"Tara, Erya tayo": Gabay continues its advocacy with Online PrepErya

By Ambross Sumaylo and Shandra Maralit

         Ever since the start of the pandemic, Ateneo Gabay has strived to continue not only in building a community of member-advocates, but also in reaching out to Atenean scholars and public elementary students through these tough times. A year has already passed, and the advocacy lives on and continues to grow. This remains true as Gabay starts yet another year of enriching its advocacy with Online PrepErya, which was held from September 29 to October 1 via Zoom and Facebook Live.

         As the very first project of the Education Operations (EdOp) Committee for the academic year, PrepErya walked old and new Gabayanos alike through a three-day journey into the Gabay Erya Formation Program (GEFP). Participants revisited the history of Erya, got to know its present initiatives, and caught a glimpse of their future through the program and serving Gabay's sectors.

         The first two days were hosted by Gabay's External Vice President Kurt de los Santos. PrepErya's first day, titled "Erya and the Education Sector," gave the participants a perspective of the education sector's frontliners through a talk by Ms. Gybel Agregado. She shared her experiences of being Gabay's former president, an alumna teacher fellow for Teach for the Philippines, and a Program Officer for Basic Education in Save the Children Philippines. She then discussed the conditions of the Philippine education system as seen through different circumstances.
         Though her talk delved into the weaknesses and challenges in the education sector, Ms. Agregado closed it with a statement of both hope and challenge directed to Gabayanos. "Kaakibat dapat ng nararamdamang saya at galit ang patuloy na pag-unawa at pagkilos tungo sa dekalidad na edukasyon para sa bawat batang Pilipino," said Ms. Agregado.

         ["The joy and anger you feel should be paired with the desire to understand and act for quality education for every Filipino child," said Ms. Agregado.]

         The second day, titled "Erya and Ateneo Gabay," featured Mr. Darwin Tesion, former Gabay president and currently a Junior High School teacher in Ateneo de Manila University. Mr. Tesion tackled how Erya and his connection to Erya kids became a huge part of his college life. He emphasized the importance of Erya's duties both in the forefront and the background, by not only addressing the projects from the outside, but also at the very ground level.
         "We can do all the needs assessment we want, but if we can't teach our kids multiplication, for example, it will come to naught," he said.

         For the last leg of the event, current EdOp committee heads Ambross Sumaylo and Myra Joanna Arce discussed the context of Erya and its vision for this year. They also introduced the deputies of EdOp's three arms: Engagements, Learning Resources, and Erya Data Analysis.

         PrepErya's final day, titled "Erya and You," was hosted by Thea Dianito. Former EdOp committee heads Millicent Cabildo and Jim Mijares recalled the committee's projects in the past year. They explained the challenges they faced in the online setup, and highlighted the reasons why Erya persisted. They also shared how these motivations still hold true in the current academic year.
         "It is still necessary to continue being advocates for a quality and equitable education. Because if not now, then when?" Mr. Mijares said.

         "The work for quality education doesn't stop. The kids need us now more than ever," Ms. Cabildo added.

         After their talk, the participants proceeded to breakout rooms for group discussions on Erya's advocacy. As they returned to the plenary, representatives from the three arms of EdOp discussed their respective roles and initiatives, and oriented Gabayanos on endeavors they can pursue to live out the organization's advocacy with Erya.

         Overall, Online PrepErya garnered a total of 143 participants. This year's event was made possible by the efforts of the core team and overseers: Ambross Sumaylo, Myra Joanna Arce, Froilan Bomaras, Pam Serrano, Shandra Maralit, Kian Oladive, Lady Nadine Dante, Erin Sajonas, Dar Brazil, and Ivory Jane Doble.