Tent Dwellers, Tent Learners

GUIHULNGAN, Negros Oriental — Even the earthquake drill conducted by the fire brigade in Tinayunan Hill Elementary School two years ago didn’t fully prepare Grade 6 school teacher Ben Ricablanca. Ben was preparing lunch for his wife Maleen, a co-teacher at the school, and their three children when the 6.9 earthquake hit their barangay. The nerve-wracking roaring of the earth and massive landslides in near Mount Kalatkat can be heard.

Ben and other teachers quickly maneuvered all the kids towards the school basketball court.  “Dapa! Dapa! (Get down! Get down!)” the teachers shouted as the kids ran towards the court. One kid spun and tumbled. For hours the children stayed in the courts waiting for their parents to fetch them. By evening, families set up tents in the school grounds, fearing that another strong earthquake would occur.

For two weeks, fear gripped families who lived in the tents. Ben and his family took refuge in the house of their pastor. For days after the quake, Ben, Maleen, and other Christians would lead families and their children in community and worship songs to help Tinayunan Hill residents and tent dwellers cope with the trauma.

On the third week families, returned to their homes or lived with relatives or friends. However some tents remained to serve as classrooms since eight out of the eleven classrooms in Tinayunan Hill Elementary School were deemed unsafe to stay at.

Operation Blessing came to the school on the third day of classes and taught songs and dances. A drawing therapy session was also enjoyed by 60% of the student population who were able to report to school.

Ben and his other co-teachers do not know how much longer it would take for them to teach children under tents. Because of the earthquake, Ben realized something.

“You have to be ready for the second coming of Christ. As the earthquake clearly demonstrated, God can finish everything at the snap of a finger if He wants to. I realize that life is very transitory. Materials are fleeting. You have to balance materialism and spirituality.” | by Rosanna Javier, Operation Blessing

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