Mayor moved to tears by squalid school conditions

CEBU, Philippines — Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste was moved to tears during a talk he gave at Tejero Elementary School in Cebu, Philippines, when he witnessed firsthand the substandard conditions the youngsters endure in their quest for learning.

The school has no running water, and rainwater is collected for the children to drink. The rainwater is insufficient to allow for flushing of toilets, according to reports received by Dr. Craig Nishimoto, a veterinarian and president of the Rotary Club of Poipu Beach, from Nolan Rada, president of the Rotary Club of Cebu Port Center (RCCPC).

During his speech before students, administrators, teachers and staff at the school serving mostly economically-deprived students, Baptiste could “not hold his tears, looking at the children,” Rada told Nishimoto.

“The school has no potable water,” said Rada. “Rain water is collected from the roof, but it’s inadequate to allow for flushable toilets.”

While Baptiste appreciated the two-story, alternative-learning center recently constructed at the school, it appeared he was surprised by the state of the main building, Rada added.

“The children were excited by the visit from a mayor, and the program was quite emotional when Mayor Bryan gave his speech,” Rada continued.

Still, the children are able to learn, and were very excited to have Baptiste visit the campus, Rada said.

Rada and other RCCPC Rotarians earlier drove Baptiste and Soncy Tamashiro of the mayor’s office through central Cebu City to the Tejero Elementary School, a site of intense Rotary club activity for several years, Rada noted.

Baptiste received a regal welcome by RCCPC members upon his arrival at Cebu International Airport, and at Wilcox Memorial Hospital’s sister hospital, Vicente Sotto Memorial Hospital, where he delivered three anesthesia machines donated by officials at Wilcox Memorial Hospital.

The machines will be used in the hospital surgery department.

The machines arrived in Cebu on Jan. 4, after a six-week voyage across the Pacific, beginning in Lihu’e, and with a transfer at Los Angeles.

Members of the Rotary clubs of Hanalei Bay, Poipu Beach and Cebu Port Center formed a partnership to raise the money to transport the machines, said D.Q. Jackson, an emergency-room nurse at Wilcox Memorial Hospital and member of the Rotary Club of Poipu Beach.

Vicente Sotto Memorial is the hospital of last resort for Cebu’s indigent patients. It turns no patient away, said Jackson, who has been to the island and hospital.

It’s a 600-bed hospital with at least 750 inpatients every day. That means considerable bed-sharing is taking place, since no one is refused medical help.

Dr. Filomena Delos Santos, the hospital director, addressed Baptiste, saying, “as the beneficiary of this Rotary project, this medical center deeply appreciates your assistance. As the only government tertiary hospital in the region, these anesthesia machines will surely bolster our desire to uplift our health service, especially to the marginalized sector of our society. Thank you, Mayor Baptiste, and thank you to Kaua’i’s people.”

Kaua’i Rotarians, doctors and nurses will be traveling to Cebu on Feb. 18, carrying more medical equipment and medicine for Cebu’s indigent patients, Jackson said.

They will be working in close partnership with Cebu Rotarians. For more information on Hawai’i Rotary’s development projects in the Philippines, contact Jackson at 332-2918.

Earlier, on Baptiste and Tamashiro’s arrival at Cebu International Airport, they were greeted by RCCPC members, folk dancers, and banners celebrating his arrival.

Members of the RCCPC met the mayor as he exited the terminal with other members of the Hawai’i delegation. The members of the RCCPC took on the responsibility of escorting Baptiste during his Cebu visit. Cebu is an island south of the main island of Luzon, where Manila is located.

Baptiste spent about two hours with Cebu City Mayor Tommy Osmena before heading off on a tour of development projects especially important to the partnership developing between Kaua’i and Cebu, Rada said.

Mary Daubert, the county’s public information officer, said there would be no information from her office regarding Baptiste’s first-ever trip to the Philippines until Baptiste gets back to Kaua’i.

Information had been flow-ing on a daily basis, however, from representatives of Gov. Linda Lingle, chronicling her visit to the Philippines to mark the 100th anniversary of the arrival in Hawai’i of the first Filipino immigrant laborers.

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