Christmas in Sofan
NOTHING CAN stop us from bringing happiness to the kids of Sofan.
Sofan Elementary School is located in Barangay Pag-asa in my hometown, Alabel, Sarangani Province. It has over 450 pupils and more than 300 of them need to cross the meandering river several times to get to school. This video we made over a year ago, summarizes the situation in Sofan:
The photo I took of two school children who took off their pants to prevent them from getting wet as they go to school made its way to Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation that established the Sarangani Funds for Little Kids, which is led by Team BUNDOL Mountaineers.
This Christmas, we decided to spend time with the kids of Sofan.
We partnered with the different student organizations at Alabel National Science High School. Interact Club collected school supplies, the Supreme Student Government raised funds for the soup kitchen, and the SAKAFIL, AYPSJ, and the Reading Club prepared stories and games.
This year, I was able to encourage more of my fellow teachers to join me in community activities. I am glad that Ma’am Ann and Sir Rolando joined us for the first time together with Ma’am Ching, Ma’am Aleli, and Sir Marco, who are my usual companions.
It Almost Never Happened
Before we are able to successfully hold Christmas in Sofan, we went through several challenges.
We originally scheduled the event on December 18. However, our principal made some changes on our schedule that our school’s Christmas party fell on the same date. With the intention of getting our students involved in the outreach activity, we re-scheduled it to December 23.
Because of the change of schedule, we had to send new letters to our partners for the the vehicle, security, and coordination with local community.
Classes have ended on December 19, so we could not expect the pupils to come back to school on the 23rd. So, we decided to go to the community and personally invite them to our Christmas event. Gladly, some of the locals volunteered to send the invitation to the pupils in other communities.
On the day of the event, we still don’t a vehicle because the Mayor’s office has declined a day before. The staff called to tell us that all the vehicles are being used. I contacted the Governor’s office right away and the secretary did her best to contact a vehicle for us, but sadly, she reported that all the vehicles are also being used. We went to the Brgy. Captain and he was willing to lend his vehicle, After contacting his driver, sadly, we learned that the driver has committed to do trucking service for some merchants.
Out last resort was to rent a private truck. Finding one is not easy because the road to Sofan is very difficult. Only huge dump trucks with front drive and vehicles locally known as Weapons, can make it. We approached three owners of weapons but their vehicles were not available.
We almost gave up. My co-teachers and my students are already waiting at the municipal grounds, excited to take the trip and extend service to the community. On our way to our office, we passed by the municipal motorpool and we noticed that there were dump trucks there. We decided to go Engr. Vicente dela Cruz. He was getting ready for work when we arrived at his house and explained our cause. He gladly said yes. No hesitations. He instructed us to go to his office and inform his staff that he allows us to use one of the trucks.
A Difficult but Wonderful Journey
An hour and a half late behind schedule, we started rolling to Sofan. I began to feel worried about the kids who might already be waiting for us. I am afraid that they might lose hope and go home.
On the truck, I could feel the excitement of my students. They were so amazed by the breathtaking view. The truck was filled with laughter that the heat of the sun was almost never felt. The bumps along the road only added more fun to the journey.
It took us one hour and 45 minutes to reach Sofan Elementary School. The kids were already there, waiting for us.
Everyone started doing his respective task as soon as the vehicle stopped, like everyone knew exactly what to do.
A Fun Day With the Kids of Sofan
We easily organized the kids into grade levels. The grade one pupils were under the care of SAKAFIL storytellers, while the grade two kids were with the AYPSJ and Reading Club.
Interact Club brought the grades three and four pupils to a different area in the school for some fun games.
The Junior Ecologist Ministers/YES-O club and the SSG brought with them the grades five and six for the tree-planting activity.
As usual, Team BUNDOL Mountaineers took charge of the soup kitchen.
After the tree-planting, we gathered the grades five and six pupils and taught them how to create an origami boat. Sir Toto guided them every step of the way.
We asked them to write their names and their dreams on their boats and to firmly believe that they will come true. We found out that most of the girls want to become teachers, while most of the boys want to be policemen.
But there was one kid who dreams of becoming a mayor!
We led them to the river where they released their boats.
After all the activities, we started distributing the bags. I told them the story about how the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation found out about them. I showed the photo that started it all and how everyone who saw it admired them for their persistence in going to school despite the difficulties.
In a conversation with some kids while they are eating, I found out that some them come from Sitio Palagiban, a village one hour and a half away. They also have to pass by the portion of the river dividing Calondlama and Kalmanga, which is about waist-deep. Some of those who live in far sitios stay at the classdorm, which is also open for those who can’t go home when the river is flooded.
On our way home, everyone didn’t seem tired. We endured another one-and-a-half ride, standing on truck as it traverses the meandering river and rough road from Sofan.
I am sure that we all went home filled with joy and memories of a wonderful Christmas in Sofan.