Pens of Hope had a mini gift-giving activity at Panlabuhan floating village, an ancestral domain of Manobo indigenous people in the heart of Agusan Marsh on July 5, 2014. Agusan Marsh is popular for being the natural home of Philippine crocodiles. It’s where Lolong, the world’s largest croc in captivity used to live.
|The floating Sikat Panlabuhan Primary School|
The distribution was conducted at Sikat Panlabuhan Primary School, one of the main buildings in the community. Like the other buildings—church, lodge and houses—the school is a floating structure that is tied to a bangkal tree. It has two classrooms: one is used for instruction, and the other as a book storage and teacher bunk house.
|Library / Teacher's bunkhouse|
The school has 38 students from daycare to Grade 3, following multi-grade teaching system (one teacher handling different grade levels in a classroom). Students go to school through wooden dugout canoes. They come from families whose main sources of living are fishing and weaving bags and baskets from dried water hyacinths in the marsh. Marites Babanto, the local tour guide, said that each family earns about 100 to 300 pesos per day, depending on the quantity of fish caught.
|Kid paddling a wooden canoe|
Upon finishing the 3rd grade, students study in Loreto municipality, the nearest town in mainland Mindanao. Loreto is about one-hour away from the village by outrigger-less boat. Students stay in the bunkhouse and visit home only during weekends. For additional information about the community, please read this blog post.
The gift-giving was integrated with the trip of travel bloggers from the cities of Davao, General Santos and Koronadal. Most of them have been active volunteers/supporters of the POHD program.
Unfortunately not all students were present during the distribution as it was held on a Saturday and it was a bit inconvenient for them to go to the venue. Further, a few students went home because the distribution was delayed due to other tourism-related activities. However, we left the writing materials to the teacher and we requested her to give them to the rest of the students the following weekday.
|Teacher Ann (the woman in orange shirt) leading an action song|
The distribution was pretty straightforward. We simply gathered the kids in the classroom along with their parents. We explained what Pens of Hope program is and where the donations came from. Then Teacher Anna Lou Teves led a simple action song to make the kids more comfortable.
|Leah sharing pencils and pens with the kids|
Leah, one of the volunteers/travel bloggers, handed the writing materials to the kids. Since we can’t give each child a coloring set due to limited supplies, we left the crayons, colored pens, colored pencils, and paper pads in the teacher’s care. She said the students will use them during art activities.
We would like to thank the following for this successful gift-giving:
- Integreon KPO firm
- Anonymous angel from the UK
- Ping from the UAE
- Mindanao Tourism Council, Tourism Office of Agusan del Sur and Loreto Municipality for organizing the trip
Thank you, thank you. Your kindness will always be remembered.
More pics here.