On the morning of Friday, March 29th, 2019 in Sitio Kalantas, Brgy Quisao, Pililla, Rizal, the narrow road leading to a gate which has a small signboard that says Teresian Association International Inc., (TA II) was unusually busy. The excitement in the air was palpable as parents and children, staff, volunteers and guests started to arrive at the venue. Several TA members from Manila came to join the happy event. The parents and children especially came elegantly turned out, the children in their cute colorful dresses. It was their day!
Indeed, it was the first Moving Up Ceremony of the Day Care Center, opened in July, 2018 by the Teresian Association for the purpose of preparing indigent children ages 3 to 4 years old to enter formal schooling, and to help them attain proper nutrition for a better chance of success in school.
The program began with a processional, the children accompanied by their parents moving towards their seats under a canopy in the open space in front of the Center, now improvised as a stage and properly decorated for the occasion. There were seventeen of them, eight girls and nine boys, although only seven, -five girls and two boys- were moving up to the Kindergarten level which is under the Department of Education.
The singing of the national anthem was followed by the welcome speech of Dr. Regina Pimentel, TA II Executive Director. Ms. Rosario Nicolas, the Day Care Center teacher, then proceeded to introduce the children while Dr. Ria Ruiz, TA II President, and prime mover of this new venture, pinned ribbons on the seven who were to go to the KG level and gave the audience some inspirational words of solidarity and hope.
This was followed by the message of the Guest Speaker, Ms. Jonaryn Atanante, from the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office of the locality, who enthusiastically lauded the work of the Center and stressed the importance of education for social transformation.
It was a delight to listen to the children, who one by one, expressed their dreams of what they would like to be when they grow up. Dressed in the uniform of their chosen profession, these children were spontaneous, free and confident in their presentations. No sign of nervousness or shyness. It was a wonderful testimony of how much education can transform children at an early age. It is also a tribute to their teacher, Ms. Nicolas, who had to work very hard to keep up with the demands of the Center, the follow – up of the children and their families. According to her, it was not easy in the beginning, but seeing the gradual improvement of the children encouraged her to give her best. She sees this work as her mission in life and wants to give back to God what so generously He has given to her.
Some three years earlier, in 2015, the TA took serious notice of the donated Pililla property, situated in the province of Rizal, some 65 km south of Manila, a 40, 000 sq. m. area lot, which has a two-story house and a farm, and studied how best it can be utilized for TA activities and serve the people nearby. The property is part of Sitio Kalantas, a poor area inhabited by around 100 families of non-formal settlers, many of them migrant workers who came to the city in search of work and better opportunities. They have no permanent source of income, have low educational background, and majority are unskilled. Their homes lack the basic services of potable water source and electricity, and the bigger children walk the long distance to go to school. In the absence of a Day-care center in the area, the smaller children are deprived of pre-school education that is needed to enter formal schooling.
The place was named Balay Paglinang, which means a place for cultivation or development. Some initial repairs were done to the existing structure and from 2016 till date, a number of activities for community formation and development are being conducted in the area, such as summer youth camps, women empowerment and family ministry. Skills training for dressmaking had been organized for the women that enabled them to begin livelihood activities from home. The Family Ministry of the TA committed itself to the formation of the parents through periodic meetings and encounters. Medical and dental missions were also held with POVEDA alumni as volunteer doctors and dentists.
Besides being a venue and a reference place for community development and formative encounters, Balay Paglinang also serves as a place for rest, quiet and unwinding, far from the hustle bustle of city life.
This is just the beginning… With the generous support and active collaboration of the community itself, government agencies and enlightened citizens, the Pililla Project will continue to be a beacon of light to those who have less in life especially to their children who through education will be assured of a better and happier future.
Texto: Nenita Tenefrancia, Manila.
Fotos: Teresita Amasol, Manila.