Excerpted from a story first published on CheckMySchool website
CARDONA, Rizal – Talim Island, the largest lake island in Laguna de Bay, is under the jurisdiction of two municipalities in the province of Rizal. The western side is part of the municipality of Binangonan, while the eastern section is part of Cardona. Subay, one of Talim Island’s seven barangays, is part of the third-class municipality of Cardona.
Subay has a population of 4,016 and fishing is the main source of livelihood. There is only one high school in Subay, the Catalino D. Salazar National High School. The school currently has a total population of more than 800 students and 33 faculty and staff. Before the school opened in 1994, students in Subay and nearby barangays had to travel by boat across Laguna de Bay in order to attend school in Binangonan.
“We are so lucky because our barangay has its own high school. Our children and those from nearby barangays don’t have to cross the lake to go to school,” said Emelita B. Gajero, President of the Parents Teachers Association (PTA).
Floods, landslides, snakes
But all is not well in Catalino D. Salazar National High School. During the rainy season, the school’s classrooms are inundated by floodwaters, dirt from landslides and, believe it or not, snakes.
The classrooms’ waterlogged ceilings are in danger of collapsing, particularly during typhoons. The school’s pathways are filled with rocks and boulders, and there are no sturdy fences to act as a protective enclosure, putting students and teachers at risk as the ground could collapse anytime.
“The poor conditions of classrooms and lack of facilities were not conducive to learning and really affected our students’ performance,” said OIC Jessie S. Alim. “Subay is actually not that far from Manila, yet you’d think it is very isolated because government support doesn’t seem to reach our island,” said PTA Vice President Marisol Distor Gondra. For many years, the teachers and students of Catalino Salazar National High School endured the flooding, landslides, snakes and poor conditions of the classrooms and pathways. “Local officials told us that our school was not a priority. I thought our situation was really hopeless,” recalls Ms. Alim.
Change finally comes
Things began to change for the better in 2013 when CheckMySchool (CMS) Area Coordinators Melissa S. Reyes and Maria Emily S. Matias visited the Catalino D. Salazar National High School and witnessed with their own eyes the dismal conditions of the school. Based on the CMS report, the local PTA with the support of the school principal submitted a letter to the Department of Education (DepEd) requesting for funds to repair the classrooms, pathways and fences. “Just a few months after the CMS Area Coordinators visited our school, the contractors began constructing the pathways and fences,” said Ms. Alim.
“I was so happy to see change happen so fast. I even kept copies of before and after pictures of the pathways to appreciate how dramatic the improvements are,” said Ms. Matias. CMS has confirmed that the DepEd Central Office allocated P1.25M in 2015 for Catalino Salazar NHS. Through this funding, the school will begin repairing three classrooms in October 2016.
CMS brings hope and change
“CMS helped enhance our knowledge. They helped us realize that there is still so much work that needs to be done in our schools. I encourage all local government units, PTAs, teachers and all other government officials to support CMS,” said Mr. Tirso M. Arambulo, District Supervisor, Cardona District, DepEd. “The coordination of the school, PTA, CMS, and other stakeholders is very important in communicating the school’s needs,” Ms. Alim noted.
“With CMS, we now have a partner who can help us follow up projects and funding requests,” said Ms. Gondra.
Liwayway Latonero, a resourceful teacher who installed plastic nets on the windows to prevent snakes from entering her classroom, thanks the CMS for giving their school a voice. “CMS gave us hope and helped us to improve our school.”