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Reaching the unreachable learners

We usually could not agree more when we say that teaching is a noble profession, especially for educators assigned to inaccessible far-flung areas in the province. But, daunting the situation may be, cluster principal Genalyn Oarde remains unfazed.

Reality might slap us in face with the fact that some educators did not actually dream of becoming one, but for Genalyn, she knew as a child that she would become an educator one day.

Oarde (second from L) with her fellow teachers crossing the Chico River before reaching the Lagum Elementray School in Santo Nino, Cagayan.

Growing up, she had witnessed the dedication and commitment of their teacher-neighbors in Tuao East in touching the lives of the schoolchildren in their community. This eventually inspired her to study hard despite financial difficulties.

Her parents, Otilio(+) and Angustia(+), despite not having enough resources at that time, pushed her to achieve her childhood dream of becoming a teacher. Pursuing her education degree in Cagayan State University, Piat Campus, she was blessed by having her cousin behind her back, who was then a librarian at the said campus.

It was not an easy journey, however, quitting was never an option for Genalyn. After years of struggle, she could not be more proud to receive her diploma at the stage, looking at the genuine happiness of her parents, cousin and siblings that day – the same happiness that served as the goal and sole reason for her success.

“Through the guidance and sacrifices of my parents at yung perseverance ko rin po, nakapagtapos ako ng pag-aaral. And, I am a living witness na hindi hadlang ang kahira-pan para makamit ang pangarap,” she said.

Genalyn believes, it was the Almighty who called her to pursue teaching. After passing the licensure ex-amination, it did not take long for her to land her first job.

In 1997, she worked as a teacher at the PAGASA Institute in Imus, Cavite. From 1999 to 2001, she worked as a pre-school teacher at San Manuel Elementary School and Sto. Niño Central Elementary School, both in Sto. Niño, Cagayan. From being a pre-school teacher, she was assigned as a Grade 1 teacher at Dungao Elementary School from 2002 until 2007. Having exemplified the passion to teach, she was promoted as the school head teacher of the Sto. Niño District in the said town from 2007 until 2014.

After 15 years of dedicated service to the teaching profession, Genalyn was sworn in as the principal of the Lipatan Integrated School (LIS) in 2015 up to the present. Aside from her responsibility at the LIS, she is also the cluster principal of four multi-grade schools in Sto. Niño District for more than three years now -- the LIMABALA Cluster which includes the LIS, Mapitac Primary School, Balanni Elemen-tary School, and Lagum Elementary School, all of which are located in areas categorized by the Nation-al Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict as insurgency-influenced barangays.

Oarde (third from left) poses for a photo with her fellow teachers while on their way going to Sitio Lagum.
Oarde (first from right) says that like a rock, she is strong amidst many challenges.

Finding comfort in being able to help the children of the four multi-grade schools gave her a new perspective, one she had not felt in her previous years of teaching. This time around, she viewed teaching as no longer being a profession, but something that God wanted her to do.

“Ikinamulat ko po ang kahirapan sa buhay kaya malapit ang loob ko sa mga batang nanga-ngailangan ng tulong,” Genalyn shared.
For Genalyn, education is where she has an opportunity to share her learnings and a privilege to be part of her students' journey towards achieving their dreams, which is what drives her the most. But challenges remain.

To get to school, particularly at the Lagum Elementary School at Sitio Lagum, she and her team need to walk for more than three hours from the LIS, hike up a mountain, then cross the Chico River for 26 times.

It's a weekly routine Genalyn and her co-teachers are happy to do for the love for their students and the fulfillment of their students’ dreams. It becomes more challenging if the weather is not good. If so, they will resort to hiking alone, since the river is too risky to cross, and trekking is a struggle for them.

Their journey will then involve trudging through deep mud, jumping over canals, traversing the mountains, walking through different terrains, and passing through corn fields and coconut groves while carrying their students’ school needs.

When she assumed as principal of the LIS, she pushed for the conversion of the said institution to an integrated school to cater to Grade 7 up to Grade 9 students. With its conversion, would-be junior high school students will no longer cross the river and travel to and from the nearby town to study.

In 2017, Genalyn was adjudged as the 2nd Runner Up during the Search for the Most Out-standing School Head in the District Level. From a runner up in 2017, Genalyn took pride to be awarded as the Most Outstanding School Head - District Level in 2020. In the same year, she placed 2nd runner up in the Search for the most Outstanding School Head for Congressional District 2.

She was also a recipient of the White Pigeon Award and the Corona Warrior Honour in 2020, conferred by the Lead Philippines, a non-government organization that honors individuals who have extraordinary contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the remoteness of the area, difficult terrains, and uncertainty of what lies ahead of their routine trips, Genalyn and her co-teachers continue their undying dedication in providing the best education for the children.

More than recognition, her passion and love for a mission that brings life-giving hope also needs continued support. She does not cease from constantly wearing a smile and having an optimistic outlook in her work.

She does this to inspire the students, who are always patiently waiting for their teachers to arrive, and to transform the lives of these children for the better through proper education. (ALM/JCC/MDCT/PIA Region 2)

Genalyn Oarde, DPA is one of the recipients of the 2021 IDDU Honor Roles Award for Women in Cagayan Valley, an annual recognition institutionalized by PIA Region 2 which aims to recognize woman-honorees whose exemplary performances and outstanding achievements continue to serve as inspiration and model to the rest of the women sector.
Genalyn Oarde, DPA is one of the recipients of the 2021 IDDU Honor Roles Award for Women in Cagayan Valley. With her in the photo are: her husband, Judge Racquel Aglaua, Regional Director Angely Mercado and Assistant Regional Director Oliver T. Baccay.

About the Author

Mark Djeron Tumabao

Regional Editor and Social Media Manager

Region 2

Dje, as he is fondly called by his colleagues, is a blogger and volunteer during weekends, a government information officer during weekdays, a licensed professional teacher and registered ECT by profession and has an intimate relationship with writing.

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