Strategically located between the local secondary and elementary schools, the Panitan Civic Center provides a vital space for the municipality’s young people to gather, learn and socialize.
As Mayor Generoso D. Derramas explains, “the gym is very important to us. It is very symbolic for the town, strategic for the school, and symbolizes the greatness of Panitan.”
Panitan High School social sciences teacher Micle S. Haguisan (center) poses with staff in the school’s history ‘museum’, Mayor Generoso, school Principal Maria Lea, located in the newly-rehabilitated Panitan Civic Center.
Yet the structure of the building was no match for the magnitude of Yolanda. With much of the roofing damaged, much of the surrounding area would be deemed unfit for use.
As routine activities were cancelled, students, many of whom had experienced trauma during the disaster, were especially affected by the loss.
Afterwards, “there was water everywhere,” school Principal Maria Lea O.Dais remembers. “We also worried that our students would become prone to dengue (an illness made more prevalent by stagnant water).”
‘These students belong to this place’
For Micle S. Haguisan, a Social Sciences teacher, the civic center holds particular significance. It is there that he and his colleagues maintain a small ‘museum’ that showcases the history, artifacts, key figures and culture of Panitan.
When Yolanda struck, Micle feared that much of this irreplaceable history would be lost. Fortunately, much of these artifacts survived: and since then, improvements can ensure their continued safety.
“I wanted the students to know their own history,” Micle explains, “to know when this gym was first built, and who the founders of our community were. I wanted them to know that even after what happened, even after the typhoon, they belong to this place.”
‘We have developed our contingency plans’
With the civic center now repaired, “our normal life has returned,” Ma. Lea says, proudly. “We can again use our gym for sports, music, arts and performance, and for activity-based courses.”
After Yolanda, vital lessons were learned that will also serve to protect the lives of students, their families, and the community in times of disaster. “We have now developed contingency plans on how to respond during future calamities, and we provide this information regularly to our students,” Maria explains.