And An Inspiring Story of Sheer Determination and Perseverance
Caramoan, a 2nd class municipality in the Province of Camarines Sur is the so-called Emerging Paradise of the Pacific known for its pink and white beaches. It’s where the Season 26 of Survivor which premiered in February 2013 was shot. This brought the island’s name into international fame. It is also where we discovered an inspiring story of sheer determination and perseverance.
The photos above were taken by Mr. Windel Alvarez, one of our Country’s “Dangal ng Bayan” Awardee in 2018 and a finalist of the Global Teacher Prize this year who hails from Caramoan.
His life was not easy at all. He lost his mother when he was in grade 1 at a very young age of seven, and dropped-out from college in 1996 due to financial constraints as his father, a farmer, cannot afford his studies. From 1996 to 2001 he worked in a church in Caramoan. This did not make him to waver and lose hope to return and finish his education. Finally in 2001, at the age of 22, with the support of his cousins and some friends, he was able to enroll again in college while working to provide for his daily needs and some school’s expenses. In March 2005, after 4 years, he was able to achieve his dream and graduated with a Bachelor in Secondary Education (BSEd). He’s the only one from among his family to have a tertiary education.
For more than 3 years, from November 2005 to January 2009, he worked as a volunteer teacher in Tabgon NHS and Northern Peninsula HS, all in Caramoan. While in Tabgon NHS for more than a year, he shouldered all his expenses as the school is located within their barrio. The Local Government Unit (LGU) of Caramoan provided him a monthly allowance of PhP5,000.00 when he taught at Northern Peninsula HS. To reach the school, he would take a ‘habal-habal’ or a motorcycle for more than 1 hour on a rough road every week as he decided to stay there during the school days. There was no regular trip in going to the barrio back then. Finally on January 27, 2009, he was hired as permanent teacher and designated Teacher-In-Charge of Northern Peninsula HS in the Schools Division of Camarines Sur. But when an item for a mobile teacher for the Alternative Learning System was offered, he grabbed the opportunity to serve those who drop-out and returning to school.
This is when his story in Sitio Lipata started. In 2017, after their literacy mapping, he established an Alternative Learning Center for 50 students. Sitio Lipata is located more than 1 hour boat from the capital of Caramoan. His students’ age range from 17 to 54 years old, some of them do not know how to read and write.
As of this writing, they now have a concrete center for out-of-school youth and adults, donated by Yellow Boat Foundation. Also, some of his students were able to enroll in tertiary education, some took vocational courses after passing the Accreditation and Equivalency Test.
Coming from a poor family and despite setbacks along the way, Windel never gave-up to pursue his education. He exemplifies sheer determination and perseverance and has committed to give his best to make education accessible to everyone.
Caramoan Island dubbed as the Emerging Paradise of the Pacific is certainly worthy of its name, not only because of its natural beauty but of its people like Windel who don’t lose hope to better their lives and those of others. He has kept his focus and in the end, reach his goals. He has been an instrument for the people of Sitio Lipata to learn and improve themselves. Every time I think of Caramoan, its clear and pristine waters, its powdered beaches, I also remember Sir Windel. He has become a stalwart advocate of quality, accessible education for all.
What a peaceful and tranquil life we may have when we achieve the best version of ourselves in the service of the people.
For those who would like to share their resources for Sitio Lipata Learning Center, you may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.