“Noong pagkatapos po ng lindol, hindi po namin alam kung makakapag-aral pa po kami kasi nagiba po ang mga bahay at classrooms namin. Pero sabi po ng teacher namin huwag daw po mawawalan ng pag-asa kasi may dadating at dadating na biyaya.”(After the earthquake, I wondered if we will still be able to go back to school because our classrooms were all destroyed. But our teacher told us not to give up because there will be blessings ahead.)
This is what Erika Mallari said when I asked her why she continued to study despite the earthquake that hit their place and destroyed their school. Erika Mallari is a 12 year old grade 6 student of Nabuklod Elementary school in Floridablanca, Pampanga.
Erika is just one of the hundreds of students of Nabuklod Elementary School who lost their classrooms because of the 6.1 magnitude earthquake that hit Pampanga few months ago. The classrooms were damaged and are not any more accessible for the students. Floors were cracked, windows were removed, and parts of the ceiling fell. Months already passed by, but the marks of 6.1 magnitude earthquake are still present.
Erika did not just lose her classroom, but she also lost her home and her school supplies that she will supposedly use for the upcoming school year. “Noong lumindol rin po, nagiba po ang bahay namin at natabunan po ng mga bato at buhangin ang mga sana’y gaamitin ko na school supplies sa darating na pasukan. Noong nakita ko po na punit punit po ang mga notebooks ko, halos maiyak po ako. Nawalan po ako ng pag-asa. Pero sinabi lang po saakin ng magulang ko na pumasok pa rin po ako at huwag gawing hadlang ang nangyari para makapagtapos po ako..” Erika recalls. (“When earthquake hit our place, our house was destroyed and the school supplies that I would supposedly use for the upcoming school year were shattered into pieces because of the rocks that fell. I cried and almost lost my hope. But my mother told me not to give up because no tragedy should stop me from finishing my study.”)
The school year started last June 3, 2019, and the students had no choice but to use their covered court as their classrooms. All levels from grade three to six are having their lessons in just one covered court. No electric fan. No electricity. But the students are all eager to study and learn. “Nakikita ko po kung gaano ka-pursigido ang mga bata ditong makapag-aral. Kahit na dito kami sa covered court nag-aaral, kahit na maalikabok, at sabay-sabay ang ingay ng klase, nakikita kong willing silang matuto. Si Erika sa buong klase siya yung pinaka masipag at talagang makikita mong nakikinig nang mabuti. Para bang wala siyang pakialam kahit na kulang kulang ang gamit niya sa ekswela, basta matuto.” Ms. Christine Sumadal, grade 6 teacher of Nabuklod ES said. (“Despite the heat, dust, and noise here at the covered court, I saw how eager my students want to learn. Erika is one of my top students who studies very hard despite incomplete school materials.”)
Notwithstanding these limitations, Erika did not lose hope. She still managed to go to school even without school supplies on hand. “Hindi po ako nawalan ng pag-asa dahil mahalaga po buhay ako at may pagkakataon pa ring makapag-aral,” she confidently said.
She just prayed and believed that good things would still happen.
On June 6, 2019, Sagip Kapamilya went to Nabuklod ES to distribute 560 Gusto Kong Mag-aral (GKM) Bags. Gusto kong mag-aral is a project that aims to encourage kids to stay in school. Each GKM bag is filled with notebooks, pencils, pens, erasers, sharpeners, and a box of crayons.
“ Sobrang saya po namin noong unang araw ng pasukan at sinabi sa aming may pupunta raw po dito para magbigay ng bag at school supplies. Mapapalitan na po iyong mga gamit na nasira po noong lumindol. Hindi rin po kasi kaya pa bumili ng magulang ko ng mga bagong gamit sa eskwela kaya malaking tulong po talaga ito. ” Erika said. (We were very happy when our teacher announced that there will be people who will give us bags and school supplies.”)
Volunteers from ABS-CBN also came and helped Sagip kapamilya with the distribution of the bags. Erika, along with everyone in the covered court, was filled with happiness. Everyone was smiling genuinely as they receive their new bags. The students excitedly opened their bags to see the new school supplies inside. Their faces speak so much joy. One would not feel what these children went through a tragedy.
When asked, Erika said that she wanted to be a soldier someday. It is because soldiers have always been inspirational and helpful for them. “Gusto ko po makapagtapos ng pag-aaral dahil gusto ko pong maging sundalo. Gusto ko po kapag sundalo na po ako, babalik po ako dito at tutulungan ko rin po ang mga bata ditong nangangailangan ng tulong.” Erika said. (I want to finish my studies and become a soldier so that one day I will go back here and help the kids too.”)
There will be struggles, but there will always be hope. No tragedy will stop her from dreaming. Erika is a warrior for being so strong despite her struggles. She is so positive. She is an inspiration for never giving up and studying so hard to pursue her dream of becoming a soldier one day. And that one day she will be able to serve the country, most especially the children like her who needed help.
Erika is just one of the many kids all over the Philippines that inspire Sagip Kapamilya to do better and to reach out to more communities. This year 50,000 students all over the Philippines will receive the GKM bags.