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April 30, 2017

Why we do Erya: An interview with Anfernee Bonifacio

by Lance Ting

Erya insertion is one of the biggest activities of Gabay, for it lasts all year long. Every Saturday, Gabayanos and NSTP students go to Industrial Valley in the morning and Holy Spirit in the afternoon to teach grade 5 and 6 students. However, why do they give up their Saturdays to teach students whom they have never met instead of resting or doing more acads? One of the biggest criticisms of sector-based orgs is that students do it to feel good about themselves with low output from the people they help. Low output? Yes; in a span of many years that Gabay has been tutoring to send their students to bigger high schools, there had only been less than a handful of tutees who have accomplished that goal. Feel-good? Not quite, as stated by Anfernee Bonifacio. As a Gabayano who has been doing Erya for the past three years, he explains why he does Erya, and proves that the output of doing Erya does not always have to be about sending a student to a bigger high school; sometimes it is just about the impact we made on their lives.

Fixing the schedules of kids and the tutors, preparing the Erya modules, and organizing the program flow of every Erya insertion are just some of the things that Penny does as an Erya head; a busy schedule that he has faithfully followed for the whole school year despite the hectic demands of an Atenean education. Why does he do it? He simply says that he does it for the kids.

“Siyempre yung kids. Yung una ayoko talaga kasi ang hassle, pero nung nalaman ko na sobrang aga pala pumupunta yung kids sa Erya, sa sobrang excited nila, parang biglang nag-iba yung tingin ko sa Erya. Hindi lang siya education. Imagine mo, noong bata ka, parang limited yung mga bagay na niloolook forward to sa linggo diba, tapos yung kids sobrang excited. Yung mga Erya kids naman hindi sobrang mayayaman, lalo na sa mga PM, kaya talagang enjoy na enjoy sila pumunta sa Erya.”

Helping in Erya for three years, and seeing two generations of grade 5 and 6 students pass by him, I asked what he wishes for his students. “Una una, gusto ko na lahat magkaroon ng malaking impact sa Erya, na maging successful yung Erya sa kids. Isang goal ng Erya ay pataasin yung grades ng kids… tapos second papasok ng magagandang school, pero di masyado nangyayari yun. Noong isang moment nakapasok si Athena sa Miriam, like sobrang saya talaga yung buong Gabay.”

There is nothing more fulfilling than actually seeing the fruits of your labor become a reality, and even if I was not part of the Erya tutoring batch that saw their work being paid off, I can imagine what it must have felt like. However, I had a hunch that the goal of Erya was to send more than just one every year, yet it has not become so consistent with its goals. So I asked Penny what he thinks should be improved on in Erya.

“Sana may Erya pa rin, sana hindi matanggal at sana ma-improve din. Maraming aspect ng Erya na hindi napapansin; for example, yung AHS buddies, yung nagsasign up wala masyadong output. Yung SP team pwede rin ma-improve, kasi noong time nina ate Ce, yung SP team talaga humahanap ng scholars, kinakausap nila yung schools for scholarships. Siguro yung tutoring teams pwede rin ma-improve. Puwede maging mas strict. Lahat ata first time magheads this year, marami kaming mga bagay na nakalimutan gaya sa PM: yung ACE, yung pagreimburse. Pati rin yung members, parang every year paunti-unti yung nageerya.”

It was sad to hear that so many things can still be improved on. Being a deputy I knew that Erya had problems with modules and tutors, but things like AHS buddies and scholarships really broaden my perspective on just how big Erya is and how much improvement there can still be done. I asked Penny if Erya was following Gabay’s advocacies despite the stereotypes of sector-based orgs and their area insertions.

“Of course, education. Giving the gift of education. Diba yung main argument na yung mga sector-based orgs ay para lang to just feel good, tapos low impact. Pero nakikita mo naman yung kids nageenjoy sila, masaya sila, tapos nakikita mo sila na nakikinig talaga sa Erya. Pati na rin yung hindi nakikinig, yung sobrang kulit, parang ang fulfilling.”

Knowing that one of the most Erya active member of Gabay was about to graduate next year I wanted to ask him what are his advice and parting words to future tutors and graduating tutees.

“Sa mga future tutors, mag-try kayo mag-Erya kahit isang beses lang, kasi sa isang Erya may interaction with the kids at yung bond nag-go-grow parang enough na yun, pero sa iba hindi. Para sa akin enough na yun. At sa mga tutees, wala, excited lang makita sila next year. Tapos yung mga nagraduate nalulungkot ako dahil hindi ko na sila makikita next year, sana lahat ng future tutees maging active gaya ng this year or maging mas active pa.”

Active Erya members like Penny will be missed. Their enthusiasm and stories of Erya is what inspires future Gabayanos to join Erya despite how hassle it may seem or the stereotypes thrown their way. And even if Gabay is still a long way from achieving their initial goal of what Erya is supposed to accomplish, in one way or another we accomplish a different goal , of affecting the lives of our Erya students.

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