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Keeping the pride alive
Sep 22, 2014

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT - It's 5 o'clock in the morning, Francine wakes up to do her daily chores. Afterwards, she takes a bath and readies herself for school.

Her mother prepares breakfast, coffee and Francine's uniform. After looking at the mirror, she fixes her hair to the style she wants, then picks up her bag full of books and leaves the house.

This was the usual scenario for Francine Calubhay, last year's valedictorian, during her time as one of the students of the Pastolan Elementary School.

Around 230 Aeta kids are expected to go to class in the elementary school inside the Pastolan Aeta Village found in Subic Bay Freeport. More than 20 of them will be graduating this school year and will subsequently take their secondary education at the Olongapo City National High School (OCNHS).

Francine, who graduated last year, is now a high school student of OCNHS. She is one of the village's pride and will certainly be instrumental in uplifting the education of Pastolan.

Just like her teacher Mizpah Diago, the first Aeta teacher who is a product of the villages' educational system, Calubhay aims to help develop the education in the village. Diago is giving back to her village by teaching youngsters basic education.

And just like Calubhay, Diago started as just a student of the village, gaining honors during her elementary years. Sadly, just like this new batch of graduates, she had to take her secondary education in Olongapo.

The village only has an elementary school but the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has plans to help the villagers have their own high school department. But for now, these kids have to take their secondary education in Olongapo City National High School (OCNHS).

But kids still help in hunting fish, game fowls, gather produce in the forest and still tend to other chores that their parents tell them to do. They also perform traditional dances and display jungle survival skills to tourists, as their elders' old teachings are passed on to them.

Elders believed that the children's development should not clash with their culture, telling them to hold on to their identity and be proud of their heritage.

And all of these scholastic achievement would not be possible without the help from the government.

The SBMA is the benefactor of all indigenous communities within the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, and among them is Pastolan Village. A part of the income generated inside the Freeport is allocated to the indigenous people here as stated in the Joint Management Agreement (JMA) signed between the village captains and officials of the SBMA.

On the fishing village of Kanawan, they are gearing up for the start of this school year as they now have a high school department. Just like Pastolan, Kanawan Village is part of the SBMA's beneficiary villages. And just like Pastolan, Kanawan only had an elementary school last year.

Kanawan, which has around 150 students last year, produced 17 elementary graduates. And with the current transition of 4-years of high school to the K-12 curriculum, teachers have their hands full of teaching these kids how to be ready for their future.

The Aetas have been stereotyped as nomads selling knickknacks to tourists in Subic Bay Freeport, but now they are emerging as one of the most industrious students in the country. What they lack in school amenities, they make up for their desire to learn.

And with education giving them the possibility to earn money mostly in the blue collar industry, it is still good to know that they are holding on to their identity.
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