School sitting atop Pangasinan islet thrives amid challenges

The first and so far the only elementary school sitting atop a small island in Bolinao town in Pangasinan province continues to thrive amid challenges, a year since its founding on Sept. 9, 2022. Situated in the heart-shaped islet of Silaki in Barangay Binabalian, the Silaki Elementary School started with a single school building with two classrooms but now has two buildings with four classrooms where classes from kindergarten to Grade 6 are being held. In an interview on Friday, school principal Mailyn Cruz said the building was the realization of the promise made by the Rotary Club of Bolinao, which funded the construction. Two additional regular teachers were added to the roster of the faculty this school year, she said. "We now have five permanent teachers and one local school board from the municipality of Bolinao," she added. Elementary pupils are taught by the school's permanent teachers, while kindergarten students are taught by a local school board teacher from the local government unit (LGU). Silaki Elementary School has produced seven graduates during the last school year who are now continuing their studies at the Binabalian Integrated School. Cruz said they have 38 enrollees this school year, a little lower than the 45 learners last school year. "The number of kindergarten decreased for this school year but we have a lot of learners in the day care center so we are expecting that by next school year there will be an increase in the number of enrollees," she said. Cruz said they are glad that the learners in the higher levels are mostly readers and majority of the children have good health and nutrition despite the challenges in their living condition on the islet. She attributed the good educational and health standing of the learners to the sacrifice of the teachers as well as the support and cooperation of the parents and the community as a whole. "The children do not need to cross the rough seas and we are grateful for that but we have the teachers who sacrifice as they are the ones who travel through the seas to teach the learners," she added. The boat ride from mainland Barangay Binabalian is 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the weather condition. Cruz admitted that she sometimes worries for the safety of the teachers especially during the typhoon season. "When the weather would not permit them to travel, they stay at the house of the two other teachers who live in Silaki," she said. The school implements multi-grade teaching wherein a teacher handles two grade levels in one classroom. "It may be difficult but given the number of learners it is possible," Cruz said. She said the pupils from the two grade levels take turns in doing their seatwork or listening to class discussion. Cruz said they plan to put up dividers in the classroom to limit distraction among the learners of both grades. Amid the sacrifice of the teachers at the Silaki Elementary School, Cruz said she hopes the teachers would be provided with allowances to compensate for their efforts. They are also hoping for more classrooms, a gymnasium, and more concreted and shaded areas that will serve as playground areas for the learners. Rosalda Padilla, who has two children studying at the Silaki Elementary School, said it was a huge relief to the parents as their children do not have to cross the sea to attend classes. The whole community, including the LGU, provincial government, academe, and even non-government organizations came together last year in hope to change the meaning of the word "silaki," which means unfortunate, by establishing an elementary school in the islet for the sake of its residents, especially the younger generation. The school was built on a 300-square-meter lot donated by Binabalian residents Marino Celi and his wife, while the LGU funded the temporary learning shelter. The Department of Education provided the manpower and the office supplies for the school

Source: Philippines News Agency