Ceremony for the Extension of the Bagalangit Elementary School
From December 11th to December 13th, JTS Chairman Ven. Pomnyun Sunim attended the ceremony for the expansion of the Bagalangit Elementary School, the dedication ceremony of Makapari High School’s dormitory, and the Sumilao Special School in Mindanao.
When Ven. Pomnyun Sunim arrived at Laguindingan International Airport in Mindanao, he was greeted by Byungjoo Ahn, the secretary general of JTS Philippines, and her staff. The flight delay pushed all of Ven. Sunim’s schedules back by half an hour.
After traveling for an hour and a half by car, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim arrived at Pinotus, where Dodong, Trelsi, and their daughter Patricia were waiting. The couple had pioneered the work of JTS Philippines with Ven. Pomnyun Sunim in the early days. Ven. Pomnyun Sunim them greeted warmly and welcomed them to Mindanao over lunch.
On the way from Pinotus to Dahiliyan, there were vast stretches of massive pineapple farms, run by the multinational corporation Del Monte.
At the entrance of the farm, security guards checked our vehicles. At Dahiliyan, the former governor who had served three terms was waiting for Ven. Pomnyun Sunim and greeted him warmly.
From this location to our destination in the alpine region, the roads are unpaved, so the rental cars do not travel beyond this point. The county lent us a big truck called “komongkomong”’ so that we could attend the ceremony at Bagalangit.
Everyone marveled at the truck which was big enough to be used for transporting livestock. Since it shook so much, riding the truck on unpaved roads felt like taking rides at an amusement park. Ven. Pomnyun Sunim said that although the destination was remote, we were fortunate that we were able have regular meals and didn’t have to walk. Wonjoo Lee, the president of JTS Philippines, gave us accounts of the hardships he experienced in transporting all the building materials to the school.
At Bagalangit Elementary School, the teachers’ quarters were newly built and two more concrete classrooms were added, so each grade now has a classroom. Broken bathrooms were fixed and four more stalls were added. The students and teachers are very happy with the new classrooms and bathrooms.
Since Ven. Pomnyun Sunim and his staff traveled a long distance from Korea to attend the ceremony to celebrate the expansion of the Bagalangit Elementary School, the students, their parents, and the administrative staff from the education office, the city and county officials all came to greet and welcome him.
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim thanked all the officials and Father Noel for attending the ceremony, and then he looked around the new additions to the school before the ceremony began.
First, Father Noel Suarez said grace and walked around the new facilities, blessing them with holy water.
Those who contributed to the construction had a picture taken together. Ven. Pomnyun Sunim, the principal, the former head of county, JTS President Gena Park, and Wonjoo Lee took part in a ribbon cutting ceremony. Upon cutting the ribbon, the audience congratulated the completion of the new additions to the school building with a loud applause. Ven. Pomnyun Sunim showed his happiness by holding up the ribbon above his head with a big smile on his face. His smile looked similar to those of the students.
Next, people sang the anthems of the Philippines and Korea. The students sang happily and the audience had a great time watching them.
After the progress report given by Wonjoo Lee about JTS Philippines, there was a plaque unveiling ceremony. Everyone clapped happily when the plaque on the wall was revealed.
In the middle of the event, there was a sudden downpour. However, since tents had already been set up, the ceremony continued without interruption, and everyone had a good time. Gena Park presented a wooden key to the Education Office staff, and Wonjoo Lee handed over the deed of the building to the Deputy Mayor of Manolopoltiji.
Then, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim came forward and delivered a speech of congratulations and encouragement to the students.
“Hello, everyone! Congratulations on the ceremony for classroom expansion at Bagalangit Elementary School. Are you all happy?”
“I am also very happy. Was this school built by itself? No. It was built by someone’s hard work. The people who worked the hardest are your parents, so please repeat after me in a loud voice. “Mom and dad, thank you for building the school.”
“Mom and dad, thank you for building the school.”
“Please, give a big round of applause for the moms and dads.”
“Thank you. (applause)”
“Secondly, the governor, country officials, Education Office staff and many other people all helped in building this school. Please, give a huge round of applause to the officials.”
” Thank you. (applause)”
“Thirdly, the JTS Philippines and JTS Korea provided the financial support. Please give them a big round of applause.”
” Thank you. (applause)”
“Are you able to study when you only have classrooms?”
“What else do you need in order to study?”
“That’s correct. You need teachers. Please give a big round of applause to the teachers.”
“Thank you. (applause)”
“You should listen to your teachers, right? (Yes) It rained a minute ago. Why did it rain? To celebrate the opening of your school. Father Noel sprinkled holy water to bless the expansion of the school, but he sprinkled too little water so God sprinkled more. (All laugh). Please give a round of applause to Father Noel. Is this the first time you see me, or have you seen me before?”
“The first time”
“I have visited this place four times. I visited here for the first time when all of you were in your mom’s womb. That may be the reason you haven’t seen me before. At the time, I was able to come here with the help of Dodong, Trel and Tueja. Please give them a huge round of applause.”
“Thank you. (applause)”
“Now that the school is built, what should you do? You should study. We built the school for you to study. Can you promise me that you will study hard?”
“When it’s hot, should you come to school or not?”
“We should come!”
“When it’s pouring, should you come to school or not?”
“We should come!”
“Those of you can promise me that you won’t miss a single school day, please raise your hand.”
“Me! Me! Me! (Everyone raises hand)
“Good. Please study hard.”
The students beamed with happiness after listening to Ven. Pomnyun Sunim ‘s speech. They clapped and cheered loudly when he introduced the people they needed to thank and answered loudly when asked if they would study hard.
The desks of the students were unique. The desk and chair were attached as one set, and they looked very practical. The desks were made of plastic, and it was a sight to see when the students lifted the desks and carried them under the tents when it began to rain during the ceremony. Ven. Pomnyun Sunim said that all the desks were donated by JTS when the school was first built.
Next up was the welcoming speech by the principal, Mr. Kaloonganan. “Children are our future and hope. They will become the leaders the communities and societies in the future. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to JTS for constructing the school building and supporting the students. I hope for the continued interest and support of JTS. We promise to maintain the school in good condition.”
After that a fifth grader came forward and said, “Thank you for building all the classrooms. We will make good use of them.” Ven. Pomnyun Sunim and the JTS staff smiled widely at the remark.
Teachers also expressed appreciation for having the sturdiest living quarters in the history of JTS Philippines.
“I will never forget the spirit of sharing that JTS has shown to us. Bagalangit village and its elementary school have benefited enormously from JTS. We are very thankful for the addition of two classrooms and the teachers’ quarters. When we lived at the school, there wasn’t a suitable place to sleep in. It was difficult to have a good night’s sleep. We were scared when we heard a strange noise outside. Now we have our own teachers’ quarters thanks to JTS, we can sleep soundly and wash comfortably. With the help of JTS we were able to overcome all of our hardships. Even when we don’t work here anymore, we will forever remember what we have experienced with JTS.”
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim planted a commemorative tree with all the parties concerned.
Fortunately, the rain let up at the end of the ceremony. The JTS staff distributed school supplies to third graders.
Wonjoo Lee announced to the students that the women’s association at the Korean embassy holds an annual charity bazaar and supports Korean organizations with its proceed, and this year the association donated the proceeds to JTS Philippines.
After the event Ven. Pomnyun Sunim traveled to Sumilao.
JTS has built a school for the handicapped in Sumilao. It is the best building in Mindanao. Ven. Pomnyun Sunim arrived at the school around 5:40pm and all the students and teachers in the dormitory were waiting for him and were very happy to see him.
In the Philippines, each county operates a special school for the handicapped using one classroom in a regular school. Sumilao Special School had been using one classroom of a regular school, but last year a new school building was built. Now Sumilao Special School has better facilities than a regular school. Ven. Pomnyun Sunim explained that Sumilao Special School is better staffed than other special schools. It has one principal, four teachers, two teaching assistants and one dormitory caretaker.
In the dormitory, there are separate lodging quarters for boys and girls, and each room is equipped with a toilet and a shower. The construction of the dormitory was personally financed by Wonjoo Lee and his wife. For meals, the students who live in the dormitory bring some rice from home, but there is a constant shortage of food.
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim looked around the rooms and the kitchen, and then presented two bags of 50kg rice and seventy loaves of bread, which made the students and the teachers very happy.