Lakbay at Lapis Project: Asluman Elementary School

I travel primarily to seek adventure and enjoyment, to reward myself, and, as trivial as it sounds, to discover more about myself. Although I know that I get to help the locals financially whenever I travel by availing their products and services, traveling, for me, was just about personal satisfaction. I know this is perfectly fine, but all along I was wondering how I could make my trips more interesting, or better yet, more meaningful.

Pupils during their flag ceremony
Pupils during their flag ceremony
Pupils get excited over the supplies they'd be receiving
Pupils get excited over the supplies they’d be receiving

I work for the education sector and bulk of my assignment is focused on community development. For almost seven years now, I have been exposed to projects and activities that aim to uplift the conditions of the so-called poorest of the poor. While I help organize and manage community development projects to satisfy work requirements, it is actually a shame that I had never organized a similar project apart from work.

Sir Angel discusses the project to the kids. (photo by Ems Sicangco)
Sir Angel discusses the project to the kids (photo by Ems Sicangco)
My friend Jayson distributes school supplies to the pupils
My friend Jayson distributes school supplies to the pupils

Armed with my passion for travel, background in community development, and an advocacy on education, I started the Lakbay at Lapis Project. This humble project aims to incorporate social responsibility into leisurely trips by providing school supplies to pupils who need them. The concept is very simple. A visit to a barrio school is included in the travel itinerary and school supplies are distributed to kids with the goal of augmenting their supply of pencils, notebooks, ballpens, or other essential school stuff that they might be in need of. This project opens a venue for people to exercise their generosity and share their blessings as pledges and donations are encouraged. They may not be able to join the project, but they can be partners in this endeavor. This project is obviously no match to the projects I handle at work, but I believe that no amount of help is small enough because it is the heart to help that really matters.

The author distributes notebooks to Grade 2 pupils. (photo by Ems Sicangco)
The author distributes notebooks to Grade 2 pupils (photo by Ems Sicangco)

Lakbay at Lapis - Asluman 13

Project Launch at Asluman Elementary School

The first to benefit from the Lakbay at Lapis project is Asluman Elementary School in the famous Isla de Gigantes in Carles, Iloilo. I got the time to spend a 6-day vacation in the ever-exciting Panay Island and since Isla de Gigantes was the first destination in our itinerary, my companions and I had decided to look for a school on the island in advance where we could distribute school supplies. Fortunately, Sir Joel Decano of Gigantes Hideaway Resort (where we stayed) told us that opposite his resort was Asluman Elementary School.

Kinder cuties with their artwork of gratitude
Kinder cuties with their artwork of gratitude
Thank you note from the kinder pupils
Thank you note from the kinder pupils

Asluman Elementary School is a humble school located literally beside the sea in the barangay of the same name. Only a low seawall separates the school compound from the water. This unsafe setup actually caused damage to the school during the wrath of Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. The school is still in the process of recovery at present, with a few NGOs helping to rebuild its buildings and other facilities. Sir Angel, the school’s head teacher, informed me that although help is constantly coming in, the provision of school supplies still remains a concern. Particularly, he mentioned that some parents who are experiencing financial difficulty and have quite a number of kids tend to sacrifice the schooling of the younger ones to let the older ones finish because they could not afford to buy school stuff for all of their children.

Grade 2 pupils express their gratitude
Grade 2 pupils express their gratitude
Asluman Elementary School is located in the amazing Isla de Gigantes
Asluman Elementary School is located in the amazing Isla de Gigantes

It was a gloomy Friday morning when we brought the school supplies for distribution. After the flag ceremony, Sir Angel introduced us to the pupils who were all excited to receive new school stuff. The kids were very friendly, polite, and cheerful. We would have wanted to give school kits to everyone, but unfortunately, what we brought were not enough because Asluman Elementary School apparently has more than 700 pupils. Hence, we decided to just let the kids choose a single item so that everyone (well, almost) gets one. We had observed that the pupils preferred pencils more than anything, specifically the brightly-colored ones because, according to one teacher, all they have seen and used were those typical yellow pencils. I even noticed a second grader hug and kiss the pencil I handed over to him. It touched my heart to see how much appreciation this kid had shown upon receiving a pencil and made me feel guilty for carelessly losing a pen almost every single day because I don’t mind buying a new one. In another Grade 2 class, several pupils didn’t have notebooks or any paper to write lectures on, so the adviser was very happy that they were given new notebooks.

An artwork of thanks from the Grade 4 pupils
An artwork of thanks from the Grade 4 pupils
Thank you note from the Grade 4 pupils
Thank you note from the Grade 4 pupils

Below is a list of the donations that came in as of July 8, 2015. All of the donations in kind were distributed to the kids, while monetary donations were not yet fully spent and would be used to buy school supplies for the next beneficiary-school.

Particulars Amount/Quantity
Monetary Donation Php 2,950*Only Php 1,150 was spent to buy school supplies as the other donations came in at the last minute
Notebooks 110 pieces
Pad Paper 62 pieces
Ballpoint Pens 163 pieces
Pencils 105 pieces
Sharpeners 24 pieces
Bond Paper 3 reams
Construction Paper 200 sheets
Glue 10 bottles

I DO NOT AND WILL NOT TAKE ANY CREDIT for whatever outcomes that may result from the project because even though I donate some supplies on my account, bulk of what’s being donated come from other people who have been so generous and willing to share their blessings. To all of you who took part in the project launch, THANK YOU VERY MUCH! I am sure that your generosity will be rewarded by the Lord.

Such an angel! (photo by Christian Jayson Narciso)
Such an angel! (photo by Christian Jayson Narciso)

I was not able to invite you guys in my next trip, but I am inviting you to take part in the Lakbay at Lapis Project as I visit Bohol this August. Email your inquiries at emirsicangco@gmail.com or drop me message at http://facebook.com/lakbayatlapis.

Special thanks to Ems (http://barelyfivefeet.com) and Jayson for the donations and for carrying more than 30 kilos of school supplies. That was quite a test of physical strength. Haha. Big thanks to Sir Drei, Ma’am Ana, Sir Jom, Ma’am Ena, Ma’am Connie, Ryan, Jen, Ehmer, Bubbles, Gerson, and to all other people who helped but requested to remain anonymous.

Showing the kids' artworks
Showing the kids’ artworks
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