The rural area that surrounds our destination—Kapitan J. Cardones Memorial Elementary School—is nothing short of what you would expect of most residential areas in the Philippines. Congested and bustling with people hurrying back and forth their homes and places of work, while juggling anywhere between five to 10 other chores.
In the middle of all the commotion is a humble gate behind which a covered court and multi-purpose hall stands. As the Ecovan made its difficult entry toward the structure—sweeping low-flying banderitas and driving along a not-so-vehicle-friendly ramp—a cluster of classrooms suddenly came into view.
A warm welcome followed next from an amiable school staff. Haribon asked, “Kuya, ilan pong klase ang nasa isang grade level?” He quickly responded, “Mga 13 to 14 po.”
Quickly multiplying the numbers by 50—the usual size of public school classes—it was no longer a surprise when throngs of students suddenly came out to fill the tables and seats set up around the Ecovan for the library and lecture sessions.
Despite the huge number of children too, the initial worry and stress were melted away by the enthusiasm and boundless energy of the young ones. The Ecovan team strived to answer every question, identify every species and allowed the kids to explore every book they could get their hands on.
Thankfully, reinforcement came when other Haribon volunteers heard about the huge number of students the Ecovan was serving that day, even if they could each just stay for an hour at a time. They were rewarded with handsome pledges to the environment and a day full of smiles from hundreds of students.
As always, the visit ended with a sense of awe over how a modest van and a a collection of books can go a long way in igniting the passion of future generations to conserve biodiversity.