By Ignacio R. Bunye
Most colleges now require their students to undergo “immersion” or spending significant time, sometimes actually living in the communities, to learn how other people live and perhaps suggest ways in improving their lives.
Many many years ago, I did my immersion together with college batch mates, teaching catechism over a two-week period in various far-flung barangays in Bicol.
When her opportunity came, my youngest daughter lived with an Aeta family which had been uprooted by the Mt. Pinatubo eruption. She was very touched by the generosity displayed by the Aeta family even under the direst of circumstances.
A group of UST 4th year Business Economics students, recently started their own immersion in a farming community in Barangay Maligaya, Sitio Batanes, Dinalupihan, Bataan.
What started as a school requirement soon become an advocacy for these young Tomasinos. Here is their story.
It was not clear how Ira Yochabel A. Alonzo, Pamela Jane C. Carreon, Nel Christian H. Gelua, Jazmin Belle T. Medallon, and Louise Patrick DL. Pineda chose Sitio Batanes for their project. But apparently, they scouted for various sites in Pampanga as well.
Sitio Batanes is inhabited by indigent Ivatan farmers who had formed the Mt. View Upland Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative. The farmers could not have chosen a more appropriate name.
One has to trek 7 kilometers uphill for two hours in order to reach the clearing which the Ivatans had planted to vegetables and other cash crops. The nearest source of water is a couple of kilometers away. Bringing their produce to the market is a challenge.
Each farming family makes between P5,000 and P10,000 a month. A member of the UST team felt so bad knowing that some classmates’ allowances far exceeded the daily income of the farmers.
The Tomasinos immediately went to work, doing their routine interviews. The farmers indicated their most basic needs – a carabao and a wagon to transport their produce to the market and also some plows. Asked if a “kuliglig” would be more efficient, the farmers responded by saying that the “kuliglig” would not be suited because of the very steep terrain.
Back in school, the students decided that if they were to provide carabaos, it should be at least two: one carabao, as work animal, and another for breeding. The students also listed a water reservoir and fruit-bearing trees among the urgent needs of the community.
At that point, the students could have already stopped since they had already met the requirements to pass the course. But they did not.
The young Tomasinos, instead, tried to figure out how to raise funds and resources for their adopted Ivatan community.
They tried approaching the Department of Agriculture for the carabaos but became very disappointed when they were given the run-around. (Paging Secretary Manny Piñol). So they decided to raise funds on their own.
The students started selling yema and yema tarts inside the UST campus. Pamela Jane C. Carreon, who knew how to do make-up, used her skills to earn a little more for the project. All the while, the students distributed leaflets (Yema and Yema Tarts for a Cause, Hair and Make-up Services for a Cause) explaining the purpose of their fund-raising campaign.
Before long, the campaign began to catch attention. The big break came when multi-awarded DZBB Anchor Mike Enriquez invited the students to his teleradyo program.
I fortunately caught the interview on radio. Listening to these very idealistic students, ages 19 to 21, was very uplifting for me personally.
The response by listeners was overwhelming, confessed project leader Ira Yochabel Alog Alonzo.
In their facebook account, Project Hatid sa Kabuhayan at Kaunlaran, Ira later gave an update on the project:
“Our team, Team V, visited Sitio Batanes, Barangay Maligaya, Dinalupihan, Bataan, last April 2 to canvass the prices of available carabaos in the area and to procure materials such as plows.
“With your help, we were able to acquire the first two carabaos and three plows as accessories to make the work of the Ivatan farmers of Mt. View Upland Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Inc., more convenient and efficient.
“We wholeheartedly thank those who have been donating and sponsoring this project. Your help is invaluable to the success of this endeavor.”
Generous readers may want to text Ira Yochabel Alog Alonzo at 0917-306-5438 to find out how they can help.
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