by Simon Jude Pamatian
Former CMS Coordinator Emelina Fernandez in one the schools she monitored in Numancia District, Aklan.
Joining CheckMySchool (or CMS) was almost accidental for me. As a staff of the Archbishop Gabriel Reyes Foundation, I was asked one time to encode collected schools data for its Aklan operations. Before I knew it, I was already doing more than that. I started attending training and went for school visits and coordination with education offices.
I was clueless about what I was going into. Though I believe education is important being a Foundation scholar myself, I didn’t feel confident to be able to handle the responsibilities of coordinating schools and their communities on issues that matter to them. But I had to take on the role because our original person in charge of this work, fondly called Ma’am Emelina (though I call her Ate Lyn), had cancer and the next in line, Ate Weng, had other responsibilities.
I sought Ma’am Emelina’s advice when I started going deeper into CMS work. I remember her first advice was, “Go to the district supervisor, validate issues from the previous cycle, and directly check with schools if issues are still existing.”
Ma’am Emelina would visit schools, rain or shine.
She was at home and weak from chemotherapy when I visited her to consult. I had to apologize for bothering her, but she wouldn’t mind it. She was mustering all her energy to orient me and share all the possible information she could. That talk lasted for three hours. Her spirit was so willing, I felt; but her body was not up to it. She was sometimes catching her breath as she spoke.
I know she wanted to tell me more and I truly learned a lot from her. But being young and new, I could only absorb so much. As she said, I should go out there and talk to people in the schools and DepEd offices. I could only learn from actual experience. She also had her many CMS files, reports and photos, which I must review and study. They were overwhelming, but I was amazed at how diligent and organized Ma’am Emelina had been with her records, which include electronic ones.
Ma’am Emelina using Community Score Card to involve the school personnel in assessing the condition of Taba-ao Primary School in 2017.
There was one instance when she surprised us with a visit to our office. She was weak, but she went upstairs to discuss the status of our community work. We told her she did not have to think about it anymore, but she was persistent and wanted to make sure things were in order. While suffering and enduring the pain of cancer, she would still have the energy to tell us, “Marami pa tayo kailangang gawin. Marami pang school na kailangang tulungan.” (We have a lot to do. There are schools we need to help.)
I could not possibly equal the efforts that Ma’am Emelina had put into CMS work. Her community organizing background really came alive in it. School authorities and community members know her personally, even until now. In fact, they also know her son, who would transport her by motorcycle during her visits to the schools, especially those that are far away and not easy to reach.
Cancer has attacked her body, but all she had in her mind was how she could serve others. I remember vividly what she said in one conversation, “Gina pangamoyo ko ngani sa Ginoo nga mag mayad eon agud abu pa ang mabuligan.” (I pray to God that I get better, so I can help even more.) Ma’am Emelina, however, finally gave in and passed in December last year.
Simon Jude Pamati-an with school personnel in New Buswang ES, Aklan, during issue validation for CMS cycle 7.
But like what our executive director, Eloize Victoriano, said, “Emelina planted the seeds. We are now starting to harvest the fruits of her labor.” From the validation visits we had last week, we heard from school heads, teachers and parents, and even officials from the district and division offices, how they have recognized the value of CheckMySchool efforts in resolving various issues.
Until now, I’m not as confident as I should be in handling CMS work. I still could not believe that being only 22 years old, I could talk to the DepEd Division superintendent. I would always feel nervous when I talk to authorities to discuss CMS issues and recommendations.
But I have been inspired with Ma’am Emelina’s example. For now, that should be enough to keep me going. With the full support of our Foundation, we can fulfill the CMS mission of helping improve school conditions. This should serve as a tribute to Ma’am Emelina, who must be watching us now from up there and urging us to do more.