The town of Oas in Albay celebrated its 400th foundation year in 2005. Local historians hold that the formation of the town can be traced to 1605 when Spanish missionaries formed Oas as part of the early Spanish colonization of the Bicol peninsula.
Local and foreign tourist frequent its historic town center and beaches. The beach of Cagmanaba is considered as one of the best in the province.
Cagmanaba is one of five coastal barangays or communities of Oas. Public transport travelers can reach the area in three hours. It is also one of most populous communities among its 53 barangays.
Unlike tourists, however, local residents seem detached from nature’s beauty and grandeur. Like the earliest setters in the area, they are more concerned on finding food for their tables. Majority of Cagmanaba’s folk derive their livelihood from subsistence fishing and their harvest is not always bountiful. Often, they are barely able to provide for their basic nutritional needs.
Children are most affected by poverty. The lack of food, in fact, has resulted in widespread malnutrition in the area. This has dire effects on the children’s physical and mental development and significantly limits the development of their potentials. Among grade one students in the Cagmanaba public elementary school, 70 out of 90 undernourished. The grade one teachers noted the frequent absences of some of their students. They also noted that some students are unable to hold their attention in class, seemed slow to pick-up their lessons and are unkempt.
Ms. Thea Recario, one of the three grade one teachers, approached the Antipolo Seminary Foundation for help. She shared with the foundation situation of her students and their proposal to alleviate this. The grade one parents and teachers association that she represented proposed a health and nutrition improvement project with a feeding component. This project sought to provide health and nutrition services to the students, increase the health and nutrition awareness of the parents and the students through formal and informal activities and implement a feeding component that will provide nutritious breakfasts to grade one students for rest of the school year.
The foundation validated the need for the project during an area visit conducted by a staff member. It appreciated the value of the project in helping alleviate the condition of the students and assisted the project for the rest of the school year.
The grade one parents-teachers association and school officials jointly implemented the project. They successfully tapped assistance from the school officials and teachers, medical and dental professions from the Oas Rural Health Unit and the local division of the Department of Education. The foundation also provided project monitoring-focused assistance. The parents organized a committee that ensured the implementation of the feeding component during school days.
The project was implemented from November 2004 to March 2005. Within this period, the following accomplishments were achieved:
- Dental services were provided by a dentist and two assistants(a dental aide and a nurse) from the Oas Rural Health Unit(RHU) on November 14, 2004. During the activity, the dentist conducted dental check-ups and tooth extractions. She also advised the students and their parents on the importance of proper dental hygiene and provided medicines such as antibiotics and pain suppressants needed by students who required tooth extractions. A total 90 students and their parents benefited from this activity.
- On November 12, 2004, a nurse from the Oas Rural Health Unit managed the deworming of the grade 1 students. The nurse provided sixty-three students and their parents an orientation on deworming, the process of deworming and what to expect and do after taking the medicines. Later, the students drank their medicine.
- Weight monitoring was also conducted before and during project implementation. Pre-implementation weighing revealed that 74 students were undernourished. Improvements in the children’s weight were noted during succeeding weighing activities.
- During our discussion with Ms. Recario on February 2006, she added that the RHU nurse also provided Filariasis, Chicken pox and anti-polio vaccines to the grade one students during project implementation
Nutrition and feeding
- A total of 100 students participated in the feeding project.
- A nutritionist and home economics teachers from the school formulated the breakfast menu plan and schedule used by the project. The daily courses include rice, viands (meat, fish and vegetables), milk and fruits for dessert. According to the teachers and parents, the students were always eager to come to class to discover what new dish will be served next.
- The project served skimmed milk with each breakfast meal. Milk is bought in bulk from a wholesaler in Metro Manila.
- The project consumed 7-8 kilos of rice and 2 12 kilos of milk daily.
Health Awareness and values Development for Parents and Students
- The Rural health unit doctor and two representatives from the Women’s Health division of Albay acted as resource persons for project’s Health and Nutrition seminar conducted on November 23, 2004. In this activity, the resource persons shared on proper nutrition, proper dental and personal hygiene. They also emphasized that proper nutrition need not be expensive given that nutritious vegetables can be grown for consumption in the participants’ backyard. This activity benefited the parents of the grade one students.
- The three grade one teachers also imparted proper nutrition and hygiene knowledge to their students. This was done by integrating inputs in their lessons and by giving constant reminders to the students during breakfast and whenever needed.
The following summarizes the result of these accomplishments as shared by the teachers and parents of the grade one students.
- Increased the weight of undernourished grade one students. It was noted that by the second weighing activity, 93% of the children’s weight increased.
- Improved the health condition of students as suggested by a decrease in student absences due to sickness.
- Improved the students’ hygiene practices and physical appearance. Ms. Recario testified that the need to remind the students to wash their hands before eating and after using the comfort room became minimal during the later part of the project. She also added that their students appeared neater and more “radiant” during project implementation if compared to their unkempt appearance before project implementation.
- Ms. Recario also shared the observation of the three grade 1 teachers that their students’ attentiveness and participation in class activities improved greatly during project implementation.
- Compared to previous years, the parents became more interested and active in the activities Grade 1 Parents-Teachers Association. They enthusiastically participated in the project committee tasks that include: marketing, food preparation, cooking, serving food, washing, cleaning and fetching water. Their participation in these activities also enabled them to learn how to prepare new dishes.
- The project also gave the school an experience on how to implement a feeding project. Though the grade 1 teachers, it learned to coordinate with the proper government health offices and officials for the health-related needs of its students. It also provided the school access to a menu plan and upgraded its staff members’ menu planning skills.
- The project’s experience also enabled the Cagmanaba residents to learn that the rural health officers and Education officials are eager to participate in extension or community level work if approached appropriately.
Now that project is officially over, the challenge of sustaining its gains and initiatives to address the situation of children and larger community concerns depends on its people. This experience should have kindled their belief in their collective ability to improve their lot.
If the Spanish came to Oas by galleon 401 years ago, they could have landed in the community known today as Cagmanaba. If Cagmanabaons takes on the challenge, perhaps their community will not only be known for its beaches but also as part of history.