In a province famous for its pristine beaches and vast shorelines, there are many children from far-flung island communities whose families can barely afford to send them to school.
This inspired Adrian Karl Cobardo, a public school teacher from San Marcelino town, to create a project called “Bangkarunungan” three years ago.
Through “Bangkarunungan,” ‘Kapitan’ Adrian together with teacher and student volunteers travel by boat or ‘bangka’ to poor coastal communities in the area to teach basic reading and writing.
In an interview with The Manila Times, Teacher Adrian said the project started as ‘bangkariton’ roaming around barangays to educate not just out of school youth but also their parents.
It was Efren Peñaflorida’s pushcart classroom that inspired him to make education accessible especially to disadvantaged communities along the vast shoreline of Zambales province.
Efren Penaflorida was the CNN Hero of the Year in 2009 for teaching street kids using a mobile pushcart or “kariton” classroom.
Moreover, Cobardo talked about the high hopes of “Bangkarunungan” and what ordinary citizens can do to help transform the Philippine education system.
“Most of the time we look at government’s shortcomings, but we must understand that the government cannot solve all of the problems alone,” he noted.
“This is where the private sector butts in to fill the gap and share in the responsibility of educating our countrymen,” he added.
On Saturday, the volunteers set sail to Sitio Nagbayucan, a remote island village in Subic, Zambales to kick-off its 2015 voyage.
Aside from story books and writing materials, the group also carried boxes of food and school supplies to be distributed to the less fortunate children in the said coastal area.
Estrelita Saquillo, Sitio leader, stressed that their children travel a 2-km mountain-hike just to go to school every day.
“Hindi naman po kami puwede magbangka araw-araw dahil magastos naman sa gasolina,” she said.
“At tsaka hindi naman po lahat sa amin may sariling Bangka,” she added.
Sitio Nagbayucan also does not have electricity and requires a 45-minute boat ride to get to the mainland.
“Our main purpose in Bangkarunungan is to provide free education to the people in the islands, which I thought was appropriate since the Philippines is an archipelago,” teacher Adrian explained.
“It takes a lot of time and commitment. It has to start within you, the change must start within you,” he added.
According to him, the ‘bangka’ is the best vehicle to transport ideas and eventually move people’s points of view.
Some of Teacher Adrian’s volunteers include a former computer game addict and a differently-abled person.
“Mahirap maging teacher. They have no time for their own children because even when they get home, they’re still busy making lesson plans. It’s so difficult and they get very little pay,” Shane Lacson, one of the student volunteers in the Bangka, said.
“Teacher Adrian is admirable because despite the hardships, he still does more than what is being asked from him,” she added.
Since 2012, Adrian and his “Bangkarunungan’ already received a ‘boat-full’ of awards.
These include the 555 Tuna’s Palaban 5 Outstanding Pinoy Workers awarded in June 2012; Gawad PASATAF 2013 given by the Pambansang Samahan ng Tagamasid at Tagapagtaguyod ng Filipino (PASATAF) last April 2013; and Ulirang Guro sa Filipino 2014 awarded by the Tanggapan ng Pangulo at Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino, among others.
“There are so many public schools around us. Donating boxes of pencils can already make a huge difference,” Cobardo urged.
Little do we know, he said, “public school teachers have to shell out their own money to be able to buy chalk.”
“There are simple ways that could make a huge difference,” he said.
Teacher Adrian encouraged others to help not only ‘Bangkarunungan’ but also other social programs.
“Education is an opportunity and to be able to share it to those who are not as blessed as you are is a privilege. You must give back,” he ended.