A journalized account of the making of MLG College of Learning in Hilongos, Leyte, Philippines through the pen of Glenn Go Olo from 1999 until forever.
My name is Glenn Go Olo from Hilongos, Leyte, Philippines. I work as a school director of an educational institution which I established in my lonesome in 1999. The name of the school is MLG College of Learning after my grandfather Montano Lamberte Go. It now is a reputable learning institution with a fully-accredited high school program by the Department of Education (DepEd); a fully-recognized tech\voc program by the Technical Education & Skills Development Authority (TESDA); a fully accredited degree program by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED); and a recognized graduate school program in consortium with a major university. What is amazing about the school is the fact that around 65% of the student population comes from the poorest sector of the community and are NON-PAYING.
Looking back in the seven years of our existence and operation, I must say that all was His design. Everything was his orchestration. I was simply a servant. . . a steward who did the tiring and lonely work, while He was the provider who sent me a lot of help in the most amazing ways and in the best of timing too.
It was in January 1999 when I first came up with the idea of establishing a school, everybody was against it because we didn’t have money. My family may be engaged in business, but we were definitely not the right people who should be building schools in the countryside where ROI is expected to be very slow, even negative for the first ten years of operation.
Secondly, it was also a dark personal period in my life. I got ill from something which my doctors suspected as brain tumor. They insisted that I undergo further check-ups to determine the malignancy or non-malignancy of the growth in my brain. I kept on postponing the check-ups because I was neck-deep into the affairs of starting a school and honestly because I was afraid.
Despite all these difficulties, I decided to go ahead with establishing the school notwithstanding lack of financial resources and bad health. Initially God sent me an uncle who provided me with computers to start the school. But our relationship became sour after two semesters of operation. He sent a truck one Saturday morning to pull out all his computers. To this day, I considered that to be a blessing in disguise.
I thought it was the day I had to close shop and stop operation. Without computers, I could not continue being a computer school. But on the Monday after that fateful Saturday, my mother got her retirement proceeds of about PhP400,000 after working for several dreary years in the post office. Talk about perfect timing! She readily volunteered the entire amount for the school. I immediately went to Cebu City to buy new computers in cash, and in less than a week, we were in operation again.
I started with 23 students. I gave them everything that I learned from two contrasting schools of thoughts, one from the religious and very structured of a Don Bosco school where I studied for 6 years and the other from the liberal and very tolerant education of UP where I got my degree in Political Science. I did not only feed my students with raw knowledge from books but I also taught them about life and love and living in an experiential way. I exposed them to theatre, even to poetry reading. I brought them to the city on a field trip where they learn for the first time on how to ride an elevator and a escalator. I brought to Olanggo island to see the migrant birds and the mangroves, I brought them to Bohol to experience first hand the Baclayon church, the Loboc river, the tarsier and the chocolate hills . I brought them inside the walls of industries such as NEC, Innodata, Coca Cola, Nature Spring etc, and I brought them to the malls, to the airport, the museum, to the cinema. I encouraged them to sing, to dance, to laugh, to play and to think highly of themselves. I was more than a teacher to them. I was a brother, I was a friend.
Alongside my interaction with my students, I had to deal with the difficult personalities in government who are managing the education system of this country. They all seem to be afflicted with the virus named ‘Impossible’ because nothing seems to be possible for them and they try their darndest to make transacting with them difficult, impossible and a waste of time. And as the head of school, I had to deal with not just one but three government agencies namely DepEd, TESDA, and CHED. Just imagine how tedious the entire process was like for me who consider the word ‘impossible’ as nothing other than an excuse of myopic minds.
Looking for teachers was another challenge for the school. Requirements of these agencies are very stringent when it comes to credentials of teachers, but God led the right people literally to our doorstep. For example, there was this time when I urgently needed a qualified instructor on computer hardware. TESDA was already hammering me for immediate compliance. All of a sudden and out of nowhere, a man in his late thirties and barefoot because of the rains came into my office. He turned out to be a balikbayan OFW from the Middle East and an instructor on computer hardware licensed by TESDA itself. I hired him immediately, and he stayed for two years with us despite the very little salary, before going back overseas.
Today, I am proud to say that I have the best people in my employ, all given by God. The twin sisters, Marta and Nena, both work with me as the College Dean and the High School Principal respectively. They are both extremely experienced and seasoned educators, yet grossly underpaid by the school. All the others in the faculty have the appropriate degrees and professional licenses, as well as awesome dedication and commitment to their line of work. At present, the College employs 35 individuals entrusted by God with moulding 500+ young minds.The school has a well-balanced faculty composed of retired public school teachers who are well experienced educators and young teachers are very active and energetic. Both camps complement well in handling the needs of naive and naughty young people.
There are hundred other people along the way who I am certain were used by God to help the school. And to them and to the One who sent them. I am most grateful. I must admit that on my own, I could have done only so little. Building a school from square one and sustaining it and making it grow at such an unbelievable pace was extremely, extremely difficult.
There is one miracle that I never tire telling people about. In the first year of our operation, we were simply renting a two-storey apartment building. The first floor was used as a computer laboratory while the second floor was used for lectures. The place was becoming too small for the rapidly–growing student population. So I went out for a bigger space. A close friend of my mother – her name is Epifania Dayondon – a retired public school teacher, came to the house, heard about my plans, and told us that she has a piece of land in Brgy Atabay (which literally means ‘water well’ and which has a profound meaning in the Bible). We located the land, and she asked me if I liked the place which was virtually a wilderness somewhere in Brgy Atabay, and I said yes. Then, she brought my mother to a lawyer and executed on her own free will a Deed of Absolute Sale in favor of the school in exchange for certain monetary considerations. I have to admire her for such a generous gesture which could only be inspired and instilled by God in her heart.
With the land in place, I asked my mother to apply for a loan with the Rural Bank of Hilongos using our house and lot as collateral to construct a two-classroom building on the land which was just offered.
Barely a month passed, I received a letter from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) offering us a soft loan package with very minimal interest. The requirement? A titled land in the name of the school and an already ongoing infrastructural initiative. Again talk about perfect timing! So I brought my mother to their Visayas Office in Cebu City to meet with Mr. Sergio Romero, the vice president for the Visayas. He told us to have the land titled using the Deed of Absolute Sale in the name of the school. He then assigned a staff (Ms. Doktora) to help me comply with the voluminous documentary requirements such as feasibility, etc. When we got back to Leyte, the manager of their branch in Maasin City (Mr. Louie Caverte) was waiting in our house to discuss with us the details of the loan package and to inspect the on-going infrastructure initiative of the school which was the other important requirement of the loan. In less than six months, 3 million pesos was released, the ground broke, construction started and by June 2001, we inaugurated a two-storey, 16-room school building in the presence of Governor Petilla of Leyte province and Rep. Carmen Cari of the 5th District of Leyte. During the inaugural rites, I have it declared as clearly as possible the following words:
“Every stone, every wood, every material that you find in here are His and His alone, We proclaim no ownership We are simply stewards who are entrusted to teach and mould the young minds whom He sends to our care.”
And I made the emcee announce the names of people who are responsible for its completion all over and over again, chief of whom were the DBP officials, the land donor, and officials from TESDA.
The school building as it is now in Brgy. Atabay is a solid manifestation of God’s generosity and miracles. It is also a living testament of the sacrifices or the members or the Board of Trustees (who are all members of my family) who are bound by the bank to pay up comes hell or high water, in sickness and in health, in plenty or in poverty. At present, the BOT through the efforts of my brother Giovanni who sits as VP corporate affairs has already paid up a substantial portion of the loan in conjunction with my sister Lilibeth who sits as VP Finance who manages the daily expenditures with little income the school makes with what little contribution my father, my sister in the US and my in-laws could make.
There weren’t big miracles along the way which made the school thrive on. I see it more as small sacrifices which pleased God a big deal necessitating Him to counterpart the sacrifices with his anointing and blessings. These sacrifices were:
First is multi-tasking. We got teachers who are capable of teaching different levels in different fields. Thus, our teacher in philosophy for example is also teaching physical education. Our guidance counselor is at the same time a licensed nurse. Our cashier is very competent in teaching electronic keyboarding. Our finance head also handles the dance troupe as well as the school chorale. Our IT head also handles the drum and bugle corps. Our library assistant also handles community extension. But of course, this requires that the dedication and diligence of the teacher are beyond doubt. We have no problem in this area. I have discovered that there is an abundance of people who are simply waiting for opportunities to be able to concretely manifest their kindness, their generosity and willingness to ‘go the extra mile’.
Second is subsidizing. A study from our finance department shows that ten (10) fully-paying students are enough to pay for the education of one (1) non-paying student. Thus with 500 full-paying students, it is possible to accommodate 50 students free of charge.
Third is volunteerism. We encourage our students to help in the work around the campus such as managing the internet cafe, cleanliness, manning the photocopying machine etc.
Fourth is persistent fund-raising and submission of project proposals to well-meaning individuals and organizations in the country and overseas. It is a difficult and long process, and often very frustrating due to countless rejection letters that we get along the way. But then, giving up is not an option, and just like in fishing, nothing can be caught if we do not cast down our nets or throw our line and bait into the water.
The first three minimized to a certain level the daily expenditures of the school while the fourth supplemented the school’s budget and\or increased its facilities. These were the efforts of the human hand. Now comes the deluge of divine providence.
In 2004, we were able to get a little funding from the Abilis Foundation of Finland in the amount of 5,800 euro for the education of 100 young people, 30 of whom are those with disabilities and for the establishment of a permanent office space for the persons with disabilities in Hilongos (ADAP- Hilongos) This grant also strengthened and sustained the so-called International Cooperation for Development Studies (ICDS) scholarship project of the school which recently won a honorable mention award in the Associations Make A Better World Awards 2006 to be presented by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) during their annual meeting and exposition on August 10-22 in Boston, Massachusetts.
The ICDS as an initiative is the brainchild of the three MLG educators namely, myself as the school director, Mr. Rodney Glover ( a British national who is teaching Physics and Mathematics, etc at the College), and Prof Dolores Figuracion (formerly a management level of the Land Bank of the Philippines).
ICDS searches for deserving high school graduates from barangay high school and gives them free tech-voc education in the fields of computer programming, computer technology, electronics and network technology, and business & information management. Recently, ICDS has expanded to include degree courses under CHED and kindergarten education for the poor children of Brgy Atabay, a depressed coastal barangay where the school is situated.
ICDS is for free because we had it ride on the on-going regular classes of MLG College of Learning which are handled by regularly-hired technical instructors and professors of the College teaching TO RIDE ON means to fill up a regular class with non- paying students to maximize the ICDS beneficiaries are given grades similar to their regularly paying classmates, and ultimately diploma, transcript of records and S.O. number from TESDA or CHED when they finish and graduate from their respective programs of study.
This set-up was with permission from the Board of Trustees of MLG College of Learning.We convinced them that since the College has to hire and regularly pay technology instructors and academic professors in compliance with government standards and policies, it might as well maximize the paid service rendered by opening up the class to non-paying deserving students.
The Innovation has enlivened the College. Whereas in the past; the College was almost empty of students because not many could afford the regular tuition fee. The ICDS beneficiaries made the College exciting and lively with youthful activities, prompting others to transfer to the College. And the more regularly paying students who transferred to MLG, the more we opened up additional slots for non-paying students.
It really was a case of giving in order to be given, of emptying in order to be filled.
The ICDS has sustained the free education at MLG College of Learning. The registrar of the College has recently validated through official records that the ICDS was able to educate 358+ beneficiaries for free in the years of its existence since 2003.
The ICDS indeed has become very important in the lives of many young people in the depressed province of Leyte. This is their only passport to respectable jobs which will raise them and their family from extreme poverty.We are serving mostly the young people who otherwise would have remained engaged in self-defeating activities like sleeping, playing basketball or rambling around all day long, or messing with liquor and illegal drugs.
ICDS for the unprivileged young people is spelled in a different way. It spells hope. It spells opportunity. A high school graduate in this country is very much ill-equipped to get good employment. He needs a degree or at least 2-years of intensive and hands-on technical-vocational education. I am certain AVE agrees with me in this assertion.
In 2005, Finally decided to undergo brain surgery after several prodding and convincing from my wife, family and friends. While I was confined and in the hospital the Direct Aid Program (DAP) of Australian Embassy approved a PH 250,000 grant for the construction of additional classrooms in exchange for free high school education under the ICDS initiative. And wonders of all wonders, the cheque was personally delivered to my room by the embassy. God indeed is such a wonderful God for turning around a personal setback into an opportunity for growth and expansion for the school.
And ,DAP for this school year is set to support the library development project of the school by procuring for its library PhP250,000 worth of books and academic journals. This is again another blessing, the kind which has continuously overwhelmed me since day one.
In the seven years of running a school, I have come to realize that after all, it does not require large sums of money to start and to give free education, and I deeply question the morals of other schools (mostly owned by religious congregations here in the Philippines) for collecting very expensive fees when they could readily reduce it to half without sacrificing quality or could open up half their student population to charity as shown in the experience of MLG College of Learning.
It does only require a faith bigger than a mustard seed.
Today, MLG College of Learning continues to make history. We have just accommodated for SY 2006-07 two sections or 80 high school students under Fund for Private Education (PAFE) and close to 250 college students under the ICDS. We are strengthening our kindergarten program and looking forward to starting an elementary department. I am now back at the helm as the school director despite a physiological deficit after the brain surgery in the form of a limp on my left leg.
In September this year, we expect the presence of Rep Eulogio Magsaysay, Ph.D. of the AVE partylist during a special fund raising event known as ‘Lugaw for a cause’ and we hope to build a strong and lasting, equally beneficial partnership with the good congressman that will benefit more facilities for the school.
In truth, running MLG College of learning as a non- profit educational institution has drained my family’s resources beyond anyone ‘s imagination but the returns are real, incomprehensible and awesome .It is not in the form of wealth by the millions, No! It takes the form of unity of my family despite the hurdles, of real joy and contentment to see young people graduate from school and start to build their lives, and as my mother would put it, it comes in the form of life for her son, Glenn.