NEW BATAAN, Compostela Valley—Clutching Philippine and American flags, hundreds of pupils from this typhoon-devastated town greeted officials of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) who came to their school on Friday to distribute some P1.2 million worth of school supplies.
“From our hearts, we express our deepest gratitude for your continuous help,” said Marcelino de los Reyes, district head of the Department of Education (DepEd).
Bags, notebooks, pens and writing pads were given to 1,586 pupils of Cabinuangan Central Elementary School while teaching kits, blackboards, desks, tables and books were handed over to school officials.
Donations have continued to pour into New Bataan as it recovers from the devastation brought by Typhoon “Pablo” in December last year. More than 400 people died as Pablo’s 175-kilometer-per-hour wind and rain sent a wall of water over 50 feet high cascading from Compostela Valley’s highest peak.
All of the municipality’s 16 villages suffered destruction from flood and strong wind.
“We mourn the loss of life and property as a result of the typhoon. And I want to tell you how impressed we are by your resilience. I hope this has made all of you stronger,” Philippine mission director Gloria Steele, who led the USAID people, told cheering pupils, school officials and local leaders during a short program.
Bringing back normalcy
For 12-year-old Shamer Ephraim Clavano, the blue backpack and notebooks meant he and his younger sister would not have to endure recycled notebooks sewn from old ones. The USAID logo and US flag are embossed on the backpack.
Steele said the US government would continue its support to bring back normalcy in typhoon-ravaged areas in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.
Donations in New Bataan, she said, were part of the P201-million disaster recovery assistance for Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental. Most of the more than 1,000 people killed in the calamity were from the two areas.
With the school supplies, students in New Bataan can now focus on their studies again, but school officials say there is still much to be done to restore normalcy.
The influx of more pupils, like those who were to enroll in kindergarten as mandated by the new K to 12 education program, also contributed to the shortage of classrooms in New Bataan and other areas.
The DepEd has earmarked funds for the construction of an additional 136 classrooms and the repair of over 500 more in Compostela Valley alone, according to its assistant secretary, Reynaldo Laguda.
The government had allocated over P1 billion for the complete rehabilitation of schools in the province, Laguda also said.
Steele reiterated the US government’s support for disaster mitigation programs in the Philippines, costing at least P287 million.
“The US government continues to work with the Philippine government to help these provinces recover from the impact of the disaster and enable them to rebuild their lives,” she said. “We will partner with local governments, schools and communities to develop disaster preparedness and contingency plans, which will help them better prepare for disasters.”
Six months after the Dec. 4 tragedy, the province has been slowly but steadily getting back on its feet, Gov. Arturo Uy said.
“We were so down then, so hopeless and almost everyone was on the verge of tears,” Uy told Steele and other guests during a program in Cabinuangan, recalling the first days after the typhoon. “Then, many came to help and we were humbled by the outpouring of so much generosity, motivating us to unite and work together.”
Despite the flood of support, with hundreds of millions of dollars in local and foreign assistance, Uy said it would take years for his province to fully recover.
“We’re still at 20 percent [in terms of recovery], as other sectors, such as agriculture, still need assistance. Our farmers are very eager to plant, but there were not enough seeds to go around,” he said.
New trading post
Also on Friday, the USAID, through its Growth with Equity in Mindanao and the Mindanao Development Authority, led the groundbreaking of a P1.2-million trading post for local vegetable and meat vendors in nearby Compostela town.
Eddie Villarimo, a vegetable vendor, said the completion of the facility, which replaced the town market swept away by the typhoon-spawned flooding, would provide farmers and livestock raisers an accessible place to market their produce.
USAID-GEM also gave planting materials and white corn seedlings to dozens of farmers from New Bataan, Compostela, Montevista, Monkayo and Nabunturan towns at a ceremonial corn planting in Maparat village, also in Compostela.