Daylong hikes highlight Calbayog teacher’s career

By Roel Amazona

October 4, 2019, 5:23 pm

<p><strong>UPLAND TUTORS.</strong> Teachers assigned to upland areas of Calbayog City take a short rest in between their daylong hikes from the road to upland campuses. The young teachers are assigned to the remote schools of Calbayog. <em>(Photo courtesy of David Refuncion)</em></p>

UPLAND TUTORS. Teachers assigned to upland areas of Calbayog City take a short rest in between their daylong hikes from the road to upland campuses. The young teachers are assigned to the remote schools of Calbayog. (Photo courtesy of David Refuncion)

CALBAYOG CITY -- For young public school teacher David Refuncion, fulfilling his job means long trips, daylong hikes, crossing rivers, teaching multi-grade classes, and climbing a coconut tree -- just to send reports.

For three years now, Refuncion has been assigned to the upland village of Mabini 1, some 54 km. away from the city’s commercial area. His task is to teach 28 learners from Grades 3 to 6.

He has to live in the village for two to three weeks and stay in the city center for about a week to do paperwork and submit it to school officials.

Going to his assignment is always a sacrifice, according to Refuncion. It is like a never-ending walk, traversing rivers, climbing mountains, trekking on slippery slopes to reach the small campus located near the borders of Samar and Northern Samar provinces.

“I have all the reasons to quit, but my passion is to impart knowledge and make a difference in the lives of children through teaching. Teaching is very important because it is our way of preparing our learners for their future,” Refuncion said in an interview Thursday.

The young teacher hikes with six other colleagues assigned to other remote schools of Calbayog along the route to Mabini 1 village.

Refuncion said they have three options to get to their schools. One alternative is to travel by land to Gandara town, some 41 km. south of Calbayog City. From Gandara, they have to take a 15-minute single motorcycle ride to get to Buao village where their trekking starts past noon on Saturdays.

From Buao, they have to walk to Pinamurotan village until dark, passing through two villages. Teachers spend their night in Pinamurotan and continue their two- to three-hour hike the next day to Mabini 1.

The second alternative is to travel to Salvacion village in Calbayog City and take an eight-hour walk during good weather and 11 hours during rainy days.

The trekking includes climbing mountains and crossing 10 rivers. Along the way, five teachers remain in Olera and Pinamurotan villages where they are assigned. Only Refuncion and his fellow male teacher continue the daylong trek to Mabini 1 village.

The third option is to travel to Silvino Lobos, Northern Samar, some 130 km. north of Calbayog City. From Silvino Lobos, teachers have to ride a boat to Mabini 1 for seven hours. There are no trips if the river water level is low.

To get to Silvino Lobos, teachers need to travel to Catarman, Northern Samar for nearly two hours, then take a jeepney ride to Mondragon and a single motorcycle trip to Silvino Lobos.

The energy-draining trek is not their only concern, but the presence of private armed groups and communist terrorist groups in the area as well, Refuncion said.

Since the 49 students of Mabini 1 Elementary School are from impoverished families, each only has a notebook, a few sheets of paper, and a pen inside a plastic envelope when they go to school. The two male teachers handle multi-grade classes in two classrooms.

“The most difficult part of my job as a teacher is when I see that my students have to stop their studies, marry early or help their parents work on the farm,” the teacher shared.

“There are students who marry at the age of 15 due to extreme poverty. If the man can afford to give what the girl's family would ask, such as pigs, carabaos, and money, they would allow their daughter to live with that man,” Refuncion said.

“There are also children who leave the village and look for jobs in the city to escape early marriage arrangement,” he added.

Having no signal in the village is also a problem for them as teachers, especially when they have to submit reports.

They would have to trek for 40 minutes to the highest point of the village and climb a coconut tree just to send their report.

About 10 students who finished elementary this year in Mabini 1 village pursue their secondary education in Calbayog City. These high school students are from families who are members of the Conditional Cash Transfer Program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Attending 85 percent of the school days is one of the requirements for a family to receive cash grants from the government.

Refuncion’s story of sacrifice has been shared on social media as the country celebrates National Teachers’ Month from September 5 to October 5.

This year’s theme, “Gurong Pilipino: Handa sa Makabagong Pagbabago,” stresses the crucial role, loyal service, and commitment of teachers in developing globally-minded citizens, nurturing families, strengthening communities, and building the nation.

The celebration is one of the Department of Education’s ways to recognize the significant role of teachers in educating Filipino children. (PNA)
David Refuncion teaches in one of the two classrooms in Mabini 1 Elementary School. The upland village of Mabini 1 is 54 km. away from the city’s commercial area.  (Photo courtesy of David Refuncion)