Jicel Reve S. Gabriel
SCHOOLS stand as a symbol of our education. Reality has it that we owe our teachers and our dear Alma Mater who and what we are right now.
Whatever school we are from, public or private, we know we were once one of those little children running around the corridors of a huge wooden building we call our “second home”.
Gabaldons were our “second home” back then.
Gabaldons are huge school buildings elevated from the ground by a concrete base. Their whole upper structure is entirely made up of wood and the roofing is out of galvanized iron sheets. A Gabaldon is characterized by its high ceiling, spacious corridors and rooms that are divided by wooden collapsible partitions. It has wide windows that are made of capiz shells allowing the breeze to come in and out of the room. This authentic design patterned after the “bahay kubo”, was conceptualized by Architect William E. Parson and is designed for tropical countries. With the comfort that’s manifested in its architectural design, Gabaldons are edifices that are conducive to learning for the schoolchildren.
But there is more to these buildings than meets the eye. Gabaldons are more than just an architectural structure. They are historically significant to Filipinos.
The term “Gabaldon” was coined by Assemblyman Isauro Gabaldon of Nueva Ecija. He was the author of the Act No. 1801, or, the Gabaldon Act appropriating one million pesos for building these school buildiongs. Stipulated in this Act is an appropriation not exceeding four thousand pesos per school, and a 50% counterpart from the municipality.
Gabaldons are our heritage structure. They were built after the 1899-1911 Philippine-American War. The construction of these buildings, which officially started after the formation of the Philippine Assembly in 1907, was a strategy of the Americans to rebuild and introduce the formal public education system to the Filipinos.
Comprehending the profound historical value of these Gabaldons, some people will definitely insist that these buildings be restored.
The Heritage Conservation Society and the Department of Education organized the Heritage School-Building Restoration Program, which aims to make history come alive for teachers and students by recycling historic structures not as ivory-tower museums but as classrooms and laboratories for everyday use. The Heritage School-Building Restoration Program also aims to project heritage as touching all aspects of daily life. This program does advocacies and partnerships with various groups and sectors and was able to restore Gabaldon school buildings in different municipalities nationwide.
The Heritage School Building Restoration Program is just one of the several programs that have been organized to restore the heritage structures in our country. The Gabaldon Restoration Project of the Cebu Provincial Government and the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (RAFI), being one of these programs, is awe-inspiring.
Believing that Gabaldons are historical education landmarks in our country that deserves to be preserved, RAFI inked a Memorandum of Agreement for Gabaldon school building restoration with the Cebu Provincial Government, the League of Municipalities of Cebu, and the Department of Education (DepEd) last December 21, 2011 at the Cebu International Convention Center.
The project, dubbed “Gabaldon Restoration Project” (GRP), is a sub-component of the School Rehabilitation Program (SRP), a program handled by the Education Development Unit of RAFI since 2004, which seeks to provide an enabling learning environment to improve learning outcomes through repairing old and dilapidated public elementary schools in Cebu Province.
GRP is also supported by the Cebu Artists Inc. (CAI), University of San Carlos – Conservation and Heritage Research Institute and Workshop (USC-CHERISH), and the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP).
GRP is aimed at providing our children with a better learning environment while recognizing the value of preserving our culture and heritage by restoring old and dilapidated Gabaldon school buildings. It is of great pride that through the SRP, RAFI has restored 29 schools with Gabaldons.
In the spirit of collaboration, RAFI and partners come up with an initial target to restore 35 Gabaldon buildings in 11 towns in Cebu. The project will use a counter-parting scheme; 40 percent from the Cebu Province, 40 percent from RAFI, and 20 percent from the local government units.
Committed to RAFI’s brand promise of being collaborative and holistic, the Gabaldon Restoration Project encourages active participation among the people. It is also designed to generate support from the private sectors and encourage more support and partnership with various stakeholders, even concerned individuals, in order to repair more Gabaldon school buildings in Cebu.
Gabaldons, indeed, have been institutions full of ideals that mold and shape the young mind mentally, morally, spiritually, socially, and emotionally, preparing that young mind to withstand the challenges of the future and equipping the individual for a better life.
Gabaldons are not just institutions of learning where we learned nursery rhymes and the 3Rs, or a huge treasure chest of memories of the “good old days” we had with our schoolmates, childhood friends, and dear teachers. Gabaldons are our historical and cultural heritage. They are the extensions of our home where our sense of pride and identity dwell.