This schools ingenuity and resourcefulness is like no other
By Lovella P. Guarin

With just a little rain the grounds of the Cabangan Elem. School in Legazpi City are easily flooded as the school becomes the catch basin of all the flood waters coming from the neighbouring low lying barangays . Thirty minutes of continuous rain results to 6 inches deep flood. In the weeks past some water settled in some areas such as underneath the administration building and behind the class rooms.
Thanks to used containers, tires, softdrink bottles, cans, sacks and other waste materials which are otherwise piled up as waste materials. These are now used as portable plant containers and pots which also serve as buffer and water absorber during heavy rains.


The school learned about this simple technology when it participated in the Agri-Pinoy Gulayan sa Paaralan Program - an undertaking of the Department the Department of Agriculture - High Value Crops Development Program in partnership with the Department of Education.

Cabagñan Elementary School is just one of the 800 public elementary and secondary schools in the whole of Bicol region that participated in this year's Gulayan project.

They started planting last August 2012 after Ma Raquel O. Obias, school's Gulayan coordinator attended the Gulayan sa Paaralan training conducted by the DA HVCDP team, headed by HVCDP regional coordinator and Gulayan sa Paaralan Regional Focal Person Ms. Rosita Imperial, at the Daraga National High School. To motivate all grade levels to take active part in the project, Mr. Wilson B. Anza, the school principal, launched the grade level Gulayan contest. All grade levels from day care to grade 6 which have a total population of 1,021 pupils worked on their respective gardens. In addition, the parents who were enrolled in the 4Ps program of the government also established a garden on one portion of the school.

The Department of Agriculture thru the HVCDP/Gulayan sa Paaralan Program provided vegetable seeds, organic fertilizers, carbonized rice hull and garden tools consisting of rake, shovel, hoe and sprinkler, and IEC materials. The DA also extended technical assistance that included the conduct of seminar on proper crops propagation for the teachers and parents so that they can also establish their own gardens at home.

The parents and the children brought good soil as the sandy soil in the school is not suitable for growing plants. They also brought whatever waste material which can hold soil such as empty plastic bottles of softdrinks, cans, car tires, coco nut husk and shells, bamboos and winnows. Mrs. Obias, the school's Gulayan Coordinator reasoned that these containers are very suitable as pots for the plants because they can be easily transported to higher grounds when flood comes in.

Barely a month after the kick off of Gulayan sa Paaralan in September, the school proudly showcased their urban garden in every level. They planted pechay, radish, okra, bell pepper, tomatoes, bush sitao, ampalaya, monggo, malunggay, tanglad, turmeric, ginger, alugbati, upland kangkong, carrots and squash. There were also peanut, cucumber. Creeping vines such as as ampalaya, squash and bush sitao were made to climb along trellises made of nylon ropes as well as over the walls and perimeter fences of the school. Camote tops looked like they sprouted from a sack of soil after the cuttings were planted on the holes in the sack. Tomatoes were planted in coconut shells mounted on plots that are located on low grounds. These coconut shells are being transferred to higher grounds in times of flood.

We even spotted an onion growing on a pair of an old bra fastened to the wall, tomatoes growing inside old denim pants, worn out school bags, shoes and socks. The softdrink bottles planted with sweet potato hanged along the gutters of every classroom roof served as decorations and at the same time ready source of fresh camote tops for cooking sinigang dishes.

Mrs. Amelita J. Jamo, the agricultural technologist incharge of Urban Agriculture in the city always visits the school and gives practical tips on plant production. One noticeable thing in their gardens is the absence of pests and diseases on crops. Thanks to Mrs. Jamo's advice to mix minced siling labuyo fruit with water and laundry detergent as spray against aphids. Crushed kakawate or madre de Cacao leaves can also serve as fertilizer, aside from being an insect repellent. They started harvesting in the last week of September and since then they have already harvested 15 kilos of pechay, and 5 kilos bush sitao.

On October 5, the top three best gardens were chosen. Grade 1 won the first place and received P3,000 cash prize, grade 6 level garnered the second prize and received a cash award of P2,000, while the day care ranked 3rd and received a cash award of P1,000.

One benefit derived from their urban garden are the fresh vegetables they use in feeding the most malnourished pupils from grades 1 -6 under their school-based continuous feeding program, says Mr. Anza. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday they provide morning and afternoon snacks such as mung bean soup with malunggay, macaroni soup, arroz caldo for around 120 severely wasted pupils. They also prepare viands during lunch time which are sold to indigent students at P1.00 per serving. The school funds were not sufficient for the feeding program, that is why Mr. Anza was very thankful to the Gulayan sa Paaralan project. Most importantly, now that they plant their own vegetables they are sure that what they feed the children are not laced with pesticides. The students themselves take part in growing what they will eat, thereby inculcating fondness for vegetables among the pupils.

Meanwhile, Legazpi City Agriculturist Jesus J. Kallos said that this is a good example of the collaborative effort of the Local Government, the Department of Agriculture and the school community. He said that his office sees to it that the services trickle down to the target clients - the school, the parents and the students. Kallos also added that through the Gulayan project, they not only teach the schools on plant propagation but also educate them on the healthy benefits of consuming vegetables especially among children who are more inclined to eat fastfood than home cooked food.

The Cabangan Elementary school has been a role model in urban gardening because of their ingenuity and resourcefulness, It has been awarded a certificate of recognition by Mayor Geraldine Rosal of Legazpi City and Albay Governor Joey S. Salceda on October 23. They are also among the top 3 finalists in the regional contest for the Gulayan sa Paaralan sponsored by the DA RFU in tandem with the DepEd region 5. A certificate of commendation signed by DA 5 Regional Executive Director Jose V. Dayao was also awarded to the school.

The school is now considered a model school garden project and serves as showcase for other schools to emulate. In fact some LGUs and other schools have included the Cabagnan Elem. School in their Lakbay Aral itinerary.

According to Rose Imperial, HVCDP regional program coordinator, "Gulayan sa Paaralan" project is a school-community food production project being implemented by the Department of Agriculture High Value Crops Development Program in support of the government's hunger mitigation and poverty alleviation efforts. This initiative seeks to raise public consciousness on the health and nutritional dimension as well as economic benefits of establishing school, household and community gardens.