Oplan Read Tagging – Project APOLLO 4 IPs: Apollo 1 Reading Center
Children who struggle with illiteracy often experience social exclusion at school, suffer from low self-esteem, and struggle to take part in civic engagement. And these social repercussions typically last into adulthood.
Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy, or Datu Pamulingan—who heads the United Indigenous Peoples Heritage of the Philippines or UNIPHIL, saw this—and partnered with like-minded people to address the problem of illiteracy, particularly in the remote parts of the Philippines.
The Matigsalug Tribal community in Brgy. Tawas, Kitaotao, Bukidnon became the first recipient of UniPhil’s Literacy Program called the Oplan Read Tagging: Project APOLLO 4 IPs.
The Project APOLLO 4 IPs is a sustainable and long-term project, offering in-depth solutions to the problem of illiteracy among many indigenous peoples in the country.
Visiting the schools in the community, the Project APOLLO 4 IPs team was taken aback by the overwhelmingly large number of students who are struggling with reading.
According to Mrs. Paulina R. Carillo, one of the teachers at the Sinuda National High School, when the children returned to school after the COVID pandemic, the number of non-readers became too large. A lot of children do not know how to read. They became the biggest dilemma of the school.
To put it simply, Mr. Ryan Uy, the Lead Literacy Associate of Project APOLLO 4 IPs stated that the level of illiteracy in the area is overwhelming.
Yan-Yan Sawit, a 13-year-old Matigsalug who is currently in Grade 7 at Sinuda National High School, was considered one of the worst cases of non-readers in their school. Reading a three-letter word in English was, for him, a challenge.
He travels nearly an hour every day just to get to school, but because he cannot read even the simplest of words, his teacher won’t allow him to enter the classroom.
When Project APOLLO 4 IPs came to Brgy. Tawas, Yan-Yan was one of the three students recommended by their school to undergo the program.
This was also the case for Warren Habas, a Grade 8 student of Sinuda National High School, who is also considered one of the worst cases of non-readers in their school. He is already 13 years old but struggles to read a basic three-letter word.
His aunt believes that the absence of his parents affected Warren so much that it also affected his studies.
Since his teachers have already done everything to help him to read, but to no avail, Warren was recommended to undergo the Project APOLLO 4 IPs reading program.
Datu Pamulingan’s heart goes out to the indigenous peoples. He believes that education is critical in assisting indigenous peoples to rise above their circumstances.
That is why Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy initiated Oplan Read Tagging: Project APOLLO 4 Ips to offer a permanent and long-term solution to eradicate illiteracy among indigenous children in the Philippines.
APOLLO 4 IPs means Accelerating Programs to Optimize Literacy and Language Opportunities for Indigenous Peoples.
UniPhil partnered with Horizoom Educational Solutions, through its CEO, Mr. Ryan Uy, to make this mission of eradicating illiteracy possible by utilizing a multi-platform, do-it-yourself, and parent-assisted reading program.
Seeing the great need to eradicate illiteracy in their community and to save their children and their future, the tribal leaders, barangay council, teachers, parents, and concerned volunteers gathered together to fight their common enemy.
The elected President of the APOLLO 1 Reading Center, Kim Jireh Asor from the Mandaya-Tagabawa Tribe, stated that the impact of the program is really big, and it can do so much not only in their barangay but also in our country.
More than a hundred volunteers underwent orientation, training, and capacitating seminar to fully equip them for the program and spent countless hours learning the tools to effectively and efficiently teach the children how to read.
April 25 was a significant event for Brgy. Tawas, since the very first well-equipped reading hospital in the country was opened in their area.
The APOLLO 1 Reading Center will cater to everyone in the community who wants to learn how to read.
Kagawad Susan O. Sorela, the Chairperson of the Barangay Committee on Education, said that they did not expect a blessing this big will be given to them by God through Pastor Quiboloy.
After only eight (8) days of reading through the Project APOLLO 4 IPs, Yan-Yan can now read English words. He started to believe in himself, realized that there is still hope for him, that he can do what he thought he couldn’t, and started to dream for his future.
Just like other parents and guardians in Brgy. Tawas, Warren’s aunt is so grateful to Datu Pamulingan that through UniPhil’s reading program, her nephew, once a non-reader, can now have a chance to finish schooling and pursue his dreams in life, and help his family be lifted up from poverty.
Datu Pamulingan initiated the Apollo Reading Center to permanently end illiteracy among the Matigsalug and other indigenous peoples in Bukidnon. He also brought his birthday to the Matigsalug children, healing their hearts and spirit from the damaging effects of poverty, and implanting love and joy among the children.
It all started with a huge team of volunteers working together, spending sleepless nights to make Pastor’s birthday party the greatest experience they ever had.
Hundreds of children from different places in the mountainous region enjoyed every bit of their adopted birthday, beginning with the exciting games and the prizes, and the meal, the unlimited ice cream, popcorn, bread, and candies.
They experienced having their own birthday cake for the first time in their lives and having to blow their own candles. But nothing could match the thrill of receiving a birthday present they could open for the first time in their lives.
For children who had experienced poverty all their life, the experience of having someone remember their birthday and give them their own birthday party was a taste of heaven.
The happiness that it gave them and the experience of kindness and generosity would last them a lifetime.
By initiating a reading center to end illiteracy and promote education among the Matigsalog indigenous people, Pastor Apollo has given them the opportunity to chart a new future and rise above debilitating poverty.
For every child born into poverty, the assurance of knowing that there are people like Datu Pamulingan and his group of volunteers who love them and will give them a chance to reach their full potential, have a bright future, and be productive and responsible citizens of the country is all they need, though life’s battles may have weighed on them as children.
And for the gentle Matigsalug Indigenous people, having someone like Datu Pamulingan genuinely champion their rights and welfare after being sidestepped by society for so long, and who will support the restoration of their culture is the answer to a prayer they have held in their hearts for so long.
Truly, love, compassion, and kindness are all the world needs to make change happen.