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Lawyer Angelo Valencia did more than just help build a school on Mt. Pulag, the highest mountain on Luzon; he also helped toward bringing the kids from the community to colleges and universities.
“The idea is to eventually have more graduates than farmers there,” he tells Yahoo! Southeast Asia. By giving the kids on Mt. Pulag access to better education, he says, the farms there will not be for subsistence but sustenance. The alternative, he adds, is for more generations to stay farmers and if that happens, “the mountain cannot take care of them.”
In the meantime, the farmers on Pulag have been taught organic farming and a micro-financing facility has also been set up there to cultivate small businesses.
Valencia, who calls himself a “social climber” as he was prompted to help the community while he was on sabbatical due to a heart ailment. “We have a saying among mountaineers that we should ‘leave no trace behind’, but I realized that when you leave the mountain, the guides there are left behind. Their lives stay the same,” he says.
So he decided to change that and leave, not trash, but the seed of a legacy for future generations of that community. It began with medical and dental missions, and helping out soon grew to plans to build class rooms in Sitio Babalak, where the Mt. Pulag Primary School stands.
“It was not an overnight thing, the plan to create a school, “ he says. The benefits to the children of Sitio Babalak will not come overnight, either. But with solar panels, TVs, a sound system, and a laptop for multimedia lessons in their school, the children now have a leg up towards a better life.
Valencia began building classrooms as a way of giving back to the guides who help mountaineers ascend Pulag but that advocacy has grown, with him partnering up with TEN (The Entire Nation) Moves, a campaign to build 10,000 classrooms in public schools across the Philippines.
More than that, TEN Moves is a movement of kindred spirits who want to do things for the country and make people’s lives better. That means giving children better access to education and their parents better means to earn money. “That’s the essence of it,” he says.
Although he is a lawyer, Valencia says he dislikes titles and airs when he puts on his TEN Moves hat. “Here, there are no titles, I prefer to call myself a construction worker. That’s what I am,” he says.
He dislikes the attention, too. He insists the team behind TEN Moves and General Juancho Sabban of Western Command, with whom he has been working to put up more classrooms, are the true heroes.
When he was interviewed by Yahoo! Southeast Asia, Valencia was in Puerto Princesa in Palawan overseeing construction of classrooms that take just 10 days to build. “I’m not into micromanagement but I want to see that money raised goes to what it was meant for,” he says.
The idea is to eventually build schools all the way to Tawi-Tawi, which is separated from the southernmost part of Palawan by the Sulu Sea.
More than classrooms, though, Valencia explains he is helping build symbols of hope. “In some of these places, they don’t even have a Philippine flag. This is a way to show the people that the government and the private sector care for them and that there is hope,” he explains. And to have hope is the most important of all, Valencia says, because it is contagious.