Giving of Ultimate Gifts, Memories and Assistance (G.U.G.M.A.)
Story and Photos By Georgene Quilaton-Tambiga
The Thomasian family now includes three public elementary schools in Barangay Rizal, San Carlos City. Under the Community Extension and Development Office (CEDO) of Colegio de Sto. Tomas-Recoletos, the adoption of Ansulag, Katiclan and Nabataan Elementary Schools marks the beginning of a partnership “to provide education, values formation and basic social services” to pupils, parents and teachers in the said schools and its community.
Schools Division Superintendent Dr. Anthony H. Liobet, CESO VI, witnessed the signing of the Tri-Party Agreement between CST-R, each of the three schools, and Barangay Rizal last July 8, 2021 at the CST-R Cultural Hall. The selection process began in 2020 after a consultation with Barangay Rizal Councillor Raian Olvido which yielded a proposal to visit six elementary schools within Rizal. It can be recalled that Monteagudo Recoletos and the Augustinian Recollect’s mission chapel at the now defunct Hacienda Traquilino also belonged to the same barangay.
Rev. Fr. Monday Benjamine Edobor, OAR led the site visit last December 3 and 11, 2020. Evaluation began with marathon meetings before Christmas and it was then that the committee proposed that three schools be adopted instead of just one on the basis of three categories: 1) possible model school (Katiclan ES); 2) developing school (Nabataan ES); 3) needs assistance to develop (Ansulag ES).
Fr. Edobor was moved when he saw that at least four of the candidate schools that he visited did not even have a library corner with a collection of books that are appropriate for elementary pupils. However, it was Ansulag ES that particularly caught his attention because of the distance that pupils, parents and teachers had to walk in order to get to the school, which is precariously perched atop a steep mountain. It took the Thomasian team more than an hour of hiking to get to Ansulag ES where head teacher Johnny Engada and his group of elementary school teachers were waiting, eager to rally the case of their school. It was noted that the said school had never been a beneficiary of any NGO or extension and outreach project before.
After thorough inspection and documentation, the Augustinian Recollects of CST-R recognized the needs of the three schools—from books to construction materials that could help repair ramshackle classrooms. Although CST-R’s current resources are limited to providing learning materials and training to teachers and parents, the Thomasian administrators are positive that in a few years the school, through CEDO and future corporate partners, will be able to improve the situation of the adopted schools.
Rev. Fr. Vicente Ramon, Jr., OAR, local ARCORES director and CST-R treasurer, during his opening remarks at the agreement signing told guests from the Department of Education Division of San Carlos and the school head teachers from Ansulag, Katiclan and Nabataan that CST-R is committed to reaching out to the community in keeping with the Augustinian virtues most especially Caritas or love. This is also why the adopt-a-school project is officially called G.U.G.M.A. or Giving of Ultimate Gifts, Memories and Assistance.
Fr. Ramon narrated that despite CEDO being a newly established extension office, CST-R’s programs for the community have always been in implementation like the Christmas City Jail Outreach and the Gasa ni Thomas for pedicab drivers during the celebration of St. Thomas’s feast day. Target project activities for the three schools include livelihood training for parents, professional development seminars for teachers, classroom resources improvements, youth leadership workshops for pupils, and spiritual and values formation classes.
Meanwhile, Dr. Liobet expressed his optimism that CST-R’s partnership with DepEd will strengthen through the programs of G.U.G.M.A. The superintendent also recognized CST-R’s role in community building in San Carlos City and even commended that a number of dedicated public school teachers are Thomasians. Mr. Olvido, who represented Barangay Rizal Captain David Logarta, pledged to assist Thomasian volunteers during activities and project implementation. After all, he did serve as guide during the first site visit and inspection.
CST-R director and principal Rev. Fr. Joel Alve, OAR, in the meantime, looks forward to the approval from the Philippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC) so that donations that will be made to CEDO can be tax deductible for corporate partners.
In line with this, Fr. Edobor is now inviting donors to help in CST-R’s effort to uplift the adopted public elementary schools and community.
CST-R’s CEDO was officially launched in 2020 and Fr. Edobor is its first director. Abag Recoleto, which is an emergency relief operations program is also under its wing. This office enlists religious and lay administrators, teachers, staff and students in its team of volunteers.