Brigada Eskwela in the sky

Sitio Kanacan in Brgy. Tamugan, Marilog District, Davao City sits atop a mountain at 1,500 feet above sea level. From the top, one could see the lush green view of Baguio, Marilog and Calinan Districts and the winding Tamugan and Davao Rivers, as well as the Davao-Bukidnon Road. It is definitely a breathtaking sight.

Abi ninyo diri sa amua, diyes sentimos para langit jud ni (Here in our place, it’s only ten centavos to reach heaven),” Sitio Kanacan community leader Tatoy Tandangan said in jest, immediately drawing laughter from the crowd. 

It was May 25, the last day of the week-long Brigada Eskwela in Kanacan Elementary and High School for which a hundred volunteers gathered for a short program before starting their work. This moment of excitement was in contrast to the feeling they had in the journey to reach the community.

From Brgy. Lacson junction, it takes 40 minutes or 16 kilometers to reach the school by vehicle, traversing a combination of paved and unpaved roads lined with wild grass and cliffs. A one-lane uncemented road unfrequented by 4-wheeled vehicles will greet travelers on the ascent. The bare earth turns muddy and slippery when wet and makes the road difficult to pass.

“This is a significant activity for Apo Agua as this is the farthest and highest we’ve come so far. It has been an adventure for us,” said Apo Agua Infrastructura General Manager Ones Almario during his message as he led a team of volunteers to this annual company activity. “This is part of our corporate social responsibility where we reach out to our communities. These types of activities have always been integral to the Aboitiz Group.” 

In his welcome message, Kanacan Elementary School Head Teacher Darcy Centillas said, “Nalipay kaayo mi ug dako nga naa mo. First time nahitabo nga gianhi mi dinhi. (We are very happy that you are here. This is the first time we’ve been visited.)”  He went on to share how, before their school was established in 2017, students from their sitio would travel for an hour to the nearest national high school. The road then was almost impassable because motorcycles would get stuck in the mud. Students needed to walk even under extreme weather conditions, too, which would lead to many already dropping out by August.

Today, Kanacan High School’s Grades 7 to 9 have a total of 51 enrollees, most of whom belong to the Obu Manuvu, Bagobo, Ata, and Diangan tribes. While they wait for their new classrooms to be built within two years, they are occupying the former classrooms of Grades 1 to 3. The three-classroom building, built in 1972, is made of wooden planks and has undergone countless repairs and maintenance since.

The Brigada Eskwela volunteers breathed new life to the one-storey building and its surroundings. Teachers, parents, and students assisted Apo Agua, its Project Development and Execution Team, and the JCI Davao who banded together in a collective effort to clean and paint walls, doors, and used tires, do carpentry work, and groundskeeping.

Apo Agua also donated much-needed tools and materials: gallons of paint, paint brushes, plywood, doorknobs, brooms, and trash cans. JCI Davao donated first aid kits and books.

Conchita Tandangan, a mother of three, joined her family in the activity. “Mura rag nagdula-dula (It’s like we’re just playing.),” she said, brushing paint up and down a wall. “Salamat kaayo, ma’am. Wala man mi nagdahom ani. Abi namo’g pasagdan lang mi diri. Lipay kaayo mi, ma’am ui! (Thank you very much. We didn’t see this coming. We thought we would be left out on our own. We are very happy!)”

After the morning’s work was done, as the group of volunteers prepared to head back out, one of the students came running from the back of their newly painted classroom and shouted to her classmates, “Nindut na kaayo! (It looks very nice now!)” That was enough to carve a smile on the team members’ faces as they bid Kanacan High School goodbye.

Apo Agua, a joint venture company between Aboitiz Equity Ventures and J.V. Angeles Construction Corporation, will construct and operate a water treatment facility in Brgy. Gumalang, Baguio District for the Davao City Bulk Water Supply Project of Davao City Water District. The project’s three-year construction phase began with engineering design works in 2018 and is targeted to commence operations by the first half of 2021.