Answered prayers are not exclusive to the Roman Catholics but cut across all sects, so it is proven at the Breakfast Feeding for Learning, Inc. under 63-year-old Pacita Panaguiton. What started as a remedial reading class five years ago is now a feeding and remedial program for some 100 children and 50 mothers.
Called Sister Paz in the community, she returned to the Philippines from the U.S. more than five years ago to take care of her sister’s property at a subdivision in Dontogan. She said she felt that the work routine in America was not her purpose in life. She had worked with the Aetas and Mangyans for 21 years before her sisters convinced her to try a life there. After seven years of earning dollars, she decided to return and devote her time to volunteer work in the community around her sister’s house.
With the Aetas and Mangyans, the non-government organization (NGO) she worked with devised the learning programs and materials for the education of the children which was then called the indigenous school. At that time, they needed to focus on the milieu of the indigenous people (IP) to help them see the need for education using their language, customs, and traditions as reference. Although lacking the training as a teacher, it was the work that she enjoyed most. She says that her parents influenced her to take up Commerce instead of Education, which she had a passion for.
Wanting to volunteer to do remedial classes for children with reading and arithmetic problems, she approached the principal of Dontogan Elementary School and was able to work out her tutoring classes at the principal’s office. She was overwhelmed when she realized that reading and Math were problems of more students than she could handle. She convinced 10 mothers to volunteer so they could divide the 30 students among them and she patiently taught the mothers how to sit with the children even if they too had no formal trainings in education. Then, they had to conduct the remedial classes in three areas where the children lived. It was then that she noticed the languor in some of the students and asked them why they were like that. She realized that hunger was the root of the learning problems more than the subjects. One child said that she had not eaten lunch, neither breakfast.
Prayers and prayers were what guided Sister Paz each step of her life. This new challenge of feeding her growing number of students required resources, she only had warm bodies but no money. “Walang imposible sa Diyos (nothing is impossible with God),” she prayed. By coincidence, her school reunion in 2016 to celebrate 40 years as graduates with her classmates became the opportunity when asked what she was busy with. The money for the feeding program was answered by classmates working abroad in time for the next school year. The next step was organizing the mothers of the children to help in the preparation of breakfast so the children could concentrate on their lessons instead of their grumbling stomachs. Again, she realized that the children were more practical than hungry and often reserved the meal for lunch. On the second year, the funds were trickling because enthusiasm of the donors was waning. The prayers never faltered and Sister Paz was led to the office of Porta Vaga of the Diocese of Baguio and Fr. Marlon Urmaza approved the feeding program budget for the last quarter of the school year 2017-2018. Thereafter, the feeding program and the other needs of the students have been generously funded by Porta Vaga.
The center of the feeding program has also been provided by answered prayers says Sister Paz. Dontogan kagawad Simplicio Talangcay had generously identified a portion of his lot where a kitchen and feeding center could be located. Today, the concrete structure that is still in progress has been enclosed and walls smoothed through the “bayanihan” (volunteer labor) of the fathers of the children in the program. Sister Paz says that many of them have volunteered a total of 30 days of work to date.
In 2018, the Rotary Club of Baguio North donated an initial amount of P30,000 for the construction which was later augmented in 2019 by the Baguio Water District through construction materials. Recently, the solar lamps were donated by RCBN through Director Jose Antonio Mendoza.
Still needing window panes, a toilet, sink, water tank, and other facilities, Sister Paz smiles and says the prayers will be answered.