Editorial: Small beginnings

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014


ROMAN philosopher said it a long time ago, but no one remembers his quote much, as its essence has long been hijacked by a chocolate drink jingle. “All great things come from small beginnings,” it has been said and still holds true.

Truer now with the recognition of Pegalungan Elementary School head teacher Randy Halasan as the only Filipino Ramon Magsaysay Awardee this year, joining the ranks of highly-esteemed Asians since 1958 in what has been regarded as Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

A graduate of the University of Southeastern Philippines (Usep), we are sure that Halasan has not thought of the likelihood of ever getting an international recognition when he first saw his school assignment: Pegalungan in barangay Malamba, Marilog District.

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Earlier this year, Sun.Star Davao had set its sight on this school for its annual Balik-Eskwela contribution, but the sheer distance and logistical needs to move materials stumped that plan. Imagine: Almost two hours land travel up Marilog District, one hour on habal-habal, and four to five hours of walking including three river treks. A school nearer the highway and a school downtown in dire need of paint and repair materials were chosen instead.

Halasan, however, has been doing that twice a week of every school year for the past seven years, as he goes to and from his work assignment, to reach out to the children and their parents who despite being in “Davao City” still has to see a powerline in their whole lives, much less a vehicle parking by their doorstep. People here use horses and carabaos and their own feet for there is not even a road to speak of.

Honest enough to say he wanted to quit earlier on, he would later find the challenge and devoted his time not only for the children but the community as well. With no electricity to speak of, and being stuck there the whole week, you might as well do the most that you can. But Halasan did more than that.

He has been leading the building of more classrooms and gathered the community to set up and operate a rice and corn mill, a seed bank, a cattle dispersal project, and also led them to acquire horses for their farm products.

In that remote position that very few would be willing to take, Halasan has found his calling and the world noticed.

Halasan joins five other awardees this year: Hu Shuli, a Chinese investigative journalist; Saur Marlina Manurung, an Indonesian anthropologist; Omara Khan Masoudi, director of the National Museum of Afghanistan; Wang Canfa, a Chinese environmental lawyer, and The Citizens Foundation, which is based in Pakistan.

Congratulations, Teacher Randy. May you be an inspiration to all other teachers all over the country.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 07, 2014.

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