A mother’s sad graduation in Tacloban, other stories
In disaster-stricken Eastern and Central Visayas, where classes had been extended to make up for the lost school days, elementary and high school students are still marching—in makeshift graduation venues that reflect the extent of their loss—to receive their diplomas.
In Tacloban City, Leyte province, Eva Cielo Lucinda, 40, is finally graduating from San Jose National High School on Friday together with her 19-year-old son Jared Vander. But her 8-year-old daughter Arlene will not be there to cheer for them.
“I miss her,” she said, referring to Arlene who was among the thousands who died when gigantic storm surges generated by Super Typhoon Yolanda (international: name Haiyan) flattened Tacloban on Nov. 8.
Lemuel Pagliawan, a science teacher at San Jose National High School, said the graduation would be “bittersweet,” as only 58 of the 120 senior students would be there to receive their diplomas.
The 62 others dropped out of school either because they wanted to help their families to cope with the devastation or they left the city along with thousands of others after Yolanda.
Pagliawan said the graduation rites would be “simple” in keeping with the times.
He said the ceremonies would be held at the San Jose district gymnasium because the school’s stage was damaged, along with several classrooms, during the typhoon.
The graduates will wear their school uniforms to the commencement exercises, he said.
But if they don’t have uniforms, they can wear ordinary clothes, he added.
While most of the students in the country are already enjoying their summer vacation, classes for students in communities devastated by Yolanda in November and the 7.2-magnitude earthquake in October in the Visayas had been extended to April to make up for the lost class days.
Ronilo Al Firmo, Leyte schools division superintendent, said graduation rites for typhoon-devastated areas in Leyte, Eastern Samar and Samar had been set for April 3 to 4 “to complete the 280 contact days.”
Classes were suspended for two months in the typhoon-ravaged areas and resumed only on Jan. 6. At least 6,000 classrooms in Leyte were either damaged or destroyed by Yolanda.
Firmo said about 50,000 pupils and students in the secondary and elementary levels were graduating in Leyte, Samar and Eastern Samar.
Epitome of DepEd’s theme
He said the graduation rites would be simple. “There will be no collection of fees, either,” he said.
Firmo said he commended the graduates for their resolve to finish their studies despite the tragedy they went through.
“They are the epitome of DepEd’s (Department of Education) theme, ‘The Filipino’s Heart Is Undaunted,’ for the commencement exercises in public schools,” he said.
For areas in Central Visayas that were hit by Yolanda and the earthquake, the DepEd has set graduation in April to complete the required school days.
Graduation in Bohol will be held from April 10 to 13. The province was hit by the earthquake and Typhoons Wilma and Yolanda, disrupting classes.
In Bogo City, northern Cebu, which was devastated by Yolanda, graduation will be held between April 1 and April 6.
Carmelita Dulangon, DepEd director for Central Visayas, said most of the areas hit by the earthquake and Yolanda lost their school buildings, social halls and stages where commencement exercises were usually held.
She advised school heads to hold recognition and graduation programs in open areas.
In Sta. Cruz Elementary School in Maribojoc town, Bohol, the graduation ceremony will be held in the town’s cultural center at the back of the municipal hall, on the insistence of the schoolchildren’s parents.
Generous sponsor in Bohol
Dedicacion Saguran, the school principal, said the graduation had been initially planned to be held in an open area near the school’s damaged building on April 10.
The graduates would not wear togas to spare the parents from additional expenses, she added.
But a graduate of the school offered to shoulder the cost of using the cultural center and the togas of all 56 graduates, as well as the snacks during the ceremony, she said.
“The parents are happy because they will not spend anything,” she said.
Sta. Cruz Elementary School was one of the schools that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has recommended for relocation after the discovery of a 48-centimeter tension crack between the school and the rubble of what used to be the church of Maribojoc. The town was one of many in the island province badly hit by the Oct. 15 earthquake.
After the earthquake, classes for the 411 students were temporarily held in makeshift tents in an open space adjacent to the school site.
The DepEd regional office in Central Visayas found 672 of the 1,091 public and private schools in Bohol damaged by the earthquake.
It said P198 million was needed to rehabilitate the damaged schools.
The Bohol Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said the earthquake destroyed 14 public and private schools in seven towns in the province.
These schools are in the towns of Antequera, Corella, Lila Loon, Maribojoc, Cortes and Sagbayan.
Graduation in W. Visayas
In provinces in Western Visayas that were affected by Yolanda, graduation ceremonies were held from March 27 to 29, the DepEd regional office said.
Unlike in Cebu and Leyte, where classes were suspended for at least a month, classes in Capiz, Northern Iloilo, Aklan and Antique resumed on Nov. 25.
“The students needed to complete only the minimum 180 school days per school year, and the makeup classes on weekends helped,”said John Arnold Siena, DepEd acting Western Visayas director.
During the graduation ceremony on March 28, the graduating class at Botongon Elementary School in Estancia town in Iloilo was in high spirits despite the roofless and battered classrooms.
“The children were in high spirits, and we were happy, too, because we survived all the hardships,” teacher Leo Amisco.
Estancia is one of the towns in the region heavily hit by Yolanda.An oil spill from a power barge that slammed into Botongon’s shore during the typhoon aggravated the plight of residents, who were forced to move into an evacuation center and stay there until the spill was contained after more than a month.
Botongon Elementary School, which was contaminated by bunker fuel from the spill, was declared part of a no-build zone and would be relocated.
Classes were held in makeshift classrooms and tents in the following months, but on March 28, the commencement exercises were held at the school site.
“We cleared the debris but the buildings that were destroyed were still here,” Amisco said.
The school also toned down the graduation activities but the parents were enthusiastic despite many of them losing their houses or were still repairing damaged homes.
In Pontevedra town in Capiz, 101 pupils of Pontevedra Elementary School graduated on March 28 under tarpaulin sheets that served as temporary roof of the school’s mutipurpose hall.
Pontevedra, about 18 kilometers from the capital city of Roxas, was also badly hit by Yolanda.—Carine M. Asutilla, Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Karen Bermejo, Joey Gabieta and Carmel Loise Matus, Inquirer Visayas
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