The Elisa P. Bernardo Elementary School
In New Passi, Tacurong City
By Apolinario Villalobos
It was a scorching afternoon when I was invited by Judith Bernardo to New Passi, a barangay at the foot of Magon Hill, after we met at a party, hosted by a cousin. I deemed it another adventure, so I accepted her invitation as I was curious about her project or donation for the school named after their mother, Elisa Panizales Bernardo. As I had still time to be spent in the area, I thought it would be a worthwhile trip.
From the city of Tacurong, we drove over the paved highway, turning left at the junction where the San Lorenzo Ruiz parish church was located, just across the Cordero mango grove. Both sides of the road were shaded by the thickly-foliaged African palms. Very noticeable was the fast development of Baras, where the Bird Sanctuary and the Jarell Resort are located, as well as, Upper Katungal. Practically, houses of indigenous materials stood proudly side by side with colorful concrete ones which were made more interesting by their contemporary architecture. I even noticed a lodging inn with an obviously western block design. Very noticeable, too were the number of small convenience stores (sari-sari stores) and small stalls filled with wet market commodities, that lined both sides of the tidy road. Their presence manifested the affluence of the residents.
We dropped by the Barangay Hall of Baras where Judith delivered donated sets of aprons needed for a certain project. I learned that she has been engrossed in various projects in Baras and New Passi for several years now. When we reached New Passi, we went straight to the site at the back of the Principal’s office where a two-burner stove of concrete and bricks was being constructed. It was intended for the feeding program of the school for the children of poor farmers, and which was initiated by Judith’s elder sister, Nita. As a background, the feeding program was conceived by Nita when she learned about the heavy absences every Monday and Friday. She was told by the principal at the time, Charlie Braga, that many students are impoverished, so that most of them would go to school without taking breakfast at home. From then on, Nita regularly donated I sack of rice which volunteer mothers and teachers cooked into gruel.
On the other hand, the sight of teachers and mothers cooking gruel on makeshift stove on the ground made Judith decide to have a sturdy stove made for them. The design is such that combustible wastes except those made of rubber and plastic could be used as fuel. She personally looked around for able masons who could undertake the construction.
Adjacent to the school is a small parcel of rice field donated by the late Serafin Bernardo to the school so that it would be able to generate an income for projects. Since the time of Charlie Braga as principal, it was well-maintained. Incidentally, Mr. Braga has been transferred to the neighboring school of Baras as a promotion. He was also responsible for the picturesque landscape of the school, the main avenue of which is lined with hardwood trees. Pockets of flower gardens are also distributed throughout the campus.
The other concern of both Judith and her sister, Nita is the lack of library. There had been plans for its construction but unexpected problems would always crop up. On our way back to the city, Judith confided her wish that someday the project would be realized, but realistic that I am, I told her that assistance from concerned sectors is necessary, First, a structure had to be built and second, books are needed to fill the shelves. The project would surely involve a considerable amount. I confided that I have the same wish….but with a hope that benevolent hands would “touch” the school someday.