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Sulu – an island province of lush greens, bountiful waters, and great potential. Yet it is also beset by conflict and poverty. Such is the irony that exists there. Last Feb. 23, the Go Negosyo team led by Ginggay Hontiveros and representatives of our Big Kapatids visited the island of Sulu to witness the first seeds of promise being planted. This is in fulfillment of the pledges made last Dec. 19, 2016 in the presence of our beloved President Duterte, DA Secretary Manny Piñol, DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez and Sulu Rep. Datu Shah Sakur Tan in Malacañang Palace.
The team as welcomed by Gov. Toto Tan in his office together with several mayors. Datu Sakur Tan also joined, and they emphasized the value of what our Kapatids are doing to help the people on the island. It was the first meeting of Sulu officials with Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce & Industry Inc. (FFCCCI), Harbest, SM Foundation, Metrobank Foundation, and Metro Pacific Hospital Holdings Inc.
Their first stop was the launch of SM Foundation’s Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan (KSK) program, in partnership with Harbest and DA Sulu. KSK is an intensive 12 week agri-training program for the benefit of 200 farmers from various municipalities to help provide them with new skills and knowledge which would give them a better chance at life by learning how to plant and harvest high value crops such as vegetables.
The team then went to visit the HBSAT site in Jolo City. Renamed in 1963 through RA3707, the Sulu trade school was changed to “Hadji Butu School of Arts and Trade,” or HBSAT. It is one of projects being considered by Metrobank Foundation in its efforts to support Sulu. The school is one of the oldest institutions in the province, with multiple buildings in varying states of dilapidation. The façade of these structures tell the story of HSBAT’s rich history and the struggles that students of the school face day by day.
One such student, Shaina Musa, a 9th grade senior high school student, spoke to the team. They spoke just outside of her handicraft’s class. At 14 years old, she displayed maturity beyond her years. In a room that could fit 30 students, less than 20 were in attendance. Our team observed that most – if not all – of them had folded arms, looking as if they would rather be someplace else. “Labas po sila (mga kaklase) ng classroom, (They (classmates) keep going in-and-out of the classroom)” she said, and when asked for the reason why, her answer was heartbreaking; “Kasi wala silang gusto. Wala silang pangarap. (Because they don’t have anything. They don’t have dreams.)” Perhaps one of the biggest factors would be the state of their classrooms: wooden chairs that look like they came from recycled wood, ceilings with no insulation that look like it would collapse during a storm, and shadows that cover their faces because they don’t have electricity. It’s a miracle the young girl could still dream. Shaina still dreams big. She wants to study computer science in Mindanao State University and dreams one day of becoming a teacher. Perhaps with the newly donated classrooms, our Kapatids can bring her closer to her dream.
The second site the team visited was the Kapatid Village in Barangay Kajatian, Indanan, Sulu, where donations from Manny Osmeña, Natividad Cheng, Manny Pangilinan, William Belo, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce, and other Big Kapatids will fund homes for the beneficiaries. Gov. Tan headed the showcase of the model house to the beneficiaries.
Another heartbreaking scene met them when they arrived at Sultan Jamalul Kiram School in Kulasi, Maimbung. There was a large open field where Gov. Tan and Enrique Chua, representative of FFCCCI, surrounded by the school officials, broke ground for the site of new school buildings. FFCCCI donated 30 classrooms in total. Following the advice of Gov. Tan to spread out new buildings to different barangays, eight buildings each with two classrooms will be built. The deepest gratitude could be felt from the school officials, especially from the teachers. One teacher approached the team. She brought them to the rooms and showed them the state of their classrooms – peeling walls, incomplete shutters, and drooping ceilings.
We are building more classrooms so that more children could have a better future. It’s truly a labor of love for them to continue teaching despite the current conditions. The classrooms will help elevate the quality of learning their students get.
Finally, the last stop of the day was in Patikul. Known for rebel incursions over the past months, Patikul is near the mountains, and the Kapatid Village rests just along the road which leads to Barangay Anuling. Military personnel surrounded the area, but the delegation of Kapatids were welcomed by the barangay captain Ging Hayudini. People watched from afar. It felt like a desolate place but hope remains that rehabilitation of the area will bring peace to the town.
The trip to Sulu was successful overall. For now, we’re starting with Negosyo thru the KSK Program, two Kapatid Villages and 32 Kapatid classrooms in Patikul, Maimbung, Indanan, and Jolo. More will follow in the coming months.
The project brings forth another unique example on how progress can be achieved with the combined effort of the public and the private sector. We, the private sector, must support programs like this in places like Sulu where our help is needed the most. This is where we will start bringing peace through business and entrepreneurship that will elevate the whole country towards an age of prosperity.