A day in the life of Maya (Comval’s “Bayanihan sa Paaralan” program makes way in one of the remote villages in New Bataan)

Compostela Valley Province– Maya, an 8-year old girl sat beside her father. Her attention was focused on the man speaking before a crowd then wandered to other officials sitting on the stage. Her attention was cut off when an army gave her a lollipop and some candies, she shyly accepted upon her mother’s prodding. She unwrapped the candy and gingerly popped it in her mouth, as if savoring its sweetness, her eyes lit up.

Maya is among the estimated 40 children living in the remote area of Sitio Danawan, Barangay Manurigao in New Bataan.  With Manurigao identified as a geographically isolated and disadvantaged area (GIDA) in the province, the sitio is the farthest of the said barangay already bordering Davao Oriental Province. It has about 28 families with an estimated population of 144 Mandaya community who subsists mainly on farming such as corn, camote and abaca.

Reaching Danawan is not an easy feat. One has to walk 9 kilometers to reach Sitio Biyangunan where single motorcycles for hire will transport you to the town center in New Bataan for P1,000 per head, one way.      

Mga 3-4 hours gyud ang baktas gikan diri padulong sa Biyangunan, pagsakay pud ug motor padulong New Bataan mudagan pud ug minimum nga 4 ka oras, lisud gyud kayo ang dalan,” (One has to walk 3-4 hrs going to Biiyangunan. From there, it’s another 4-hour ride via single motor for a minimum of 4 hours travel), said James Balingan, SK Chairperson of Brgy Manurigao.

Bayanihan kick-off

On September 29, 2019,  the provincial government led the peace-building initiative where a kick-off ceremony was held for the “Bayanihan sa Paaralan” program for the construction of a 1-unit, 2 classroom building.  The program was attended by Ltc. Roman Mabborang, 66th IB Battalion Commander Mayor Geraldford Balbin, Board Member Raul Timogtimog representing Gov. Tyron Uy, and DepEd Comval Ruben Reponte, along with other provincial and local officials.    

Due to the remoteness and difficulty in hauling the materials, the Bayanihan build in Sitio Danawan took a week before it commenced construction. While the rest of the other 4 school sites in the identified GIDAs and conflict-affected areas (CAA) kicked off the build simultaneously on September 20, 2019. These are Side 4, Brgy. Mangayon, and P-3, Brgy. Panansalan, both in Compostela; P-3, Brgy Pagsabangan in New Bataan; and Sitio Sapanglubog, Brgy. Tibagon in Pantukan.

In each of these sites, the different offices of the provincial government take the lead in the management of the bayanihan build. They are partnered with the municipal and barangay LGUs, Department of Education-Comval, the Philippine Army, private partners, among others.

“Bringing government closer to the people”

Such was the awe of Maya and probably even to the rest of the community. With this, it is an uncommon sight to see new faces, witness the program and even watch movies projected on wide screen at night.  Much more, witness helicopters landing and taking off in their area. 

But for Dante Agimlod, nothing compares to the sight of the 2 doctors who also flew in during the opening. It was his first time to get a medical check-up.  “Wala ko naka pa-check up tungod sa kalayo sa among lugar. Daku gyud ang among pagpasalamat nga nakaabut mo dinhi. Gihatagan na sad kog libreng tambal,” (I couldn’t have a medical check-up because of the remoteness of our place. I am thankful that the government reached out to us. I also received medcines.)  

Brgy. Kagawad Arturo Dagansan also appreciated the fact that the government spared no effort and spared no expense in reaching out to their far-flung community and put up the much needed classrooms. “Bisan sa kalayo sa among lugar, giagwanta ninyo. Kining proyekto, daku gyud kaayug gasto pero wala ninyo gipanumbaling tungod kay gilantaw ninyo ang kalisud diri sa among barangay.”

He also acknowledged the worker-builders and volunteers who braved the arduous travel and long walk as well as endured being far away from their families. “Gani nagkamang-kamang sila sa kalisud sa dalan, pero naa sila diri para lang matabangan mi sa pagtukod sa eskuwelahan.”  

Hopes for a brighter future

Situated on a higher ground, the community with its colored houses, courtesy from the government’s Pabahay program, looks picturesque amidst the vast mountain ranges surrounding it.  In the afternoon, the kids’ laughter echoed in the quiet surrounding while the youth played basketball and some into volleyball, their way of entertainment as the place has no electricity.

“Gusto na kaayo ko mu-eskuwela para mag-maestra nako pagdaku,” Maya, who has already shown a flair in volleyball, replied after being asked what she wanted to be when she grow up.

The following morning, Maya, whose timidity has lessened having warmed up to her since the other day, was there to send the team off on a chopper, a UH1 Huey military aircraft, back home.  She smiled, her eyes hopeful as she waved goodbye to the departing group, her mother protectively covering her from the strong wind that the chopper’s propeller has made. Her hands holding on to her mother, she continued to wave goodbye, her hair now in disarray, as the chopper continues to ascend and fly away.   (fe fuentes maestre/id comval)

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