In the Philippines, one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia, poverty is still a pressing issue. Slums are its most visible demonstration.
We have come to the end of our virtual trip in the Philippines and Tuguegarao is the last city we are going to visit. We are now in the very North of the Philippines, in the capital of the province of Cayagan. Tuguegarao is a city of over 150,000 inhabitants, densely populated and fast growing, ever expanding. It is also a vibrant place with many widely popular festivals and a few tourist spots.
The area experiences a tropical climate with very hot temperatures all year round and an average of 27°C, there is however a rainy season, lasting from August until October, Tuguegarao is known as the warmest city in the country.
Tuguegarao is one of the city names that puzzled us most, so we went searching: there are actually two possible origin stories; either a combination of “garao” meaning swift river current and “taraw” which is a species of palm tree. The other option is a derivation from “tuggui gari yao” which translates to “this was cleared by fire”.
THE TUGUEGARAO EDUCATION CENTRE
In March 2007, Children of the Mekong opened a boarding house, sometimes along the way, it turned into an education centre and now houses 30 students. The mission of an education centre goes beyond that of a boarding house as it provides more than housing and food: it is also the opportunity for the young adults who joined the centre to work on themselves through workshops and classes, in order to become the best possible person they can be!
All of the students come from very poor families and would not have been able to pursue their education without the support of our charity. Indeed, their families’ monthly income is below £90, for 40% of them, it is even below £46.
We are very happy to report that our centre welcomes as many young women as young men. Girl’s education is one of our priorities of action and it is paramount that we help young women chase their dreams all the way to university.
The centre is managed by a team of social workers and one of our oversea volunteer, who also supervises 329 sponsored children in 16 surrounding villages. What a busy life they lead!
At 21 years old, Jefrey has been sponsored since he was 10 years old. Thanks to the support from his sponsor and the Tuguegarao education centre, he was able to go to university to study Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering. His parents are farmers and wouldn’t have been able to let their child further his studies relying solely on their income of £2 a day. Themselves, they were not able to go to school and are thus very motivated for Jefrey to get a better life through education.
Now in his 5th and last year of university, he is motivated to put to good use what he has learnt in college and serve his community.
As he gets ready to graduate, he reflects on his first days at the Tuguegarao centre. He arrived at 16, being quite shy but found tremendous support in the other scholars. He gained self-confidence and independence throughout his stay at the centre and became a better, braver version of himself.
Sharing their experiences at the centre, the students are able to overcome their difficulties and become more respectful. Jefrey finds graduating bittersweet as his stay at the centre is such a good experience.
His biggest dream is to become the head of agriculture in the country and we wish him the best with that!
As Tuguegarao was the last stop on our virtual trip, this is the last video about our education centres we have in store! We hope you enjoyed the last three and are looking forward to the last one, we think we might have kept the best for last.
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