Friday, 29 April 2011 14:15
They have to be accompanied by either father or mother when they went back to school weeks after the extremist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) laid siege to their town. Several houses in front of the school including St. Peter’s Parish Church were destroyed and stray bullets hit some of their classrooms in the aftermath of the violence.
This was the traumatic experience left behind by the students of Lamitan as they marched during their graduation day recently. Of the graduates, 175 of them were assisted through the Aid for Basilan Children (ABC) Project of PhilAm Foundation.
ABC came as an offshoot of the infamous Lamitan Siege of 2001, where several victims mostly children, were exposed to unnecessary harm and psychological trauma because of the protracted violence following the siege.
“Thank you”, these in two words, sum up Geejay Paculdo’s valedictory message as she expressed gratitude to parents, teachers and fellow graduates for each other’s presence especially during difficult times of their lives as students and neighbors in Lamitan.
Proud parents joined graduating students as they celebrate hard –earned success in high school walking towards the stage to receive their diplomas in the recent 33rd Graduation Ceremony of Lamitan National High School.
Geejay was still in Grade II at Lamitan Central Elementary School in Basilan when the Abu Sayyaf Group laid siege of their town. Their classroom and nearby rooms became temporary refuge of Scout Rangers at the height of the fight with the extremist group.
Only a shoulder-level fence separates the classrooms from where a destroyed 6X6 army truck laid after being hit by rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) fired by the Abu Sayyafs who positioned themselves at the gate of St. Peter’s Parish Church. Scout Rangers who survived the attack jump over the fence and sought refuge at nearby classrooms that fateful dawn of June 02, 2001.
Aside from Geejay, seven (7) other student scholars under PhilAm’s ABC Project were in the honors list. Among them were Arsima Akanul, Kenneth Perez, Bensar Kadil, Mike Angelo Moreno, James Bryan Asain, Jere Mae Lastam and Jimhar Manda.
Implemented by the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) and now on its 9th year, Aid for Basilan Children Project came in response to the needs of affected kids. Foremost among them is how to bring back the kids to school and help them live normal lives after that infamous incident. Included in the ABC aid package were school supplies, uniforms, shoes bags, school fees, textbooks, teachers training, and learning equipment among others.
By Danny Escabarte
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