FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City – President Benigno Simeon Aquino III led the inauguration of the new Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Sports Complex during the Academy’s Sinaglahi Class commencement exercises on March 15, 2015.
The Commander-in-Chief was joined by National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gregorio P. Catapang, PMA Lt. Gen. Oscar Lopez and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) Chairman and CEO Cristino L. Naguiat, Jr.
The modernization of the 62-year old PMA Sports Complex started in November 2013 after PMA received P105 million funding from PAGCOR. It took the Academy over a year to complete the 11,500 square meter well-equipped sports facility.
In his commencement speech for the 172 members of the Sinaglahi Class, Aquino mentioned about the completion of the new sports facility. “In front of us is your new sports center. Perhaps the Sinaglahi Class is saying: ‘We saw it being constructed, and yet others will reap the benefits. Perhaps our Honorable Secretary of National Defense will tell the following classes who will be able to use the sports center: ‘Back in my day, even our water came from a fire truck.’ There was a shortage of water in the PMA then, such that they were given five counts to collect water from a fire truck with their helmets, and that would be their ration for the day…perhaps this is how destiny is: As our country develops, the sacrifices required of its citizens should lessen,” President Aquino said.
Chairman Naguiat of PAGCOR meanwhile said that as the premier training academy of the country’s future military leaders, the PMA needs to continuously upgrade its facilities to fully prepare the cadets for the tough military life. “Our future soldiers need more modern facilities that will help hone not only their academic competency but also their physical capabilities. This is the reason why PAGCOR did not hesitate to fund the construction of this sports complex,” he added.
The new PMA Sports Complex is a far cry from the old one. It now has volleyball, basketball and badminton courts, a gymnastic floor, gymnastics area, combative sports area and a wall climbing facility. It also has a sports facility area with toilets, lockers, main lobby, offices, lecture rooms for Sports and Physical Development classes and a storage area.
PMA Spokesperson Major Fara Krishna Candelaria narrated that prior to PAGCOR’s funding, the Academy used its old Jurado Hall built in 1953 for the physical fitness requirements of its cadets and personnel. Apart from being out-dated, it could only accommodate around 500 cadets. “It was no longer commensurate to the needs of the present population size of PMA,” she added.
Their newly-built sports complex is expected to benefit at least 750 cadets and around 1,500 command personnel, civilian employees and faculty of the PMA. It will also allow the PMA to host inter-school sports events such as the Baguio-Benguet Educational Athletic League.
According to Candelaria, the new PMA Sports Complex will greatly add value to the PMA because physical fitness is part of the core curriculum of the Academy. “Keeping fit is a way of life for people in the military service. We must maintain our physical fitness regardless of rank. With the new sports complex, our cadets will be inspired to do their best. It will also help in our recruitment of new cadets and will encourage even our civilian personnel to take part in athletic events.”
Candelaria added that the construction of the new facility is a big leap for the PMA as it works towards its 2028 vision of modernizing the Academy to make it at par with international military schools.
“Since the Sports Complex is of utmost importance to us, PMA has already included its renovation in the Master Development plan last 2012. But the construction would be done in phases since the priority of our funding goes to training. Infrastructure and other development come from extra funds and sources. If PAGCOR had not funded construction of the facility, we might still be able to do it but it will certainly take a long time,” Candelaria said.
Sinaglahi Class Valedictorian Arwi Martinez was one of the cadets who used the old Jurado Hall. “As a sports facility, it needed a lot of repairs. For example, hindi na gumagagana yung score board for basketball, yung cubicles, three out of five lang ang gumagana.”
Martinez believes that the new PMA Sports Complex will further motivate cadets to take their physical fitness requirements seriously. “I think it will encourage the PMA community and the cadets to engage more in physical activities,” he concluded.
PAGCOR Feeding Program benefits poor families in Davao Region
For many poor parents in remote communities, sending their children to live with distant relatives or complete strangers is a common practice. Because of extreme poverty, most families would sacrifice to live apart just to fill their empty stomachs and survive.
But Ana and Rodrigo, parents of four kids, from Butuan City are different. They would rather go through the worst hardships just to keep their family together. Both Ana and Rodrigo were forced to live away from their families at a very young age. Rodrigo was only seven years old when he lived with a relative who sent him to school in exchange for his help in tending their farm. On the other hand, Ana was 11 years old when she started working as a househelp. Ana and Rodrigo knew how hard it was to live under someone else’s roof just to have something to eat and give to their families.
Similar to Ana and Rodrigo, Roquina and Edgardo from Davao City would do everything to keep their family intact despite their struggles in life. At times, when life gets too difficult, they fail to give their children even one decent meal a day. But they said they have to accept their fate. “Ang mahalaga ay sama-sama kami at buo ang pamilya namin,” Edgardo said.
Both couples saw a ray of hope after receiving the good news that their children were chosen as PAGCOR Feeding Program beneficiaries. Despite the difficulties of daily survival, they are now assured that their children will not be hungry while in school.
The PAGCOR Feeding Program is being carried out in 14 public schools in the Davao region. Since the feeding program’s launch last November 3, 2014, a total of 1,000 undernourished children from the various public elementary schools in the cities of Butuan, Iligan, Tagum and Davao are now being served nutritious lunch. They will be fed with complete meals once a day during school days for five months.
Feeding Aid Goes A Long Way
Under the current PAGCOR management, the agency has been allocating an annual budget of P40 million for its feeding project. For School Year 2014-2015 alone, the program is targeting to cover more than 10,000 malnourished public school students in roughly 175 schools nationwide.
Since July 2010, the PAGCOR Feeding Program has already gone a long way in improving the health of about 40,000 children enrolled in more than 500 government subsidized schools all over the country.
Dreaming of a Better Life
Angelina – the 10-year-old daughter of Ana and Rodrigo – was chosen as one of the 50 PAGCOR feeding program beneficiaries in Taguibo Elementary School, Butuan City.
“Malaking bagay para po sa amin itong PAGCOR Feeding Program. Nagpapa-salamat ako na makaka-kain na nang husto ang aming anak,” 41 year-old Ana said as she heaved a sigh of relief.
Without any stable source of income, Ana and her husband Rodrigo only earn very little from tending other people’s farms. “Swerte na kung kumita kami ng P300 bilang porsyento sa pagsasaka. Kapag may magpapa-tanim lang saka kami kumikita. Ang pang-araw-araw na gastos namin ay galing sa anak ko na huminto ng pag-aaral para mag-gasoline boy,” she related.
According to Ana, their simple wish is to see their four children have a better life, and for their 10-year-old daughter to grow up healthy. “Hindi ganito ang gusto ko para sa kanila. Gusto ko may trabaho silang matatag para sa kanilang pamilya. Ayokong maranasan nila ang ganitong hirap, na ang anak nila ay tinatawag na malnourished,” she emotionally said.
Ana’s daughter Angelina is happy that her parents will no longer have to worry about what she will eat, especially in school. “Ang gagawin ko na lang po ay pumasok araw-araw, mag-aral ng mabuti at magtapos ng pag-aaral. Maraming salamat po sa tulong ng PAGCOR,” she shyly said.
According to Butuan City DepEd District Supervisor Elvira Paulin, the PAGCOR Feeding Program is a big help to their student-beneficiaries. “Maraming bata ang kulang sa nutrisyon. Malaki ang maitu-tulong ng (PAGCOR) feeding program para yung height at weight ng mga bata ay maagapan at maging wasto ayon sa kanilang edad. Nakaka-tulong din ang masustansyang pagkain sa kanilang katalinuhan,” she added.
Paulin also said that the PAGCOR Feeding Program motivates the beneficiaries to go to school. “Malaking tulong itong ginagawa ng PAGCOR sa mga paaralan kasi hindi na liliban ang mga estudyante sa kanilang klase. Marami sa kanila ang nae-engganyo na pumasok dahil sa feeding program. Malaki din ang mababawas sa gastos sa pagkain ng mga magulang,” the DepEd official said.
PAGCOR Feeding Program a Big Relief
Roquina and Edgardo have eight children. Three of their kids (Maxine, 12; Kimberly, 10; and Eden Grace, 8) study at the V. L. Angliongto Sr. Elementary School in Davao City. They are among the 100 PAGCOR feeding beneficiaries in their school for this year.
Roquina related that PAGCOR’s feeding program brings great relief to her family. Providing healthy meals to their children is something that the Barquio family could not afford every day. “Swerte na kapag maka-P150 na kita ang aking asawa sa isang araw niyang pasada sa tricycle” she added.
With a meager income, their three older children decided to put their dreams on hold to work and help their younger siblings finish their studies. “Yung panganay naming lalaki, pumasok na utility. Ang dalawang nakaka-tandang babae ay pareho namang nag-trabaho na katulong,” Roquina said.
The 39-year-old mother feels sorry that she could not contribute to the family’s income. “Dito lang ako sa bahay. Kailangan ko kasing alagaan ang mali-liit pang anak (a two year-old and a six year-old special child),” she said.
Roquina considers the inclusion of her three children in the PAGCOR Feeding Program a big blessing. “Kahit maraming mga batang nangangailangan ng tulong ay napili pa din sila,” she mused.
Meanwhile, Roquina’s daughter Maxine said the timely help from PAGCOR would mean that she no longer has to borrow money from her classmates to buy food. “Nakaka-tipid na po kami dahil sa Feeding Program. Dati po ‘pag wala kaming pagkain, naghihiraman kami ng pera pambili ng pagkain. Ngayon hindi na kami gagastos,” Maxine said. (Ciara Mabalot)
ROSANNA’s smile was as bright as the ray of sunlight shining down on their humble abode.
The 31-year-old mother of four could not contain her joy when she learned that her eldest daughter, Rochelle, will be part of her school’s feeding program.
Financial difficulties plague the Armado family. Rosanna’s income from selling puto (rice cake) and her husband’s meager earnings from driving a passenger jeepney are not enough to put food on the family table.
“Dahil wala akong puhunan para makapag-tinda uli ng puto, pinagka-kasya na lang namin ang natira sa huling kinita ko at ng mister ko para maka-bili ng kahit itlog na pang-ulam ng mga bata,” Rosanna said.
Since her family is in dire straits, Rosanna is worried that her children’s health would be compromised. Their common fare of fried eggs will not be sufficient to give them the proper nutrition that they need.
Rosanna is likewise worried that her daughter Rochelle, a 12-year old grade six pupil at Malino Elementary School in Mexico, Pampanga, cannot cope with school activities because she lacks nourishment. Rochelle walks more than a kilometer from their home everyday to reach her school. By the time she gets to school, she no longer has the energy to participate actively in class.
Rosanna considers it as a timely blessing that Rochelle was chosen as one of the 70 beneficiaries of the PAGCOR Feeding Program through its Casino Filipino Angeles branch in Pampanga. The feeding program benefits pupils from kinder to grade six.
“Hindi naman po pumapasok ng eskwela ang anak ko nang hindi kumakain, pero yun nga lang po, minsan ay wala siyang pambaon. Kaya’t malaking tulong po sa amin na nasama siya sa feeding program ng PAGCOR,” Rosanna enthused.
Malino Elementary School Principal Amalia Serrano reported that of their 906 enrollees this year, 11 are classified as “severely wasted” while 59 are labeled as “wasted”. Rochelle belongs to the “wasted” category.
According to humanitarian organization Action Contre la Faim (ACF) International which carries out the “Action Against Hunger” campaign in 45 countries, “severely wasted” are those who look almost elderly and are extremely thin and skeletal. On the other hand, “wasted” children suffer from moderate acute malnutrition.
As of May this year, the Department of Education (DepEd) reported that there are about 8,000 children in the province of Pampanga with severe lack of nutrition. Of this number, 2,080 are currently covered by the PAGCOR Feeding Program through the agency’s Casino Filipino branch in Angeles City. The branch also attends to the nutritional needs of 1,120 malnourished public school students in 16 public schools in Bulacan.
To ensure that the feeding program would produce the desired result, Serrano asked the parents of the Feeding Program beneficiaries to deworm their children.
“We consider ourselves blessed to have been chosen by PAGCOR as beneficiaries of this feeding program. This is a one-of-a-kind activity in our district since our pupils who lack nutrition are being treated to sumptuous and healthy lunch every school day. I believe that it will have a great impact on them,” she noted. Malino Elementary School is the 18th institution to benefit from the PAGCOR Feeding Program in Pampanga.
Another beneficiary is Guiguinto Central School in Guiguinto, Bulacan. A one-hectare learning institution, it is the second biggest public school in Guiguinto with an average population of 1,700 students.
Prior to the PAGCOR Feeding Program, the school could only cater to the nutritional needs of 25 pupils due to lack of funds.
“Even if we wanted to include more kids in our feeding program, our limited budget could only allow us to accommodate few students whom we thought really needed immediate nutritional aid. Pero snacks lang iyon at hindi full meal gaya ng isine-serve ng PAGCOR,” explained Guiguinto Central School Principal Lolita Dayao.
One of the students chosen to undergo the feeding program is Grade Two pupil Leandro. The skinny eight-year-old boy always eats alone under a tree as he does not want his classmates to see him only eating fish balls bought from a vendor outside their school. He could not buy something better to eat because his parents could not give him a bigger allowance.
Even if Leandro is not as hale and healthy like some of his classmates, he belongs to the top section in his grade level and actively participates in their classroom activities. His 37-year-old mother Rebecca proudly related that their extreme poverty does not prevent her from dreaming big for his son.
“Wala po akong ibang pangarap kundi ang makapag-tapos ng pag-aaral ang anak ko dahil siya ang ina-asahan kong makakapag-ahon sa amin sa kahirapan,” Rebecca said. Their family only survives on the P350 daily wage of his husband Roberto who works as driver for a hardware store.
Dayao believes that Leandro can still have a bright future. “We need to take care of pupils like Leandro who strives to perform well in class even if he is deprived of proper diet due to his family’s financial difficulties. With the proper nutrition that this PAGCOR feeding program could provide, we’re very certain that he’ll be at par with the best students in his class in the coming months,” she added.
The school head added that she also expects other beneficiaries of the PAGCOR Feeding Program to make a remarkable progress in their academic performance.
“With a bigger budget at hand, we can now afford to prepare really nutritious meals that would help energize the brains of these pupils and keep them healthy. We’d forever be grateful to PAGCOR for making our school a beneficiary of their feeding program,” Dayao cheerfully concluded. (Jesse Ong)