“LOOKING back to how Ciriaco P. Mariano Elementary School (CPMES) was in the past is looking into a time when some people of Shrine Hills of Barangay started to build their dream for their children for the generation to come.”

These words come from the historical background posted on the wall of the principal’s office. This school started out as a dream for a small group of people.

This small group of people come from the Smokey Mountain families whose livelihood was from scavenging in what was once the city's dump site along the Diversion Road in Ma-a. Most of the students are from nearby villages of Langub and Matina Pangi.

On June 24, 2007, Carmelita Mariano Sano-Dagohoy, the granddaughter of the late Ciriaco P. Mariano, donated a 1,000 square meter lot in favor of the City Government of Davao.

Her grandfather wished to provide education to the less fortunate, thus the donation. In recognition of the act, the school was named for the old man.

CPMES is located at Shrine Hills, Matina in Davao City, where the Holy Infant Jesus of Prague Shrine and most of the television transmitter stations are.

Among the CPMES's goals is to “provide a comprehensive curriculum that caters to the needs and abilities of all pupils and to support for their academic and personal development.” This goal is shared by its staff, among them, Pamela Aprieto.

Aprieto is a graduate of B.S. Psychology and Bachelor of Education. She teaches all subjects for third grade.

“Ang mga bata ay nagapangahig. From the term pangahig meaning they collect garbage. For example, I have a student that on afternoons, or on Fridays and Saturdays, he spends his time collecting garbage to make a living,” Aprieto said.

Most children are from poor families who can barely afford to buy school uniforms. During school scouting events, teachers even contribute so that the children can have scouting uniforms. The school also lacks classrooms. There is no budget for expansion. Their mandate includes providing a feeding program for their students to help fight malnutrition, but they can only provide for 80 of their 200 students.

Then, there is the highway that children need to cross. Last December 7, an unidentified girl from grade 4 was hit by a car along the Diversion Road while running an errand for her mother, this is not the first time their pupil got involved in a road accident.

As they live across the Diversion Road, pupils cross this highway every school day to and from school then walk up the cobbled footpath going to their school. The footpath itself is on a private property. Should the property owner decide to fence off the property, the only access will be through a trail that's more like a forest.

“We have currently sent a letter of request to Matina Crossing Barangay for the reconstruction of the road,” school principal Jose Bagaslao said. But they are still waiting for the barangay to their request. In the meantime, the children and the faculty are making do with what they have. (Melika Eizadfar)