government Unit and Civil Society Organizations also extended full support in the hauling of construction materials.

Kalahi-CIDSS volunteer Danny Banares, Sr, reported, “Daghan na nga pagsulay ang among naagihan.  Kabahin na ini ang kalayo sa among lugar, ang bagyong Pablo, ug daghan pang kalamidad. Pero sa among pagtinabangay, nahuman gyud namo ang sub-proyekto nga mas sayo pa sa gitakda nga petsa (We have experienced a lot of trials in our area. These include the remote location of our place, Typhoon Pablo, and other calamities. But with everyone’s cooperation, we completed our sub project earlier than the due date).”

A total of 4429 Kalahi-CIDSS household-beneficiaries and 832 Pantawid Pamilya households in the barangay are benefiting from the sub-project.

But more importantly, the number of enrollees increased by 25%.

“Kaya nako ang pag bag-o kung kita sa isig-komunidad magtinabangay (I can change for the better if we all help each other).” This is the collective cry of the community and this conviction gave them their brand new classroom.  (DSWD)