OAS, Albay, -- Like many other teenagers in Barangay Bogtong in Oas, Albay, Norelyn Minas, 17, is a high school dropout.
The rough terrain and poor road network in the upland village of Bogtong have made it difficult for young people in the community to get a high school education in the nearest public school in Oas town or neighboring Ligao City.
The eighth among the nine children of a coconut farmer, Norelyn said she managed to finish only first year high school in a private school in adjacent Barangay Badian.
She said she stopped going to that school because Badian proved to be inaccessible from Bogtong.
She recounted that she used to wake up at 4 a.m. to reach her former school.
"From my barangay (Bogtong) I needed to walk for almost two hours and cross rivers four times daily to reach the school," she said.
But during heavy rains, crossing the rivers becomes impossible because of the strong water current.
"Sometimes by chance, I am able to commute by riding a motorcycle," said Norelyn.
She said there is no other way to reach the nearest high school from their village.
"Our community is located in the upland and it is too dangerous if we will climb the steep mountains just to reach the main road in the neighboring barangay," said Norelyn.
She said she is even lucky she was able to reach first year high school unlike her seven other siblings who finished only elementary school in their barangay.
Her youngest sibling, who is eight years old, is still in elementary school.
Norelyn said rice and coconut farming are the sources of livelihood of their family of 10 members that include their father. Her mother died sometime last year.
Her elder siblings work on the side as charcoal-making helpers where they earn Php150 to Php300 per week.
"I am not the only person with the same problem, most of the teenagers in our community intend to finish only elementary," Norelyn added.
Danjoveh Carison, 19, also a resident of Barangay Bogtong, shared Norelyn's sentiments.
He said he could not pursue high school because of poor access roads and transportation.
"I need to walk for more than two hours to reach the public high school located in Barangay Cabarian (a coastal area in Ligao City in the western coast of Albay)," said Danjoveh.
"Some of our village mates have their own motorcycles while others are using their carabaos as means of transportation," he said.
Danjoveh said this mode of transportation is called "pababa" which means a carabao pulling a wooden cart.
"The farmers would have to rely on the carabao's hard work and patience to get the job done," he said.
Danjoveh said even if he could avail of a school scholarship, another concern would be the school expenses and fees for a boarding house near the public high school.
"It is impossible for me to earn," he said as farm work gives him only P15 per harvest of 100 pieces of coconuts.
Prisco Tipano Jr., village chief of Bogtong, affirmed the stories of Norelyn and Danjoveh.
He said the coconut farmers need to increase their production so they could send their children to high school but the poor farm-to-market roads make it difficult for them to improve their livelihood.
Barangay Bogtong is seven kilometers away from the nearest main road, which is in Barangay Catburawan in Ligao City.
Tipano said to help farmers in the village, they seek assistance from government agencies like the Philippine Coconut Authority in Bicol to provide them with seedlings.
"Our teenagers should strive hard if they want to have a better future. They need help from the outside community," he said.
This was echoed by Norelyn who said barangay officials were able to provide assistance to elementary pupils in the form of school supplies.
But she said "young persons like me" need more help from other government agencies for their high school education.
"I want to continue my studies so I can finish even a vocational course. I want to have a better future and earn a living," said Norelyn. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency