LAS NAVAS, NO. SAMAR – Before the sun breaks on Mondays, college students of San Isidro village of this town converge at the barangay hall to get their name listed on a manifest then waits at the port for the motorized banca that will bring them to Catubig town where the state university is.

Since April this year, a new boat has been exclusively ferrying them – the SK Motorboat Service – a project of the village’s Sangguniang Kabataan intended primarily for the students to help them continue to pursue a college education.

“Before, students had to fight for space to board the boat along with other passengers as well as with farm products that needed to be brought to the market. They also pay the regular fare of PHP 70.00 each which is not affordable to all,” says Elmer Pajanustan, SK chairman of San Isidro.

“Now they can sit comfortably and be sure to arrive at school on time as the boat no longer picks passengers and loads cargoes along the way,” he said. And instead of paying PHP 70.00 for the fare, students only pay PHP 25.00 just enough to defray gasoline expenses and the hired laborer that operates it.

Pajanustan said that while college education is free at the state-run University of Eastern Philippines Catubig Campus (UEP Catubig), some students have dropped out of school because they cannot afford the high cost of transportation as well as the cost of living away from the family.

“I know the problem very well because I was also a student before,” says Pajanustan, who graduated from a Criminology course last year and is now preparing for the board examination. “Sometimes I would not go home for a month just to save money.”

“This project aims to help the families of these students and hopefully increase their school attendance and lower the dropout rate,” he said.

Pajanustan said there are over 80 students from the village that are enrolled either at the town’s community college or in UEP-Catubig. In most cases, students only come home during weekends to be with their family to lessen their expenses for transportation.

The SK president says he has long been planning to come up with similar projects that are meaningful and helpful to the constituents that he is serving, the youth of his village.

“We only have to think out of the box, know the problems of the youth and come up with solutions that will really alleviate their condition,” he says. “We need to come up with projects that are long-term solutions to our problems, especially that we operate only with limited funds.”

He said the village Sangguniang Kabataan had a standing fund of over PHP 400,000 from the combined allocation for this year and savings from the previous year. For the motorboat, the SK spent PHP 120,000 covering the whole boat with machinery, repainting to put the SK logo and provision of outriggers.

As simple as it may be, the project was widely praised by the residents in the community and from other municipalities.

“Our barangay officials never thought of coming up with a solution like this. This proves that there is so much that we can expect from the younger generation on matters of governance of barangay affairs,” commented one resident.

“There is no more reason why a student will not go to school,” commented Arlyn Lluz, another resident of the barangay.

Pajanustan said that aside from ferrying the students going to school, the SK Motorboat Service is also a form of an emergency response.

He said residents who need to be immediately brought to Catubig District Hospital, which is the nearest hospital, can use the boat but just pay for the gasoline, which is a lot cheaper than the commercial boats that charge PHP 2,000 for a special trip.

“I dedicate this project to those students who are struggling for financial support when it comes to transportation,” he said. San Isidro is an upstream village in Las Navas accessible through a 40-minute ride by motorized boats. A road is being constructed going to the village but it goes to a longer route passing through neighboring villages. The road construction is already half-way but the unpaved part is almost impassable during rainy days. By Elmer Recuerdo (EV Mail May 15-21, 2023 issue)