June 14, 2023
Volunteers visit Mindanao school 10 years after Typhoon Pablo
By Joy Rojas
On June 9, 2023, three commissioners and three volunteers from Tzu Chi Davao paid a visit to Mangayon Elementary School, a public school in Compostela Valley (now Davao de Oro), some 150 kilometers away from Davao City. Teachers and students cheered for their guests, who gifted the young learners with backpacks, school supplies, and cards with inspiring Jing Si aphorisms.
Tzu Chi commissioner Mei Yuan Ang remembers traveling to the school more than 10 years ago and under different circumstances. On December 3, 2012, Mindanao was the target of the Category 5 storm known as Pablo (International name Bopha), the strongest tropical cyclone in the history of the southern island. Days later, survivors stared helplessly at the irreparable damage to their homes, farmlands, and infrastructure. Over a thousand residents perished in the storm, and thousands more were displaced.
In Compostela Valley, devastating landslides and floods spared nothing in their way, including Mangayon Elementary School, which was left in ruins. Once classes resumed, teachers conducted their lessons in nipa huts and tents.
Tzu Chi volunteers organized large-scale relief operations and a medical mission in Compostela Valley a month after Pablo’s wrath. They also undertook the construction of the new Mangayon Elementary School. Designed by Architect Anthony Paolo Gau, the project began in November 2013 and was turned over to school and local government officials on December 1, 2014.
Clean, bright, and well-ventilated, the impressive structure includes 18 fully equipped classrooms, a faculty office, library, laboratory, clinic, canteen, and restrooms.
“This school is a project of love made possible by the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation Philippines, with love and well-wishes from donors around the world,” reads an engraved message from Dharma Master Cheng Yen on a marker found at the school grounds.
“May Mangayon Elementary School be a place where hopes are realized and stand the test of time for thousands of years to come. May this school forever safeguard students, wisdom-life.”
Now with a population of 600 (enrollment has tripled since 2012) the school, says Mei, is still beautiful and well-maintained. Yet what caught her eye were the many additions introduced by school officials—and all espoused by Master Cheng Yen.
“At the back of the school, there’s a 3-hectare rice field that uses organic farming methods,” she says. “The school has a tank for storing rain water for gardening and cleaning. They also practice proper waste disposal through segregation.”
In her class, Teacher Linda introduced her students to Tzu Chi sign language songs, as well as the humble bamboo coin bank, a symbol of Master Cheng Yen’s belief that anyone, regardless of age or economic status, has the capacity to help.
In an effort to give back, the school provides printed modules and radio-based learning to the students of Mangayon Tribal Integrated School. Located in the remote mountains of Mangyon, it’s attended by children of the Matigsalog tribe.
The school is also a recipient of numerous awards, including a certificate of validation from the Department of Education Davao Region. According to the citation, Mangayon Elementary School “has met the standards of the Quality of Management System and the Validation requirements anchored in the School-Based Management Guidelines on the improvement of learning achievement that relies on data-driven processes, calibrated tools, and mechanisms with increasing effectiveness in the delivery of basic education services in Davao Region.”
The air of hopelessness that once hung over this typhoon-battered village 10 years ago is no more. With the rebuilding of Mangayon Elementary School, the community feels empowered, motivated, and above all, blessed.
“[We] learned a lot from the teachings of Master Cheng Yen, the founder of the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation,” wrote teachers in Mangayon Elementary School’s Facebook page. “Thank you so much Tzu Chi Foundation for your great love and support to the community of Mangayon. We will be forever grateful to you, especially to our Venerable Master Cheng Yen [for her generosity and her teachings].”