One Fine Day for Murcia

Murcia sounds like Spanish.  Indeed. Murcia is a city in southeastern Spain.

But there is another Murcia, a place brewing with new ideas and warmer smiles of close to 90,000 people, in Negros Occidental. 

People gathered for Murcia one fine day. And it was for this important Education Summit which could break or make the future of children in this awesome town in the Visayas. 

How can a small municipality like Murcia become so serious about education that it has to make a summit matter for its local governance?

Murcia’s leadership has a vision for a more sustainable knowledge-based future for its citizenry. Mayor Gerry M Rojas saw that only when the quality of its education improves and the standards for such quality are raised will they be able to confront his vision with success.

The Summit was a key response to this vision. Murcia’s community understood the Mayor’s call for dialogue and conversation about what needs to be resolved and the concrete actions to take.

Through the support of Synergeia led by former Governor Rafael ‘Lito’ Coscolluela and joined by former Mayor Alfonso Gamboa, former Vice Mayor Jay Jalandoni, Councilor Fini Jalandoni, and Program Officer Edwin Nacionales, the Summit was held on 21 March 2024 in Bacolod City. 

Over 250 participants came to the Summit. There were the local barangay officials of Murcia,  the Department of Education officers, health and nutrition staff, child development workers, daycare teachers under the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and members of the Parents-Teachers-Association.

All agreed with Mayor Roxas’ conclusion that based on data from the DepEd, Murcia’s student performance in different levels of reading- Hiligaynon, Filipino, and English/ showed inferior results. The most worrisome results came from secondary-level English, which showed a dismal 11% readiness by the students. Moreover, the poor nutritional status in daycare was also concerning.

Given this situation, it was established that there has to be a better strategy and approach that can hopefully bridge the gaps and achieve more positive outcomes. 

Inspired by the dreams of parents for their children to finish their education, the Summit 

generated helpful insights and possibilities which Murcia should start doing and build a stronger foundation for its education vision. 

It cemented a Covenant of Support amongst the stakeholders of MURCIA to cover for the following concrete actions to be taken by those involved:

  1. The elected officials, composed of Sangguniang Bayan Members, Barangay Captains, and Sangguniang Kabataan committed to passing ordinances to support students’ welfare, such as scholarships for poor but deserving students, barangay nutrition, and assistance for qualified residents to avail of the Tesda scholarship. They also planned to establish Barangay Reading Centers or libraries which will help develop the reading culture in the barangays and also serve as venues for tutorial classes.
  2. The parents’ group puts a premium on teaching the correct values to their children at home. As their children’s first teachers, they committed to providing adequate time and effort to teach good study habits by checking their lessons and homework. They agreed to instill discipline by regulating the use of gadgets that affect the study habits of most children. A mother was so emphatic about the problem of early pregnancy that she proposed that parents should regulate the use of cell phones, TV shows, and other forms of social media that contribute to early pregnancies. Parents, especially mothers, should raise awareness about the negative consequences of early marriage, including the increased risk of early pregnancies.
  3. The teachers’ group appealed for continuous support from the parents and the barangays to ensure children learn better and finish schooling.  They shared everyone’s dream of making children learn better with good habits and sound moral values.
  4. The DSWD group assured everyone that they would teach the preschoolers with a “heart.” To be more effective, they appealed to the Mayor to have spacious and child-friendly Daycare Centers.

No doubt, It was absolutely one fine day for Murcia. 

Part 2: Braverhearts Reveal

A four-part series on Synergeia’s Solid Waste Management Project with the Coca-Cola Foundation- The Maluso Experience: Of Bravehearts and Green Warriors

When local leaders and communities acknowledge that they need help, it shows how their hearts are braver to confront their problems and challenges and seek better solutions that work best for the brighter future they are aiming for.

Maluso in Basilan portrayed a picture of honesty and resolve in their solid waste management issues that have in many ways crippled their vision of a clean, green and environmentally sustainable place.

Mayor Hanie Bud and his barangay chairmen and other municipal government officials listened intently to the orientation sessions of the Synergeia team whose objective was to further raise their awareness and understanding of the problems arising from the lack of a solid waste management (SWM) plan,  the inadequacy in knowledge of the best practices in SWM and the weaknesses in capabilities of communities to adopt the appropriate discipline and behavior in ensuring cleanliness, health and wellness and protection of the environment.

In particular, Dr. Milwida Guevara raised the importance of having an audit or mapping to obtain strong data, like among others, the quantity and type of garbage a normal household will have which may include recyclable materials like plastics and how they are disposed of, to support a more need-based strategy and approach.

Moreover, as a best practice model, Mayor Jimuel  Que shared Bongao’s journey on SWM and how formulating a 10-year SWM plan strategically helped in preparing and building capacities of communities toward implementing environmentally sustainable processes and practices, including the use and deployment of garbage trucks, the development of sanitary landfill, and the conduct of information and education campaigns.

On the part of Maluso, it was not indifferent to the problems associated with SWM. It has kickstarted major steps to demonstrate its seriousness in dealing with the issues and concerns. It has already organized sectoral consultations among market vendors, the business sector,  basura patrollers and other community stakeholders. Information drives through the barangay and youth programs have been done. A materials recovery facility has also been established in each barangay. Even tree and mangrove planting has been promoted.

But the concrete push comes from this partnership initiative of Maluso’s local government with Synergeia and Coca-Cola Foundation to test its wherewithal and commitment to provide more depth and truth to its SWM goals and expose and engage its communities to a new kind of culture that puts being clean and green a topmost priority.

Indeed, Maluso is one braverheart revealed and the real work is just beginning.

Read next: Part 3: Slaying with the Braverhearts and Green Warriors of Maluso

The Final Act: The “Dapat Lang” Phenomenon

The Final ACT: The “ Dapat Lang” Phenomenon

The Proof of Concept (POC) initiative, with the Province of Iloilo as the lead actor in the devolution of basic education to LGUs, hit the ground running in three noble ACTs enabled by Synergeia’s Kickstarter training workshops for the main performers- LSBs, principals and teachers. The core objectives of these workshops are to find out what issues and challenges do we face and what should be done to obtain our bottom line of having all Grade 3 students read during the School Year 2024-2025.

In his remarks at the opening of the workshops, Governor Toto Defensor provoked his education champions and advocates of his expectations about the POC initiative, emphasizing that it is not appropriate to claim as an outstanding achievement the 100% success rate in having all their Grade 3 pupils read.

“Dapat lang”. That was the Governor’s shout-out to all who want to make a big difference in education in Iloilo. It resonated with such clarity as THE normal standard for its reading program and as an ordinary “business as usual” outcome of any intervention.   For the Governor, to have everyone able to read is not a matter of chance or choice. It should be done. Non-negotiable. No compromises. There is a need to formulate higher and better benchmarks for reading and overall literacy.

From a leadership perspective, “Dapat lang” mirrors a strategy to drive change in a more purposive and focused way where the education players are motivated to push their limitations and to gain more confidence to learn and relearn as they become triggered by the seriousness of the reading crisis and its impact on the Province’s and the country’s economic and social transformation.

The POC initiative is a massive deal maker for Iloilo and the rest of the  LGUs should the “Dapat Lang” phenomenon breaks its spell through the mindset and behavior of our local chiefs, the LSBs, the principals and the teachers to remind us that to be extraordinary and exemplary, we all must be doing our jobs really well, helping ourselves and each other, setting the highest standards for ourselves and our students and creating new frontiers for quality learning and education.