Memories of Philippines

by Jeff Taggart

We worked at a subdivision called Bajumpandan 3 in Dumaguete City. The children there attended South City Elementary School. Several people from our group visited the school and were invited to attend 6th grade graduation later that week. Many members of the group donated money to purchase much needed supplies. Graduation day conflicted with other planned group activities; I agreed to be our representative at the ceremony.

I took a local cab to the school and arrived to witness the procession marching into the outdoor arena. I took a seat with the proud families in the bleachers. I tried to blend in but failed. I noticed three empty chairs on stage and wondered who they were for. The ceremony had lots of speeches given by adults and awards received by kids.

After the ceremony, I met the principal. She said the chairs on stage were for members of our group. I was relieved I got there late and didn't have to sit on stage and perhaps give a speech which I was unprepared for. I toured the school. A recent fire had destroyed a wing of the school, including six classrooms. There were no funds ot rebuild the classrooms. This contributed to the 60-child class size. How could so many children fit into a room which could hold only 30 desks? Two kids per desk.

There was no library as we know it--just rows of retired text books. Not a single work of fiction. No paper, no pencils, I don't remember chalk. The microscopes in the science room were two-dimensional. The office had only a manual typewritere and carbor paper. I was served food; after 25 years I cannot remember what, only that it was very nice.

As I was talking to the principal, I was considering the donated 10,000 pesos ($250) I had in my pocket and how to proceed. As the minimum wage in the Philippines at the time was $3/day, this was a relatively large sum. I was concerned with the appearance of a rich American solving the world's problems by handing out money, which is what I was about to do. I told the principal I hoped whe wouldn't mind receiving the donation from many of our group and handed her the money. She seemed surprised and pleased. Later we received photos of the many school supplies they purchased with the money.

This marked the beginning of our support for the schools in Dumaguete, a program lasting 25 years.