May 23, 2017 – It was Tuesday night when the city of Marawi was attacked. The Maute group started to occupy public places. It was a night to remember for Nashibah Gorigao.
“Narinig ko po iyong mga bomba. Doon kami nagbakwit sa Iligan,” she said as she recalled her experiences.
(I heard the explosions. We evacuated to Iligan City.)
The attack displaced around 360,000 persons. Supplies of water and electricity to some homes were cut. Locales ran out of food. Marawi City suddenly became a ghost town.
Aside from losing homes, the siege also disrupted the education of around 65,000 students. Gorigao was one of them.
May 31 of the same year, Operation Sagip of ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation, Inc. started with its Marawi relief operations and plans to help rebuild the city. The plans included the rehabilitation of Bito Elementary School.
Bito Elementary School, located at Marawi’s fringes, is a strategically located school that was projected to service a lot of displaced students. Despite its remoteness from the most affected area, it was expected that the enrollees would double for the 2018-2019 school year as it is adjacent to Sagonsongan Temporary Shelters.
A scenario of a class in Bito ES after the attacks: Dilapidated walls and ceilings, broken windows, yet hopeful students
“Iyong room namin, maraming butas. Inuulan. Madilim, hindi namin makita ang nakasulat sa blackboard. Walang electric fan kaya mainit,” Gorigao described their school as classes resumed after the city was declared free.
(Our rooms had too many walls. When it rains, we get wet as well. It was dark. We cannot see what was written on the board. There were no electric fans so it was hot when we had classes.)
Bito Elementary School now has two new disaster-resilient classrooms that can withstand 250kph of wind from the donations given to Operation Sagip. The design was made by United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) National and its Cavite Chapter. UAP contracted a local supplier and employed local laborers to construct the building through a bayanihan effort. When a strong typhoon hits, the classrooms can also serve as evacuation centers.
New disaster-resilient classrooms of Bito ES that can withstand 250kph of wind
Inside the new classroom: high ceiling, with arm chairs, blackboard, electric fans, and lights
According to Marcel Riñon, rehabilitating Bito ES is a way of rebuilding the dreams of the students and help the community to be self-reliant once again.
“Kapag mayroong kalamidad; natural man o manmade, ang pinaka vulnerable talagang sector ng society ay ang mga bata. Minsan, nakakalimutan natin ito. So dito po tayo magsisimula – to rebuild their dreams,” he expressed.
(When there are calamities, whether they are natural or manmade, the most vulnerable sector of the society is the children. Sometimes, we tend to forget this so this is where we will start – to rebuild their dreams.)
“Kapag nakita po natin ang mga batang nagsisimulang bumangon, parang iyong mga magulang, na e-engganyo na ring bumangon,” he noted.
(Upon seeing the children rise up, the parents tend to follow, too.)
The construction of two classrooms is just the first phase of the project. Seventeen (17) classrooms, together with the offices of the teachers and other facilities, will be repaired; a clinic will be constructed as well as a library and a playground for the second phase. UAP sought help from Philippine Association of Landscape Architects to construct the playground.
The Bito ES rehabilitation plan
It will start with the repair of the three classrooms, comfort rooms, and the stage. “We hope to finish the stage before the graduation rites so the students can experience it,” Riñon pointed out.
Gorigao is now a grade six student who is among the first batch to use the newly-constructed classrooms. The rooms have high ceilings, big windows for ventilation, electricity supply, new blackboards and arm chairs. The desks of the armchairs are horizontally longer than the regular ones. It will no longer be a problem whether the student is right-handed or left-handed.
New armchairs: Longer desks
“Wow, ang ganda!” she uttered upon the completion of the classrooms. “Sana lahat kami, makapag klase rito para fresh kami,” she added while giggling.
(Wow, it’s very beautiful. We all wish we can have our classes here so we would always look fresh.)
Nashibah Gorigao (in front) tries out the new classroom with a classmate
Despite the fact that she will only be using the classroom for the rest of the school year before she graduates, Gorigao remains happy to know that lower grade students will get to use it as well. “Masaya rin kami (grade six) para sa kanila (lower grade students) kasi sila ang susunod sa aming gagamit nito (pagka graduate namin).”
(We are happy because the lower grade students will be the next ones to use the new classrooms once we graduate.)
A photo opportunity with partners and stakeholders during the turn-over of the classrooms
For their Principal, Noraida Sumaguina, the rehabilitation of their school will help mold the students to become “future leaders of the community and the country as a whole.”
The siege may have left Marawi ruined and full of debris. But by helping the youth rebuild their dreams, a new and better Marawi awaits.
The rehabilitation of Bito ES was made possible with different organizations’ fund raising activities. Operation Sagip would like to thank the following for entrusting them the donations: Suzuki Philippines’ One Suzuki for Marawi Campaign during its Raider R150 Summit, 5th Fighter Wing of Philippine Air Force for donating the proceeds of Run with the Heroes fun run, National Collegiate Athletic Association for its NCAA Bangon Marawi Project, and ABS-CBN Corp. for raising money through a telethon.