Janopol Elementary School, Tanauan City, Batangas, is busy preparing its new library room.
It's a school on the edge of a lake, with a blue mountain in the distance, and the lucky recipient of another library built by the Sambat Trust with the local community and civic organizations. The library wasn't quite ready for ribbon cutting but when I arrived with Sambat's super librarian Zarah Gagatiga, the children - aged 7 to 11 - were waiting quietly on the floor of a covered basketball court.
We were slightly late, but there was no sign of disgruntlement in the peaceful rows of children. We quickly fashioned a makeshift screen for our Powerpoint projector. I was terribly nervous because I hadn't been in the Philippines long enough to warm up my Tagalog (this province is famous for the richness and depth of its language) but Zarah assured me she would provide me with back up.
I came with a tall stack of books generously donated by Anvil Books (who distribute Tall Story in schools), as well as some picture books blagged from the Asian Festival of Chldren's Content in Singapore.
As I told my story to the children I handed out books for correct answers and sweets for wrong answers - yes, I was intent on buying some popularity - but I was thrilled to see the excited looks on their faces and the pleasure with which they accepted the books.
Nobody criticized my clumsy Tagalog and a massive rainstorm kindly waited until the event was over before it thundered down on our heads. A wonderful day - thank you to the teachers, the children, the Sambat Trust, Zarah Gagatiga and Gwenn Galvez of Anvil.
2012 was an auspicious year for us at Sambat Trust. Three school libraries were launched one after the other: Pantay Bata Elementary School Library in February 2012; Trapiche Elementary School Library in August 2012; and Ambulong Elementary School Library in October 2012.
During the launch, authors came and shared their inspiring stories to teachers and students. Candy Gourlay had an author visit in Pantay Bata Elementary School, while Russell Molina graced the inauguration at Trapiche Elementary School.
In October Sambat Trust founder, Anthony Mariano, was in town to personally attend the turn-over ceremonies at Ambulong Elementary School. A new partnership was forged with local organization, TUPAD, and this enabled Sambat Trust to extend its reach to more children in need of books and educational materials. Teacher trainings and educational sessions with scholars were done year round by teacher-writer, MJ Tumamac and reading clinician, Cynthia Villafranca.
Computers donated by Hoshirou Nakamura of Japan were installed in Sambat Elementary School last September 2012. Striking a partnership and collaboration with First Asia Institute, training on computer literacy to teachers is scheduled this summer of 2013.
By December 2012, Sambat Trust received a plaque of recognition for its literacy projects and activities by the Department of Education, District of Tanauan City, Batangas. This award is indeed a feather in Sambat Trust’s cap and the team shares this with the people and organizations who have helped Sambat Trust establish eight libraries in the past five years. Thank you very much to the Barangay Captains and LGUs, Parent Teacher Associations, School Principals and Supervisors! Maraming, maraming salamat po sa mga book donors at partners! You made our mission possible!
The local team of Sambat Trust and its founders, the Mariano family, are inspired and motivated to continue the mission of supporting literacy and education in the Philippines. May 2013 be another successful year, not only for Sambat Trust, but for the students and learning communities it has identified to support and uplift through the library project and scholarship program.
“Today is a happy day for bookworms like me,” said Ms. Melodessa Verola, the interim principal of Ambulong Elementary School, to welcome the attendees of the school’s library launch on October 20, 2012.
It was really a blissful day, not only for bookworms, but for the other stakeholders of the eighth library established by Sambat Trust. The event was attended by the school’s faculty, staff and members of the parents-teachers association; the barangay officials; supervisors from the district and division level; members of the Tanauan United for Progress and Development (TUPAD); Sambat Trust founder Anthony Mariano, coordinator Zarah Gagatiga, and photographer Cindy Bajema; and, of course, the school’s students.
There was a formal program to ceremonially turn over the library by Sambat Trust to the school. In the program, several speeches of gratitude were delivered from both the donors and the beneficiaries.
Working as a Community
The establishment of Ambulong Elementary School Library exemplifies the saying, “It takes a village to educate the child.” That is because, besides the school, the community around it contributed to the realization of the library installment. Firstly, the school administration coordinated with Sambat Trust to include the school in the list of the organization’s beneficiaries. Then the teachers and students cleaned the library, oriented future users and created rules of use. The barangay officials and parents assisted in restoring shelves and repainting the room.
The school library now functions not only as a library for the utility of the school but also for the community members who want to read and borrow books.
Promises and Wishes
Sambat Trust will continue to support the school. Zarah Gagatiga confirmed that the organization will donate more books, local and foreign. She promised also to provide training sessions for the continuing education of the teachers, especially in the area of storytelling. For the students, she vowed to bring in writers and storytellers to share and tell stories in the future.
To end the launch, Zarah Gagatiga told the students a lot of stories in various ways in the new library. One was “The Mother Cat” which was done using kamishibai or Japanese flash cards. The others were “Si Dindo Pundido” presented in a picture book, a story about recycling things by tearing paper, a story about two friends using fingers, and a story about a child handkerchief.
The children asked for more stories but there was no more time. So, Zarah Gagatiga promised to return to their school, maybe with a guest, to tell them more stories.
Well, it was really a happy day for the students and for everyone who will benefit from the new school library! Surely, they will be encouraged to become readers and to become leaders as well in their community.
On October 1, 2012, Hoshirou Nakamura visited the Philippines for the third time. The first time was as a tourist in Cebu City. He never imagined then that he would be flying back to the Philippines after thirty-five years.
Mr. Nakamura has spent most of his life as a researcher under the Faculty of Environmental Engineering at Kitakyushu University in Japan. He also serves as the chief director of the Institute of Technology Information Education.
For the third time, he came to the Philippines still as a tourist but with another purpose: to contribute to the cause of Sambat Trust.
Supporting Sambat Trust
It was through Anthony Mariano that Mr. Nakamura learned about Sambat Trust’s efforts in literacy development in Tanauan City, Batangas. Moved by the organization's cause, he initially donated books to supplement Sambat Trust’s library projects.
Being a promoter of technology information education, he then decided to donate computers to the schools supported by Sambat Trust. First, he visited the schools in February 2012 to evaluate their technological needs. Then, as a fulfillment of his promise, he donated five computers to Sambat Elementary School on his recent visit. He will send five more computers to the school next year.
Expanding the coverage of his donation, he will also give twelve more computers next year to the other schools supported by Sambat Trust.
He hopes that providing computers to the schools can improve the educational level of the students and make them at par with other schools, not just in the city but also on the national level.
It would be futile, Mr. Nakamura thought, that he would just leave the schools with the computers without providing the teachers sufficient training.
So, he coordinated with the First Asian Institute of Technology and Humanities (FAITH) in Tanauan City to train the teachers. FAITH’s
Vice President Atty. Gay Marie Francisco willingly agreed to
Mr. Nakamura’s proposal of using the institute’s facility and resources for the teacher training. They decided that volunteer students from FAITH will train the teachers from the schools sponsored by Sambat Trust for five Saturdays.
The primary focus of the training is on the basic desktop programs, such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint Presentation. Another important skill to be taught is utilizing the Internet, specifically emailing and searching for images and articles.
Mr. Nakamura is optimistic that the teachers will use these skills in providing interesting lessons to their students and efficiency in their job.
Mr. Nakamura plans for a fourth visit in January 2013. Firstly, he wants to check on the impact of his donations. He stresses that there is a need to evaluate the effects of the donations so that he could think of more ways of helping the beneficiaries.
Secondly, he will deliver more computers as promised. He expects to do this for two or three more years. And he hopes that his golden age of 71 would not hinder in the way.
When asked how he feels about the whole time he spent in the Philippines helping Sambat Trust’s cause, he answered, “Ako masaya!”
The sun was bright. The temperature was warm enough to wake the bones up. After three days of torrential rains that submerged metro Manila, the weather turned on our side that Saturday morning August 11, 2012. Together with Cindy Bajema, photographer and documentarist, and award winning author, Russell Molina, we headed south from Manila to Trapiche Elementary School in Tanuan, Batangas for the launching of the seventh school library of Sambat Trust.
Trapiche Elementary School is a high performing school in the district. For the past three years, it has placed in the top three of the district wide achievement test. Why then was it granted a school library when Sambat Trust prioritizes low performing schools for its school library development project? The school principal, Mrs. Felipa Gonzales, was driven to maintain Trapiche Elementary School's track record. In an interview with her last January 2011, she told us, "A school library will extend the learning of students and help teachers become better at their craft." After a year of developing and renovating a physical space for the library, complete with shelves, tables, chairs, curtains and ventilations, the Sambat Trust team went back to the school last March 2012 impressed with the school's progress.
With in three months, books were donated, bought and delivered to Trapiche Elementary School. Thanks to a donor who wished to be left unnamed, to Adarna House and Scholastic for facilitating a speedy delivery of books, the school community was excited to prepare for the library launching.
And what a wonderful launching it had been!
The teacher librarian assigned to man the library, Mrs. Mycel Alcantara, and the current principal,Mr. Lumbao planned for a well organized launch. They made sure that all stakeholders were involved and present that day: DepEd officials, members of TUPAD, a local non-government organization led by Con. Ark Buenaobra,Barangay officials led by Brgy. Cpt. Diego Motilla, parents and students. Being a Saturday it was well attended. The new school library was spruced up. The new mural still smelled of fresh paint. The Philippine flag in front of the library building danced and waved in the wind.
The Barangay officials, parent-teacher Association (PTA) officers and Principal Lumbao all accepted the new books. Their big smiles reveal not only gratitude, but sincere happiness at receiving new books that their children can use and read. Students held the books and sniffed the scent of paper. It was like opening gifts at Christmas morning. After the required photo shoot, a response were given by DepEd Supervisor, Josilyn Solina Ph D. She said, "We are grateful for organizations like Sambat Trust and TUPAD for helping us raise the reading interests and book awareness of students in Trapiche Elementary School. God bless Sambat Trust that may continue to establish more school libraries in the district!"
Her presence and encouraging message made Ms. Alcantara cry. She was touched by the support given to them by Dr. Solina. It is not every day that a superintendent is available to witness a meaningful event in a school.
After the program, everyone was invited to partake of the food prepared by the PTA and Barangay officials. It was akin to a fiesta where the whole community come together for fellowship. For guest author, Russell Molina, it was a reunion with one of TUPAD's founding members, Gerald Hidalgo. These two go way back in college. Who would have thought they would meet, two decades after pursuing and participating in the same advocacy?
In Rusell Molina's session after brunch, audiences young and old were treated to magic and the words that can be used to make it happen. Mr. Molina did more than present and talk about his books and his craft. He showed children how to dream and inspired adults to keep on dreaming despite themselves. Indeed, one must be child like to care for children. To close the session, Darlyn Villanueva, a grade four student regaled the audience with a well rehearsed storytelling of a local folk story.
As for Sambat Trust, it will continue on its mission of helping scholars become better learners and learning communities become confident readers for life through its flagship scholars program and school library development project. Collaborative work with organizations like TUPAD, local government units, DepEd officers is an important recipe to realize the mission!