Davao Program Helps Develop
By Henrylito D. Tacio
BANSALAN, Davao del Sur - The
place: Hope (Home of Progressive Example), a model barangay. It's only
five a.m. but 18-year-old Ronnie Estrera is already wide-awake. The
morning breeze has engulfed him. It makes him reluctant to get up. But as
the "kitchen boy" for the week, he has no recourse but to force
himself out of bed, prepare food and fix everything in the house. By 7:30
a.m., he and the five other occupants will be out in the fields to work.
Estrera's assignment at the Baptist Outside
Of School Training (BOOST) program house changes every week. The following
week, he will be assigned to feed the animals. After that, he will take
care of the garden. His other companions have the same schedule of
activities, alternating with each other. Reshuffling of job assignments
every week is the same rule observed in three other BOOST houses occupied
by 15 other out-of-school youths.
Doing household chores is a new experience
for the young Estrera. Back home at New Clarin, Magsaysay, he was an
incorrigible "stand-by" waiting for something to happen. A
sophomore college student, he quit when his parents could not afford the
high cost of education.
Estrera's condition is not an isolated
case. Of about 11.5 million young people (up to 24 years old) in the
Philippines, over 300,000 are unemployed, out of school in the rural
Dr. Warlito A. Laquihon, named one of the
Outstanding Young Men in the early 1980s for countryside development, said
the Philippines is still rural despite the claim of the government that
the country is on the threshold of economic prosperity.
"The rural areas remain underdeveloped
because of the interrelated problems of poverty, disease and
illiteracy," Dr. Laquihon said. "This is the lamentable
milieu at which most Filipino youths have to struggle and live with."
He said majority of the young people in the Philippines is yearning to
have education, but having no income, they are forced to drop out from
schools. "If ever they have incomes, these are severely affected by
uneconomic returns of traditional farming, the seasonal character of
farming activities and inadequate training in modern agriculture," he
Documents from the Department of Education,
Culture and Sports (DECS) showed that one of every five children had no
early education. For every 100 children who enter Grade 1, only 65 finish
elementary school, and only 47 of them finish high school. This means that
by the age of 15, around 15 percent of the youth are likely to be out of
"If not properly guided, these
out-of-school young people would indulge in juvenile delinquency, drug
addiction, prostitution, and other unproductive activities," Dr.
Laquihon said. He recommends that these out-of-school youths be tapped and
directed to rewarding activities to minimize social strife that affects
not only their immediate families but also the society as a whole.
A vehicle for this direction is the BOOST
program of the Davao-based Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center (MBRLC), a
private volunteer organization whose main objective is to help all people,
especially upland farmers, experience abundant life as promised by Jesus
Christ in John 10:10.
BOOST stresses the value orientation and
skills that young people, especially those living in rural areas, need to
succeed in life. The concept of setting up of BOOST lies in the necessity
to provide out-of-school youths with the required know-how and skills on
how to become productive.
"The BOOST program aims to enable
out-of-school young people to become useful and successful farmers, better
and effective community citizens, and good church leaders," explained
BOOST agriculture trainer Noel Elmundo, "Technically, BOOST is a
live-in, non-formal education on crop production, livestock raising, farm
management, sound health, local government and better Christian
living," Elmundo said.
Training is scheduled every three months
with about 20 participants per batch. A group of five persons live in each
of the four BOOST houses. "The house is about the same as the usual
Filipino home, but it seems roomier with the rearranged space,"
Elmundo pointed out. "Even the top of the stove is slanted outward to
carry some of the smoke out. The roof is used to catch water runoff."
Each weekday, the BOOST participants work
in their assigned fields, attend classes and watch demonstrations. They
are taught how to farm a hilly land sustainably, vegetable gardening,
livestock raising, milk production, seed processing and plant propagation,
among other things. "Everything we have is an example of how
something will work," Elmundo maintains.
But it is not only farming that the BOOST
trainees take up. Health is also included in the curriculum. "We want
to equip our trainees with the knowledge and skills in preventing and
treating common diseases using simple and available resources in the
community," explained Sandra Alfaras, MBRLC health trainer.
Another reason is "for these young
people to be aware of their roles in the family and the community as a
whole in promoting good health." Health topics include common and
not-so-common illnesses, maternal and child care, basic nutrition and
herbal medicine. "The Philippines abounds with plants that have been
known to have medicinal properties and have been used for their curative
power throughout the ages," Alfaras said on why they're currently
promoting the use of herbals as medicine.
More importantly, Christian living is also
being taught . "MBRLC is a Christian institution and we want to share
what Christ has done for us, physically and materially," Elmundo
Nearby the four BOOST houses are the
"In no other place in the Philippines
does the teacher 'live' with the trainees," said Bible trainer Romeo
Lopez. His life is an open book to trainees, and he is surprised ,
"at the youths' respect toward me and the other teacher (Elmundo)."-***