Friday, February 6, 2009

2008 Immersion and Exchange Program of the DALS-C's

Narrative Report
of Noel S. Ortega
for the 2008 Immersion and Exchange Program
of the District ALS Coordinators
Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte
November 24-29, 2008

“City of Smiles”, it is my first impression of the word Davao. But I didn’t just smile because inside my heart I shouted for joy and asked if it was really true when I was chosen as one of the delegates from Cavite Province who joined in the flock of CALABARZON’s District ALS Coordinators or known as DALSC’s for this year’s Immersion and Exchange Program held at the panoramic paradise and naturally gifted tourist destination Island Garden City of Samal, a component city of Davao del Norte.
It was my second visit to Davao and I know that this one is different from the first. At the outset, I assumed that going there was really a laborious task since for me, the word ‘immersion’ connotes engaging a life of people in a certain place- it is more on empathizing rather than sympathizing. It is also just like being in the shoes of someone else. Yet, since I am a believer of “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” and an adventurous person as well, I really enjoyed the experiences and learning acquired from our arrival on November 24 and up to our departure from the place last November 29, 2008.
We are four participants from the Cavite province. Together with Mrs. Narcisa Bergado of Naic, Mrs. Mercy Janairo of Bacoor and Mrs. Teresita Golosinda my companion from Carmona, I arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport an hour earlier from our flight schedule. We met there our delegation’s chaperon Mr. Benito Picones from Rizal Province. Our airplane, Philippine Airlines left at 10:25 am and arrived at Davao International Airport on a balmy and foggy 12:25 afternoon.

Maayong Pag-abot sa Davao!

Region XI officials fetch us from the airport and sent us to their DepEd regional office for our traveling and other incidental expenses allowances. They gave us P10,000 each and promised to give the other 5,000 pesos the next day upon the completion of the required documents for itinerary of travel.
After that, without taking our lunch, we traveled the whole afternoon riding in a bus which being transported through a ro-ro boat from Davao City Seaport to IGACUS port. From there, the bus traversed less than an hour upon reaching a small elementary school. We were suffering total hunger at that time since it was already 2:00 in the afternoon. The teachers, since they don’t have prepared food for us, told us to have our lunch in a nearby cafeteria.
After eating our lunch, we made our courtesy call to the office of the city Mayor Aniano P. Antalan. We had some conversations and souvenir pictures taken with him. We went back to the school and from that school we rode once again in an old PUJ, which they said a service vehicle of employees working in the city government office. The road was rough and wet and some of my companions fussed that the travel was long while others were worried because it’s already twilight but we were not yet arriving at our unknown destination. The view of the surroundings we passed-by were full of enormous plants and various tall trees and the most troubling according to them was that houses were less in the place. I stayed calm and enjoyed what the view offered to us.
At last, we arrived Baranggay Kaputian, where we were accommodated in a simple government-owned beach resort. Each group chosen hurriedly the cottage which was suited to them. Upon fixing our personal belongings and taking a short rest, the local DALS C’s and ALS IM’s prepared for us simple dinner and a short program where the kind barangay captain and the jolly vice mayor of the city shared their time to welcome us. After that, we held our meeting with our chaperon and grouped us into two. It was decided that the first group will do the advocacy, social mobilization and literacy mapping at Sta. Cruz, Talicud Island and the second group will go to Barangay Libertad in Kaputian. I was lucky because my name was read to be in the first group. I ardently wanted to swim that night but because I was dead-beat already, I preferred to sleep after that in preparation for the next day activities.

Second Day Rendezvous

I woke up at 5: 00 in the morning with my three companions already awaken and decided after gargling my mouth to splash myself on a cold and very salty water of the beach. Later on, while in the water, I felt some skin irritations which Dante, the local IM, told me were caused by small jellyfish or locally known as “dikya”. I was a little downcast but he said I have to ignore them. I did but the itchiness continued so after a while, even though I really liked to soak myself into the water, I decided to disengage and took a bath with the freshwater.
7:00 o’clock in the morning was our call-time for breakfast and after an hour will be the time to go to our own group’s assigned destination. I was excited to the fact that we were riding on a big banca. But some DALSC’s in my group were nervous and worried. Passing the crystal blue water was amazing. The morning air was cold and refreshing. The boat ran mildly on the placid sea water below. After less than half an hour of sailing on the 3 km seawater, we arrived in the small port of Brgy. Sta Cruz in Talicud Island, one of IGACUS’ nine islets.
A group of men, each with a motorcycle they called “habal-habal” were waiting for us. They took us by two’s and transported us on a stiff and curvy road going up to a small barangay hall of Sta. Cruz. A lady barangay kagawad welcomed us and briefed us about some information of the barangay. While having the conversation, the rain fell which delayed our task that day. When the rain stopped after 20 minutes, we decided to proceed and trekked the 2 km soft, wet and slimy walkway going down to our main target- a group of houses lined along the western portion of the shore. I can’t feel the complexity of our job that time because the view way down the slope was worth rewarding- a tranquil blue sea lying on a serene morning sun. Once again, our leader directed us to find a partner and to start our routine that day.
Juliet Labita of Tayabas, Quezon and I went together and started mapping the locality. We were able to interview a mother with seven children whose two daughters were not attending in formal secondary school. Almost all of our interviewee have members in their family who are not attending formal education. We found out that it was because of financial constraints and some of them preferred to really work to help their parents meet both ends of their day to day life existence. Talking with them was wonderful and touching. Amidst the poverty that they were suffering, you can still read the happiness which are radiating in their faces. Surely they are arduously hoping and praying for a cozier life but they are satisfied of what the nature can offer to them. They never asked for more of what they purely need- and that is food for survival.
My first half of the day ended with a heavy heart upon hearing the people’s little life stories and personal wisdoms. Me and my partner journeyed back to the boat were our companions already waiting for us to have our lunch. After having our lunch we proceeded back to the resort where we slept the first night. Our leader told us to take some rests and then prepare ourselves for the transfer to Philippine Human Resources Development Center (PHRDC), an establishment owned by the government. We would stay there for two nights.
We took at least two hours before arriving at PHRDC. It is an old convent type hostel built on a rocky shore. Small sea ports were built along the shore for embarking goods from small water type transports and fishermen’s vessels. Each one hurriedly chosen his comfortable bed to rest and waited for the dinner to be served. After having our dinner and completing the data in our itinerary of travel, officials from Bureau of Alternative Learning System (BALS) came and distributed our 5,000 pesos allowances they promised to give us during our visit to Region XI DepED Office. Confusions arise when they deducted some amount ranging from P300 to P2000 after their recomputation of the amount we have written in our itinerary of travel. Unfortunately, some of us were not able to get the amount because they were hurrying for the last trip of the boat going back to Davao City proper. They again promised us to give the amount the next day.

Travels and Travails

I woke up at 6:30 and went to the veranda of the PHRDC. The stern rays of the sun in the east greeted me. I saw some of my companions already having fun in the beach water. I grabbed my digital camera and went to them for some souvenir photos. I refused to take a bath since my cough continued to worsen. I went back to the dormitory to eat my breakfast and prepare myself for our next activities which were literacy mapping, FLT, and demonstration teaching to the out-of-school youth learners in Brgy. Guilon for Group I and Brgy. Babak in Mambago for Group II.
After traveling for 30 minutes we came to the place and the barangay captain greeted us. He accommodated our group in his simple barangay hall and gave us the facts and data of his barangay. We found out that out-of-school youth in Brgy. Guilon exceeds the number of youth enrolled in school. That is why ALS A & E Tests were widely activated and given ample recognition by his constituents.
After the short briefings with the baranggay captain, our group leader divided all the members. Some proceeded to do the literacy mapping, others (including myself) prepared the instructional materials for the demonstration teaching, while the rest did the advocacy and social mobilization.
While I was drawing the presentation for my demonstration teaching, the IGACUS Division ALS Coordinator came and informed us that the four of us who are from Cavite were not able to receive the P5,000 because we did not present our official receipt from our air carrier, Philippine Airlines. I tried to call up our Division ALS Supervisor who was in Cavite that time for some help but I cannot reached her because our location that time has no cell phone signal. I ask the local Division ALS Coordinator to help us and relayed our plea to the BALS official to give us the amount since we really paid for our airfare but we left the official receipts to our Division ALS Supervisor. We were promising to give those things to the BALS National Office in Pasig City right after we get back to Cavite, but to no avail, nothing happen.
I was not affected by that, but I pitied my other companions who went there without extra money for other incidental expenditures in the place. I tried to forget the drawback which came that moment and composed myself to do with excellence the assigned task to me.
We went back to PHRDC at 6:15 pm.

Re-exploring the Smile

The day was a lazy one for me. I knew that would be my last day in the place because we will be transferred to Davao City later on. So I woke up and took my breakfast late. Some participants were excited to the fact that the day will be full of fun and shopping too. I just let myself go with the flow, since I was not too excited anymore to roam around the busy City of Smile since I visited and wandered around it already three years ago. The bus took us again to the barge where we transferred into another big and rotten bus which carried us to the hotel which is managed by Department of Environment and Natural Resources employees along Oyangureng Avenue, Davao City.
The local ALS Instructional Managers (IM’s) did not leave us but also served us as tour guides around the city. They took us to the G Mall where we had our lunch. Then after that, we proceeded to Aldivinco Pasalubong Center to buy souvenir items to be given to our co-workers, families and loved-ones way back home. Then we proceeded to SM Davao where we have taken our dinner. Then, we went back to our hotel with smiles in our lips. We spent our last night there.

In Solitude

We woke late to recharge the energy we lost during the previous days. My companions suggested to go back to Alduvinco to buy more pasalubong they forgotten yesterday. So we went there the second time. After buying all the remaining items in our lists, they decided to go back to the hotel because they said they were already exhausted. But I said since I was already in Davao, I want to revisit some of the tourist destinations around the city. They really wanted to rest so I bid goodbye to them and I traveled alone.
I asked some folks where I can find the People’s Park. They told me that the place is a distance walk from Alduvinco but I decided to pick up a taxi because I know that what the people in the provinces called “near” is actually far in reality. I was in a hurry that time since I promised my companions to be in our hotel before the clock ticked at 12:00 noon. The park was still closed but when I approached the guard and he found out that I was from Manila, he said that the park is open for tourists like me anytime. I smiled at him as a sign of gratitude. He gave me a sheet of paper which he said I can accomplish after roaming inside the park. I enjoyed wandering around the park because of the colorful giant stone sculptures in every corner of the place. There were many high school students in pink and blue PE uniform who were holding their field trip in the place. They were friendly and even conversed with me and asked for my email address and cell phone number. We even had a picture taken as my souvenir. After less than an hour, I decided to leave and went to another place. I accomplished first the survey form the guard has given to me and handed the paper to him. I thanked him and went out of the park.
I picked up another taxi and asked the driver to bring me to Crocodile Farm. The farm was still there with lots of carnivorous reptiles. The place is stingy yet amazing because it does not only have crocodiles but with other animals as well like birds, mammals like monkeys and snakes.
After having some photos of the animals, I opted to get to our hotel. I arrived and saw my companions busy packing their suitcases full of pasalubong. I did the same and rested for some hours before boarding a taxi which will send us to Davao International Airport.

‘Till I see you again, Davao

This mixed experiences I gained from this Immersion and Exchange Program for DALSC’s will truly leave an indelible mark in my memory. Not to forget the place of Davao which is truly a City of Smile literally and allegorically. I know I will go back to her once more.

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