SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — Despite inclement weather, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) brought joy and cheer to Ayta students in Subic, Zambales, through an outreach project conducted by the SBMA Tourism Department.
SBMA Tourism Department manager Mary Jamelle Camba and her staff, along members of the Rotary Club of Subic Pearl, turned over sacks of rice, canned good, noodles, and other foodstuff to the St. Francis Learning Center Foundation, Inc. (SFLCFI), which is run by Franciscan sisters headed by Sis. Mary Francis Borje.
Camba said the project was in line with the month-long celebration by the SBMA of the 2016 National Tourism Month.
No less than 250 elementary and high school mostly Ayta students of St. Francis benefited from the project, which was sponsored by a number of business locators in the Subic Bay Freeport.
Sister Mary said the SBMA outreach project was a big relief not only to the sisters and teachers who always tried to make ends meet to feed and support the school children of the center, but also to the children from poor families.
One of them, nine-year old Aaron Ioncellas, who is on Grade 3 at the center, couldn’t hide his happiness upon receiving his box of lunch containing a piece of chicken, rice, and chocolate brownies. But Aaron didn’t take his lunch, and said he was bringing it home to his four younger siblings instead.
The SFLCFI, according to Sister Mary, was established in 1991 to help members of the Ayta community in the mountains of Sitio Nibangon, Mangan-Vaca, Subic, Zambales, whose socio-economic life was severely affected by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo.
Starting out with two small shacks built by the Aytas from donated scrap wood, a handful of Franciscan nuns started teaching mostly illiterate Ayta adults the rudiments of reading and writing, as well as some basic livelihood skills.
The Ayta elders later appealed to the nuns to accommodate their children as well.
“Today, the SFLCFI is now recognized by the Department of Education as a registered educational institution that can accept Grade 1 to Grade 6 and senior high school students,” Sister Mary said.
Taking pride in the project, SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia said the Subic agency has been prioritizing outreach activities like this to help in promoting inclusive growth in the Subic Bay Freeport community.
“This is just a ray of sunshine on a rainy day, and the SBMA is happy to be a critical part in the development of the local communities year in and year out, inclement weather or not,” Garcia said.
As manager of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, which straddles parts of the provinces of Zambales and Bataan, the SBMA releases millions in semi-annual development assistance to nearby local government units through the so-called LGU shares.
Just last month, the SBMA released a total of P141.4 million to four towns and one city in Zambales, and three municipalities in Bataan as their revenue shares for the first half of 2016.
Garcia said the revenue shares are to be used for community development projects, including those for health, education, peace and order, and livelihood programs to enable communities near the Subic Bay Freeport to keep pace with developments in the special economic zone.