On sunny days, children would go out under the trees and gathered stones, dried fallen leaves or twigs. When they were inside the hut that served as their classroom, they listened attentively to the teacher’s story. They also counted the stones and twigs they had gathered and sorted the leaves as they learned about shapes. Everyday, they would be heard singing. Sometimes they also went on field trips around the community or out in Baguio City. After they had been carefully instructed how to stay safe, sometimes they were also brought to nearby streams for bathing.
Our children had many learning activities and developed social skills which made them more confident once they joined the public elementary school. In the 1990s, it was difficult for children aged three to five year old to go to the Barangay Day Care Centers set up by the government because these were far from their homes. The Neighborhood Early Childhood Care Development Program (NECCDP) made early learning for these children more accessible and culturally sensitive. Parents and other adults in the community were actively involved and also trained to continue and sustain the program when the Shontoug Day Care workers moved on to other communities.NECCDP is an eye opener of barangay officials of Caliking to prioritize as their program.
My son had deep reflections on the field trip to the city. When they visited a hospital, he thought it was a very sad place because people were very sick. He said he would not be a soldier because he did not want to shoot at people. We went together in the walk against mining. He later entered the seminary and eventually became a teacher.
Everytime the lanzones trees in our backyard bear fruits, we are reminded of the beginnings of the NECCDP in our community. My daughter is now a nurse, she joined the first batch of the program. The program also made way to the involvement of the parents in agro-forestry projects. We planted the fruit tree seedlings in our backyards or in our farms and now we are harvesting.
“… (It feels like we never grow old because of these children, it brings joy seeing them play, learn and grow)”, “mayat mebodboja aanak mengekan ni dadsak sengen egkita metey” commented a grandmother after watching a short program where children wearing traditional cultural tapestries beat the gongs and danced.