For over five years, Grade 1 teacher Maria Cleofe Fuentes of Santa Cruz Elementary School held classes in makeshift rooms.

It was in October of 2013 when a 7.2 magnitude earthquake devastated Bohol and destroyed more than 1,200 classrooms all over the province. Said to be the strongest to hit the province in nearly 25 years, the calamity completely reduced to rubbles two learning areas from Fuentes’ school, while other teaching spaces badly needed repair.

In December of the following year, a raging fire struck the same school. “More classrooms were destroyed before we could even rebuild what was left from the earthquake,” Fuentes recounted. Being with Santa Cruz ES for over 15 years, she admitted that fellow teachers and their students struggled immensely following the back-to-back tragedies.

In spite of the misfortunes, Fuentes and other teachers remained resilient as they sought for ways to improve the learning conditions in their school.

New hopes

Fast forward to March of 2019 and everyone from Santa Cruz ES is ready to face the future with new hopes. This is following PLDT-Smart Foundation’s (PSF) turnover of a one-story, two-unit classroom building that was funded by donations from employees of the digital and wireless services providers. “I’m happy that our students will finally be able to attend classes under proper classrooms,” Fuentes said.

Principal Asela Mortillas said the donated classrooms are critical because Santa Cruz ES has the most number of students in Maribojoc, Bohol. “The donated classrooms will accommodate students from Grades 5 and 6,” the school official shared.

L-R: Dr. Desiderio V. Deligero, Chief- School Governance Operations Division, DepEd Bohol; Dr. Nimfa D. Bongo Ph.D, CESO V, Schools Division Superintendent, DepEd Bohol; Asela B. Mortillas, Principal, Santa Cruz Elementary School, Maribojoc, Bohol; Ma. Esther O. Santos, President, PLDT-Smart Foundation, Inc.; Mr. Erwin A. Rubi, Head-Consumer Experience Zone-Cebu, PLDT Inc

Disaster preparedness

More than merely building the facilities, experts conducted thorough tests to ensure that the donated classrooms will stand against possible hazards, especially since the presence of tectonic faults throughout the municipality of Maribojoc makes the school prone to earthquakes.

L-R: Mr. Erwin A. Rubi, Head-Consumer Experience Zone-Cebu, PLDT Inc.; Ma. Esther O. Santos, President, PLDT-Smart Foundation, Inc.; Dr. Nimfa D. Bongo Ph.D, CESO V, Schools Division Superintendent, DepEd Bohol; Dr. Desiderio V. Deligero, Chief- School Governance Operations Division, DepEd Bohol; Ms. Agustina Deligero, Public School District Supervisor, Maribojoc District – DepEd Bohol; Asela B. Mortillas, Principal, Santa Cruz Elementary School, Maribojoc, Bohol;

With disaster preparedness as one of PLDT-Smart’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) pillars, students are regularly trained on earthquake drills. Fifth-grader Kathleen Morgia still vividly remembers how scared she and other students were when the 2013 earthquake took place. “Now, we could ‘duck, cover, and hold’ to be safe in case of emergencies,” she said.

Motivation for school

Department of Education (DepEd) Schools Division Superintendent Dr. Nimfa Bongo said the new classrooms will help them attain their goals of providing quality education and lessening the number of drop out cases. “Students will now be housed comfortably and we are expecting this to motivate them to keep attending school,” she explained.

With the newly-built classrooms in Santa Cruz ES, school personnel are targeting to rebuild their destroyed Home Economics building next. “This would provide complete learning facilities for our students,” Fuentes said.

During the turnover of PLDT and Smart’s donation, PSF President Ma. Esther O. Santos commended students and teachers of Santa Cruz ES for their resilience. “We are thankful to have been able to partner with and invest in the future of such an inspiring group of people,” she said.

For more information on PSF, visit www.pldtsmartfoundation.org or email foundation@pldt.com.ph.

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