Just north of Panalaron and West of Poblacion is the Barangay Labrador. I was visiting my cousin in Panalaron and she asked if I wanted to visit the local elementary school (but not Holy Rosary Academy, which I think is in Poblacion), and I agreed, and she hailed down one of the locals driving a motorbike and asked if he could take me to Labrador. My cousin had a motorbike she uses for work, but apparently I was too heavy for her bike to handle, so she had to ask a favor.
I wasn’t sure if my cousin knew this person, but that is one of the many nice things about Hinunangnan, since it is so small, pretty much everyone knows each other, so it isn’t too much to ask this person to give me a ride on his motorbike. Also, Labrador is really close, just a few minutes by motorbike from Panalaron by following Calle Nueva street into Labrador. I should note that at some parts you can tell when you are entering or exiting a barangay, but sometimes they sort of blend into each other without any real demarcation point that is visible or noticeable.
My cousin works at the Western District Office in Labrador. She tells me that there are only a handful of computers to go around for the 30 elementary schools and 4 high schools. Her office has one computer that is pretty modern, but that’s it. I’m trying to think of ways to donate computers to Hinunangan but the computers in the US use a different voltage and may not work when they get to Hinunangan.
But still everyone here makes the best of what they have. And some of the stuff they have is really tasty – like a local delicacy called Guinata-an, which is made up of coconut milk and root crops like camote. After eating this delicious snack, I had the honor of visiting one of the sixth grade classes.
The first thing the kids asked me was, “Why are you here?” and I told them that my parents are from here and that I’m really proud to have roots in Hinunangan and that I want to learn more about this place. Then I asked them to teach me some Visaya, but no matter how I said the words I kept on getting it wrong which made the kids laugh. I believe they all understand English very well, but some speak English better than others.
Here is a picture of the 6th grade teacher, me, and my cousin.
I should note that even though Hinunangan is so different from the California, both share similar issues in education. Much like in California, truancy is an issue and in Hinunangan, for kids that drop out of traditional school, their only option is to pursue “alternative education.” But unlike California, where there are General Educational Development (GED) programs or night schools with their own teachers, in Hinunangan there are only 2 teachers that specialize in alternative education. And of the thousand or so kids who need alternative education, only 50-75 make it to class. It’s hard to say if this is due to lack of interest from the kids or shortage of resources – the 2 teachers have to drive out to the 40 barangays to teach alternative education, and when they teach, they may not even have blackboards. This understandably would make it difficult to really keep the kids interested, but the teachers are definitely trying to do their best with what they have, which is something I truly admire about Hinunangnons.