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Feature: Basilan's Irelley Elementary School rises from dusts and rubbles

By 1Lt Romulo P Ducay Jr. PN(M)

Isabela City, Basilan (5 October) -- The Irelley Elementary School gains a new face four months after the lawless elements of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) under Amir Mingkong and his followers completely burned her to dust and rubbles last March 24, 2009 in Sitio Irelley, Barangay Central Sumisip in Sumisip Municipality of Basilan.

It is recalled that Irelley’s two school buildings were among the schools and several houses burned by the group of Amir Mingkong in retaliation to the combat operations conducted by the1st Marine Brigade that responded to the Sumisip Municipal Peace and Order Council Resolution, to rescue the kidnap victim Leah Laping Patris who eventually escaped after four months of captivity.

A joint effort was made for the reconstruction of the school that formally started on May 25, 2009 and completed last July 17, 2009. The US government, through the Joint Special Operation Task Force – Philippines (JSOTF-P), funded the P 1.33 million worth of materials for the school.

Two school buildings, a school stage, three comfort rooms, water tank and flagpole were erected by the 1st Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (1NMCBN) while the Marine Battalion Landing Team 1, 7 and 10 provided the security and transportation of construction materials. The 1st Marine Brigade orchestrated the planning and execution of all the participating military units and local government agencies.

The turn-over ceremony of Irelley Elementary School building last July 29, 2009, commenced with the Commander, Western Mindanao Command MGen Ben D Dolorfino AFP as guest of honor together with Sumisip municipal mayor Hon Haber S Asarul and Department of Education, North Sumisip supervisor Hja Noria K Jamaldin.

Distinguished guests who were behind the respective helms during the course of the project were: the Commander, Naval Forces Western Mindanao Rear Admiral Alexander P Pama AFP; Commander, 1st Marine Brigade BGen Rustico O Guerrero AFP; Commanding Officer, 1st Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Cdr Mederico R Celso PN and the three commanding officers of Marine Battalion Landing Team 1, 9 and 10. More than two hundred sixty teachers, students, local official and residents participated and witnessed the ceremony.

Hji Suaib Daano, an imam, repeatedly expressed his thankfulness and poured out his emotions in gratitude to the support and advocacy of the Marines to the people of Irelley.

Hja Noria K Jamaldin urged the parents and children to reach out and encourage other children to go back to school and dissuaded them from joining the lawless groups who only brought destruction to their community.

A nine-year old child Nwahmah Imbram presented a song and went in tears. Asked why she cried, "Wala lang sir, masaya lang ako at may bagong paaralan kami," she replied.

Specking in Yakan, she added that "Pagsababan amban kapanggegga tuli si kauman Irelley, Irelley Elementary School, weh meh aa maastel atawa gey hap astey den, kuitu antag-antag kam binay-bayan, na maku kami maap si kaam, subey ne gey eggas bi pabalik. Kemon iskul bawal sa batas bang ineggas iskulan," (Because of the burning of the school made by lawless elements, we attended our school classes anywhere then. I hope that they would never do it again and repent for good).

The JSOTF-P also donated 150 plastic chairs with arm desks and school bags with notebooks, pencils, caps and pencil sharpeners to all the students of Irelley who attended the turn-over. (1MB/PIA9-BST) [top]

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