Sunday, December 22, 2013

The 49th Foundation Day

On October 4 of every year, we all come together – students, teachers, staff, parents, and alumni as we celebrate the foundation day of our school and the feast of St. Francis of Assisi.

This also happens to be the birthday of our founder; she would have turned 99 years old this year.

The late Marietta Ledesma, whose family was no stranger to the thriving sugarcane landscape, could have simply basked in the family fortune. Yet in 1964, just outside Silay City, she opened a small private institution. Bordered by sugar lands and bathed in the shade of trees, Marietta Ledesma’s school valued Christian education. Here, they taught children of farmers for free.

She had only lived long enough to see barely fifteen years’ worth of growth in the school. When she passed away, it was her husband, Edgardo Ledesma, who took over until the early 1990s.

For many years, the school gave free education. But SFAS can only do so much for the kids of Hacienda Tinihaban – that eventually became clear to the rest of Marietta and Edgardo’s family. The realization led to the start of Tapulanga Foundation. It led to more scholarships, more support for facilities, more smiles and more lives uplifted.

The SFAS that Marietta Ledesma started feels different than it did forty nine years ago. And yet its vision remains: the vision to give children a chance for a better life thru quality Christian education.

Come October 4th every year, we all gather and celebrate – our foundation day, our founder's birthday, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Beyond the greetings, the colorful banners, music, and well-rehearsed dances, October 4th is also a simple celebration of education.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The 4th Graders' Educational Trip to Bago City

Now and then, donors of Tapulanga Foundation go beyond paying for the tuition, or school books, or the lunch meals of students. On the birthday of the donor herself (last September), her fourth grader scholar, Francielle Acuesca, and her classmates went on a day trip to the southern part of Bacolod – a trip funded by her donor, Mrs. Ria Rochvarg, all the way from Maryland, U.S.A.

Led by tourist guide Miss Betsy Gazo and escorted by several parents, the class went aboard a Cebro bus and visited Bacolod City’s main landmark first – the Capitol Lagoon, which sits right in front of the Capitol Building.

They shortly headed for May’s Organic Garden and Restaurant – a rising agri-tourism spot in the province. The kids were introduced to the abundance of organic livestock, herbs, even ducks and cattle, and the fresh fruits and vegetables harvested straight from their gardens.

Next stop – the OISCA Bago Training Center. The Organization for Industrial, Spiritual, and Cultural Advancement (OISCA), a Japan-based NGO, has been in the Philippines for almost 30 years.

The group stopped by for lunch at the Bantayan Park. What sets the place apart from most parks, however, is that it sits right next to Bago River – a wide stretch of water with a riverbank that people could easily mistake for a beach.  They enjoyed a free meal of spaghetti, chicken, rice and drink!

The last stop was at the relatively new Tomiko’s Vintage Glass Museum, owned by Tomas Claridad Casiano. A retired florist from Beverly Hills, he recently returned home after more than twenty years.

Here, the kids found to their amazement the extensive collection of over 2,000 glasses pieces – vases, Victorian lamps, decorative objects, Depression glasses.

Needless to say, the trip was a great experience for Francielle and her classmates, and introduced them to some of the province’s upcoming tourist-worthy destinations.  Thank you Mrs. Rochvarg for making this possible!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The SFAS Daycare Kids Learn Beyond the Classroom

Last August 27, 2013, the SFAS Daycare children, headed by Mrs. Maricel Navigar, earned a chance to learn beyond the classroom. They embarked on a day trip, funded by their donors (of Tapulanga Foundation), to the Capitol Lagoon and Robinson’s Place.

The kids were supervised by two teachers and three parents throughout the field trip.

The Capitol Park and Lagoon, a major landmark of Bacolod City, sits at the heart of the city. The kids got to see the fish, the famous carabao (water buffalo) sculptures, and the Capitol Building itself.

After lunch, they headed off to the mall. Here, most of the kids, who didn’t know what an elevator or an escalator was, had their first ride.

The kids also had their first cinema experience with the Disney-Pixar film Planes.

Mrs. Navigar believes that kids do not easily forget things they learn through real things and experience. This notion, she says, was the main purpose of the field trip.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Buwan ng Wika 2013

Students and teachers, all clad in traditional Filipino costumes, gathered once again at the covered court as the St. Francis of Assisi School of Silay City brings to a close the Buwan ng Wika celebrations last August 30, 2013.

The culmination activity started off with a live band performance and was a series of dance performances. Students from various grade levels competed in different areas: native creative dance, pop dance, folk dance, and chorale poem.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

From "Manong" to Sir Romnick

Born 26 years ago, Romnick Sadio and his family lives just a tricycle ride away from the St. Francis of Assisi School of Silay City.  His older siblings never finished school, and neither did he.  After two years in high school, he had to stop, due to financial problems.

Romnick Sadio was fifteen when he joined his father at the ponds, where thirty other people also worked. He worked there in the afternoons, wondering if this would end up as his career after three, six, maybe even ten years. He thought about his nonexistent diploma, and the other half of high school that he missed. Life at the fish pond was tough. Yet this place, he later realizes, led to an opportunity.

Romnick knew of SFAS. A few kids, scholars of Tapulanga Foundation, from his neighborhood studied there. He knew of the Ledesma family — he should, because they owned the land where he worked. They also happened to own the school. This thread of connection found him being called to the school one day.

It had been almost four years since Romnick left high school. He admits he hesitated for a moment. To finish high school now meant he would be an eighteen-year-old among a class of fourteen-, fifteen-year-olds. To just his classmates he would be "Manong" Romnick, he thought, and it bothered him.

But one does not find himself given an opportunity every day. Romnick knew very well the hardships of someone who belonged to a family that had never seen any of its children on stage, with a diploma in one hand and the principal shaking the other. Next to this, being Manong Romnick in class was nothing. So, at eighteen, he took the exam, received a scholarship, and became a student once more.

Romnick Sadio earned a college grant in 2009. He never met her in person, he says of his sponsor. All he knew was that she was called Mrs. Ada Ledesma-Mabilangan, and that her support fueled his way into college.

He’s blessed, he says, very blessed to have been given a chance to study again. Romnick feels as if everything was a dream – the last two years in high school, his student council presidency, the youth congresses and seminars he was sent to, his college diploma, his bachelor’s degree.

It has been six months since he earned a degree to his name, three months since his first day at St. Francis of Assisi School. He had started to teach cooking, drafting, even arts, to the high school students. The man who stands before the students is no longer Manong Romnick, an upperclassman, their old school president. He is Sir Romnick, the teacher.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The World Through Nica's Eyes

Nica Galvez, barely five years old, sits in a class of thirteen students. It is another day at preschool. On her desk is a piece of paper. On the chalkboard the teacher writes a title and, like everybody else, Nica copies down the title on her paper.

Draw anything that you learned from the story I showed you yesterday, her teacher tells the class. Draw what you learned, draw what you remember.

Nica clearly remembers the story. It is one of the first stories anyone has heard of in their childhood: the story of creation. Her teacher tells them the story, bit by bit, every day – a tale of light and darkness, of flowers and butterflies and the mountains and the sea, of Adam and Eve. On days when the projector is available, they get to watch video clips about the story. They listened well to their teacher before, so they know exactly what’s going to happen: there will be light. Flowers will bloom, trees will grow. Adam is about to appear.

As the twenty-minute video played, Nica gushes softly with her classmates. Nica Galvez is often quiet in class. She’s shy, but with friends she speaks more. She’s not very different from other girls. She does, however, have a higher blinking rate than her fellow preschoolers in the room. But besides this, there’s nothing about Nica Galvez that betrays any hint of the catastrophe that could have permanently changed her life, and how she literally saw the world, two years ago.

This catastrophe involved the faint glint of a pair of scissors, a searing pain in her right eye, a cloudy vision, and the doctor’s advice that Nica needed eye surgery. All because of a squabble between Nica and her brother, one day in October 2011.

Four months later, Nica braved the operation. Soon, she finally, anxiously took the white bandage off her right eye. Once again, the world was clear and unspoiled, in her eyes, just as it had always been.

There are still moments when she gets cross-eyed. Close your eyes, her teacher would tell her, and when she opens them again, everything returns to normal.

Her right eye doesn’t hurt anymore, she says. Both her eyes are fine, her vision flawless. She blinks more than her friends do, that is all. And yet there’s nothing else about this young girl that betrays any hint of that two-year-old catastrophe. It seems it would have to take more than a silly little incident like a sibling fight and a pair of scissors to change how Nica literally saw the world.

But the memory of her eye injury, or of the operation, is the least of her thoughts right now. At the moment, Nica Galvez clearly remembers the story her teacher had showed them yesterday. She remembers light and darkness, the mountains and the sea. She thinks of butterflies, and of Adam and Eve.

Little Nica picks up her crayon, and she starts to draw.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Pinoy Games

It was a morning full of games, colorful costumes, and happy abandon for the entire school last August 7.

The school's celebration of the Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa (National Language Month) opened with a mass and found every one, student and teacher alike, dressed in traditional Filipino garb -- from a simple camisa de chino to the barong, baro't saya and malong to terno and Maria Clara gowns. Even teacher Sir Joevani stood out among the crowd with his bright yellow bandanna and elaborate pants.

The day's highlight, however, was the series of traditional games, hosted by P.E. teacher Mr. Jomar Eguid at the covered court. 

With the upperclassmen as facilitators, these games included ones we're all familiar with -- popping balloons, the longest line, the sack race, and relays that involved spinning, eating bell pepper, or catching chicken eggs.

Teams with more neckerchiefs or paƱuelos get an advantage during the Longest Line game.

Shoot the pencil into the bottle: one of the more "difficult" games involving a lot of concentration.

The players quickly carry their teammate in a combined version of A Trip to Jerusalem and newspaper dance.

Players getting ready to catch some wildly flying eggs.

At the end, even teachers don't miss out on the fun!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Clay Therapy Club

All work and no play makes one a dull child, they say. 

That's why institutions like the St. Francis of Assisi School of Silay City encourage students to engage in extracurricular activities.

At SFAS, students from grades 4 to 10 get a chance to choose from a total of 18 school clubs, including the Arts and Crafts Club, the Book Lovers Club, the Chess Club, the Football Club, and the Volleyball Club. By joining a club, students learn to act as a team and take on leadership roles. They get to expand their friendships and meet others who share their interests and ideas.

One of the newest clubs at SFAS is called the Clay Therapy Club, headed by Ms. April Suating and joined already by seventeen members.

The SFAS Clay Therapy Club members with their first master piece
Self-expression may come naturally to some students. Others, however, sometimes struggle to express their feelings, especially with words. 

"Clay has the capacity to quickly absorb and express what we are feeling, especially when we are not clear about our thoughts," Ms. April shares. 

Dubbed as the "Cinderella of art therapies", clay therapy can be a powerful -- and creative -- medium for conveying emotions and issues like fear, anger, and grief or loss.
                                                   Outputs of the Clay Therapy Club members

By nature, clay makes for both catharsis and creative escapism. Molding, shaping clay stirs up layers of emotions that makes it easier for the student to express themselves through their clay sculptures.
Club members engrossed with their clay work

Every meeting starts with Ms. April announcing a theme for their clay work, and it ends with a group sharing session, where Ms. April also gives the students advice and helps them become more open with their feelings.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Grades 1 and 2 Students Practice Giving and Sharing

The Grades 1 and 2 students of St. Francis of Assisi School had its outreach program at Adela Elementary School in Silay City last July 17, 2013. The Franciscans were welcomed by the Adela Elementary School students, teachers and their principal, Ms. Inocencia Deris. This yearly project has been successful in helping the students realize the importance of giving and sharing.
Participants of the outreach program: Grades 1 and 2 students of St. Francis of Assisi School 
and Adela Elementary School
SFAS and AES students enjoyed eating snacks together.
SFAS Grades 1 and 2 students brought "little surprises" 
to the students of Adela Elementary School.      

Monday, July 29, 2013

PCA S.Y. 2013 - 2014

Last July 3, 2013, St. Francis School of Assisi held its induction of the Parent's Council Association (PCA). The aim of the PCA is to foster better relationships between parents and their children's school. It creates a partnership which helps the school listen to and deal with parent concerns and for parents to learn more about the school and how to improve their children's education. The PCA does not necessarily represent the views of all parents but they can be an excellent forum for communication and a basis for partnership between parents and the school.
PCA Officers for  S.Y. 2013-2014
The new set of PCA officers were excited to share their plans for this school year. Projects they have in mind are the renovation of the waiting shed, the purchase of a good quality sound system for the covered court and the construction of a foot walk with roof from the the main road to the bridge. PCA President, Florenda Buenaflor, said that they will be visible and would really take part on the preparation for the Foundation Day this October. "Expect 100% cooperation from us, after all it's for the betterment of the school and our kids will benefit from our projects."

Parents Council Officers:

                                            President:                        Florenda Buenaflor
                                            Vice President:                Edgardo Poral
                                            Secretary:                        Merla Jacildo
                                            Asst. Secretary:               Relyn Tarrosa
                                            Treasurer:                       Nenita Eustaquio
                                            Asst. Treasurer:              Gemma Butas
                                            Auditor:                          Fely Villarin
                                            Business Manager:         Margie Galeno
                                            Sgt. at Arms :                 Judy Barnuevo
                                                                                   John Diaz

To the newly elected officers, Congratulations and Thank You for your tireless effort!

Friday, July 26, 2013

We are ... Titans!

Last July 12, 2013, under the sweltering heat of the sun, the High School students of St. Francis of Assisi School (SFAS) of Silay City were on hand for the blessing and official opening of the TITANS COURT—a new basketball/volleyball court at SFAS.

Located beside the High School building, Titans Court was named after its donors, Team Titans, a group of running enthusiasts from Manila, who raised the money for the construction of a concrete basketball/volleyball court.

Coach Michelle Estuar and the Team Titans
Led by Michelle Estuar, Team Titans organized ULTRAlympics 2012, the 2nd Michelle Estuar FUNd Racing event last November 30, 2012 at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City, Metro Manila.  The fundraising event featured a series of running-related events:  an 8-km run, a 16-km run, a 400-m dash for kids and a Titan Circuit Team Challenge.

The event was able to raise over Php280,000.00 for the Tapulanga Foundation for the Titans Court.

Earlier this year, last May 18, Convergy’s One Comcast-Voice and Chat organized a fundraising event at the Convergy’s parking lot in Bacolod City.  Having food booths, games, singing contests, auction, etc., the group was able to raise Php40,000.00 for the Tapulanga Foundation for the construction of two basketball goals to go with the Titans Court.

The Blessing and Opening Ceremony started with the blessing of the court by Father Jonathan Borromeo.

It was followed by a ceremonial run around the court by Michelle Estuar and SFAS’ very own football aficionado, Jan Michael Artillo.

SFAS Sports Coordinator, Sir JR Abello, delivered a welcome speech then the Vice President of the Tapulanga Foundation, Dr. Joan Millonado, who flew in from Manila, introduced the special guests of the ceremony—Team Titans themselves.

L-R: Dra. Joan Ledesma-Millonado, Vice President of Tapulanga Foundation;
Sir JR Ledesma-Abello, Vice Principal and Sports Coordinator of SFAS and
Ma. Carmela "Micmic" Abello-Golez, Executive Director of TF and Administrator of SFAS 

Michelle Estuar spoke in behalf of Team Titans.  A highlight of her speech was when she shared the meaning of the name, Titan, which was actually an acronym for Tough, Intelligent, Talented, Athletic and Never giving up.  She encouraged the High School students of SFAS to live up to these characteristic values of a Titan.  And rightly so, as earlier in his speech, Sir JR Abello officially unveiled the new name of the sports teams of SFAS—the St. Francis Titans.

Convergy’s One Comcast-Voice and Chat also graced the event.  Operations Manager Mr. Jai Baldemor spoke in behalf of the group.

Operations Managers and Team Leaders of Convergy's One Comcast-Voice and Chat

Then Team Leader Mr. Joseph Somoza of Convergy’s One Comcast-Voice and Chat and SFAS’ Student Council President and basketball star Kyle Barnuevo traded baskets in a ceremonial shooting of hoops.

As the Blessing and Opening Ceremony ended, it was then time to test the Titan spirit of the St. Francis Titans.

Michelle Estuar and the Team Titans conducted a running clinic at the SFAS Covered Court.  All 180 High School students participated in a series of running exercises and drills as different Team Titan members were situated in different stations set up around the court.  The running clinic ended with a team relay game between the High School batches.  In the end, the Seniors won in a Championship showdown with the Sophomores.

A new court, a new name; it was truly a historical day for SFAS Sports!  And to God be the glory!