Revisiting PasilBy madrilena de la cerna
Cebu Daily News
It’s been decades since I visited Pasil. This was during the days of Martial Law when political rallies in Cebu City were impassioned and colorful. But last January 30, an invitation to the inauguration and turnover of the Johanna Hall in the Pasil Elementary School brought me back to Pasil.
Johanna Hall is a two-storey building with eight classrooms, a special project of Feed the Children Philippines (whose national office is based in Cebu) in partnership with the Korea Hope Foundation, a Catholic Foundation based in Korea. It is named after the donor, Johanna Kim Kyung Sook, who came to grace the occasion.
The building is built on the same place where an old, condemned building used to stand. The classrooms are big and spacious with proper lighting and four ceiling fans. Each classroom has 60 durable chairs, a comfort room with a urinal and a toilet. Each comfort room has a rainwater tank and the building has a rainwater catcher. One classroom serves as a computer laboratory (air conditioned) with 20 computer sets. Grades 6 and 5 students will occupy the new classrooms.
What’s interesting is that it is connected to the old buildings, not isolated, because according to Esperanza “Becbec” Abellana, national director of Feed the Children Philippines, we are a community. Everyone was awed by the building design which is far from the school buildings done according to DepEd standards or dictated by the whims of local officials. Feed the Children also relocated the old stage of the campus to a more strategic place and did a little landscape around the building to provide an aesthetic touch.
But why Pasil? Feed the Children’s mission is to assist public schools in the city and help communities in the rural areas. The entry point is a feeding program that involves the schools and the communities. In the city, there was a need of a focus site. The condemned building in the Pasil Elementary School was an opportunity for the special project. It was not difficult to find a donor because an 85-year-old Korean lady named Kim Kyung Sook, whose Christian name is Johanna, was in a dilemma on how to use her money for a building. The head of the Korea Hope Foundation referred her to their partner in the Philippines. She visited in the first quarter of 2011. The contract was done in May 2011. Construction started in September 2011 after complying with numerous building requirements and paperwork. The building was completed in January 2012.
With the pressing problem of lack of school buildings in the country, Johanna Hall should serve as a model for the government or any other agency wanting to put up school buildings. First of all, experts should be in control of the design and structure, not local officials who are insensitive to the needs of students. How many school buildings remain unused because they are unsafe?
Feed the Children hired good and dedicated engineers to oversee the construction. It had a very efficient staff who laboriously did the legwork for the implementation of the project. The school staff was also involved. Most important, at a cost of P15 million they produced a two-storey school building with eight classrooms, each with a comfort room and a rainwater tank and rainwater catcher.
The project also showed that things go smoothly if the implementers are not cowed by local officials. With the turnover of the building, the Pasil Elementary School will now take responsibility for its proper use and maintenance, and comply with other rules pertaining to the improvement of the quality of education and the lives of the students and the community.
What a difference a clean, spacious school building makes in the lives of students in so-called depressed areas! What a big difference an NGO like Feed the Children makes in the community as it continues its commitment to help children develop their self-esteem. The gesture of Feed the Children serves as the beginning of cleaning up and transforming Pasil into a high level of decency and dignity. Feed the Children lives up to its motto: “It’s who we are. It’s what we do.” Thank you, Feed the Children and more power.