The school had stood for more than 40 years before Tropical Storm “Sendong” brought it down one night, nine days before Christmas last year.
Situated along the Mandulog River on Bayug Island in Iligan City, Bayug Elementary School (BES) was a second home to more than 600 students and 15 teachers, until the tropical storm devastated the city while most residents were asleep.
As Mandulog overflowed its banks, logs came rushing down the river, destroying houses in Bayug, including all 14 classrooms of the island’s only school.
In the ensuing days, although victims themselves, the teachers scoured every evacuation center looking for their students. Five pupils and their kindergarten teacher were confirmed dead.
When classes resumed in January, BES registered a 60-percent attendance.
Since the tragedy, Bayug Island has been declared a danger zone because of its proximity to Mandulog River. The city government would not allow residents to rebuild, not even the school.
BES students had to meet in the gym of a bigger public school in Barangay (village) Hinaplanon until the school year ended in March. Teachers laid out mats for the students, who did not even have notebooks and were wearing donated clothes. The gym had no chairs and blackboards.
Teachers struggled to be heard by their own students as classes were held simultaneously, with only borrowed blackboards separating them. Heat, noise and rain distracted the students. “It was simply not conducive to learning,” said Rosita Bayron, school principal.
As the June opening of the new school year neared, the BES community remained uncertain of its future.
Teachers, parents and students had to come up with a plan. They had to find a new site for their school.
Just before the end of the last school year, Bayron found a 5,000-square-meter property in Hinaplanon where BES could rise again.
But the private property cost P10 million. Both the Iligan City government and the Department of Education division office did not have enough money to buy the lot.
According to the Department of Education, the damage to schools wrought by Sendong in Mindanao totaled P114.93 million in 60 schools, where more than 26,000 students were enrolled.
Bayron said that while many people wanted to donate classrooms, by the time the long school break was over, the BES community had raised only P600,000, clearly not enough for the lot.
Two weeks before the opening of this school year, the BES group was informed by the Iligan City division office that it could no longer use the gym.
Bayron said the parents and the students wept upon hearing the news. They had hoped the school would find a new site before June.
But when the new school year opened, more than 400 students and the 14 teachers of BES were distributed among the different schools in the division.
To rebuild BES, the division had involved all public schools in Region X in a campaign to raise funds for the school. Nongovernment organizations and private companies have pledged to build classrooms.
The question was where to build?
Some parents promised they would bring their kids back to BES if and when it reopened.
Although they still have a long way to go, BES students, their parents and their teachers remain hopeful their school will rise again.