Contributed by Faye Reyes and Pahad Watamama Abbas
Video courtesy of Christine Macapas, student of Saint Columbian College.
LABANGAN, Zamboanga del Sur – Sitio Glab is home to a Subanen indigenous people’s community situated in highlands about 23 kilometers, about two to three hours of walking. Because of its distance, it’s almost unknown to most city dwellers. Even the government officers were unable to visit the place because it’s so difficult to reach.
But the death of Jonathan Oya, a grade 3 pupil of Glab Elementary School, put the community in the spotlight. The rampant problem of malnutrition in the boy’s remote area became the local government’s center of attention (see story). It landed on the pages of a national newspaper and an editorial was dedicated for it. A civic group from the Visayas also felt the urgent need to extend help.
Jonathan’s case highlighted the limits of what the Department of Education’s school feeding program can do about the problem of malnutrition. While it was consistently implemented, it obviously could not adequately address the problem alone.
Siblings of Jonathan Oya enjoying their first Mingo meal.
CheckMySchool coordinators Faye Reyes, Mohannat Cua, and Pahad Watamama Abbas were in the thick of this issue and the interesting developments afterwards.
In March 2018, they organized ILabGlab (a play with words, I love Glab), a feeding project for Glab ES pupils. Government and non-government stakeholders alike were invited to join the project, to help not just the school but the whole community. Its goal was to respond immediately to the malnutrition problem. It hoped to find and help other children who are suffering the same problem Jonathan had.
Reyes shared that it was not difficult calling people to join the project. “In my [Facebook] post, I invited anyone interested to meet with me and discuss what can be done about it. Saint Columban College was the first to respond. Mayor Relacion also committed to address the issue. At first, I thought he will get mad at me for exposing the issue but it turned out differently. He did not deny it and said that he will also look at malnutrition issues not only in Glab but in the whole municipality,” Reyes recalled.
Volunteers from different organizations crossing a river to reach Sitio Glab. Photo by Christine Macapas.
One of the civic organizations that actively participated in the project was the Negrense Volunteers for Change Foundation Inc., (NVC) based in Bacolod City. When they read about the situation in Glab in the local newspaper, they sent their Zamboanga-based volunteer to contact the Rural Health Unit (RHU) and collaborate with the project.
NVC committed to feed 175 children of Sitio Glab in Barangay Cogonan for six months. They offered their nutrition program providing Mingo Meal, a nutritious, instant complementary food mix that turns into porridge when mixed with water.
While feeding the children, NVC volunteers Dianne Cruz, Alyne Batano and Zar Azula were very happy to see that they enjoyed the Mingo meal. “I think we will be very successful here. They love Mingo instantly,” one NVC volunteer remarked while looking at a boy who consumed four cups of Mingo.
Two other civic groups in Labangan generously provided financial and volunteer support to the ILabGlab project: the Alhadeetha Mindanao College Inc. (AMCI) and its affiliated non-governmental organization, Mindanao Modern Education Development Foundation, Inc. (MMEDFI). They helped in the food distribution and in teaching family formation values to pupils and their families.
“We are thankful to AMCI President Ulama Kahar Kumpa and representative-teacher Nanang Tampugao for supporting the ILabGlab Project,” said Abbas.
AMCI student, Rasol Ebrahim, an active ILabGlab volunteer, was moved to say, “CMS awakened my passion for volunteerism. I am now committed to help students have access to nutritious food.”
On DepEd’s part, district nurse Glenda Doliente and teacher-in-charge of Glab ES, Joel Arnejo, identified the qualified recipients of the Mingo Meals. Mr. Arnejo also asked the Subanen community to fully support and participate in the project. Parents and women were organized for the monitoring of the children’s weight as part of their involvement in CheckMySchool.
“As the teacher-in-charge of Glab ES, I will commit myself to the monitoring and proper implementation of Mingo Meal Feeding Program in Sitio Glab,” Mr. Arnejo said.
People coming from different organizations come together to address the malnutrition problem in Sitio Glab, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur.
More offices, groups and individuals were instrumental in bringing needed assistance to the Glab community through the ILabGlab project. The 1st Infantry Tabak Division, Civil Military Office, 53rd IB, Light Armor 1st Cavalry Squadron, ensured the group’s safety in the entire course of the activity.
The municipal government of Labangan, with Dra. Mailyn Manupac of Labangan RHU, and the TABAK Medical Team provided various kinds of services, such as medical and dental services, and birth certificate registration.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) local office also conducted a reorientation on the advantages of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), specifically the expanded program for indigenous peoples. As a result, several families voluntarily registered for the expanded IP program of the government.
Sister Minerva of Columban Missionary taught the Subanen women to prepare herbal ointments. The LGBT Community of Labangan provided free hair and nail services.
The Philippine National Police of Labangan Police Station, Saint Columban College Community Involvement Program through SCC-CIP program Director Rosebelt Lomocso, distributed slippers for the children.
Relief goods and school supplies from CMS, AMCI, SCC, and LGU, and snacks from Goldilocks Pagadian branch were also given out to the Subanen families.
Recipients of Mingo meals with CMS Coordinator Faye Reyes.
All these services and acts of giving were facilitated simultaneously in a day in Sitio Glab.
The ILabGlab project has successfully brought all the individual volunteers, civic groups and government offices in such a multi-sectoral effort. Improving the health of the schoolchildren was, no doubt, a good way to start undoing the effect of neglect that this community has experienced over the years. More initiatives like this will hopefully address the broader problems of poverty and disempowerment of the people in the Sitio of Glab.
POSTSCRIPT: The ANSA Foundation received a donation of PHP20,000 ($400) for Glab ES. It will be used for a livelihood project for the children’s family and for the continued monitoring of the condition of Glab ES. The donor asked to remain anonymous.
If there’s any issue, problem or anything that you think needs improvement in your school, let us know if CMS can help. Go to http://www.checkmyschool.org/cms-can-help/.