School in the mountains keeps families together

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DIDIPIO is a far-flung, mountainous village in the northeastern corner of Kasibu town in Nueva Vizcaya near the border with Quirino province. While the village is both rich in agriculture and minerals like gold and copper, the terrain also makes education beyond junior high school difficult to attain for most students.

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Barangay (village) Captain Alfredo Pugong recalled that growing up in upland Didipio was challenging. He said they had to go to schools in other mountain villages of Kasibu town or in the neighboring Quirino province as there was no school in their village.

“There were many difficulties and a lot of sacrifices made. It was not easy walking for half a day or more to other towns or even being away from parents and other family members at a young age. But it was the only way we could advance in our education and my dream was always to bring education to this mountain village as well as keep families together,” Pugong said.

Before the coming of the government’s large-scale mining project, Didipio village and its surrounding communities lived mainly on subsistence mining and agriculture. The villagers were mining or panning for gold using their meager resources as well as planting camote (sweet potato), rice, and crops in their farms on the slopes of the mountains.

Then came the “We Care Program” which partnered with the local government of Didipio, along with support from the state-sanctioned Australian mining firm, to build a three-storey building for the Department of Education’s (DepEd) newly introduced two-year senior high school education with course discipline in sciences, business and technology.

We Care Program is OceanaGold’s community development and social investment program enabling community residents to be its partners and companions in implementing projects that “lead to better lives for the villagers,” General Manager David Way, said.

Inaugurated recently, the P43 million-worth three-storey senior high school building is an addition to the Eastern Nueva Vizcaya National High School (ENVNHS) that has 18 classrooms and two fully-equipped laboratories that will cater to the senior high school students from Didipio and surrounding villages.

“This is the beginning of the fulfillment of our children and our future generations here in Didipio and I could not be more proud of what we have accomplished. Didipio children don’t have to leave the village and their families to get quality secondary education elsewhere,” Pugong said.

Created under the sponsorship of Rep. Carlos Padilla, now governor of Nueva Vizcaya, the school is under the auspices of DepEd with 600 students enrolled this school year.

During the inauguration and turn over of the building, Way cited Nelson Mandela who once said that, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

“Our gift to the students is not the three-storey senior high school building but the possibility of a quality education without compromising family togetherness,” Way added.

He told the students, “It is your empowerment to make the right choices and will embolden you to chase your dreams. You are the hope of your nation. You will someday become doctors, engineers, teachers and lawyers. You will be the future leaders of the Philippines.”

Meanwhile, through the We Care Program, there were two groundbreaking ceremonies in the village – the Didipio Family Health Center and Didipio Community Water Distribution System.

Way said these are basic services that will soon be provided to more than 3,000 residents of Didipio.

He said these are testaments that responsible mining brings about positive growth to the communities, meeting society’s needs for minerals, metals and energy products in the most socially, economically and environmentally responsible way.

However, Way said that buildings, roads, bridges, among others, are merely structures subject to wear and tear and can be brought down by natural disasters like typhoons and earthquakes.

“Our fervent hope is that these structures will serve as instruments in the pursuit of peoples’ success and eventually greater lives, like the three-storey building that will one day be the hub of senior high school excellence and will produce globally competitive Didipians,” he stressed.

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