Story by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chris Fahey, Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force Public Affairs.
ZAMBALES, Philippines – A combined team of Philippine and U.S. Marines and Seabees packed up their tools and welcomed children from the San Marcelino Municipality into their new schoolhouses following back-to-back ribbon cutting ceremonies April 15.
Marines from Marine Wing Support Squadron (MWSS) 172 and Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5 along with members of the Philippine Army’s 548th Engineer Construction Battalion made up the crew who completed the Lawin school project. The Rabanes school was renovated by a team of engineers from the U.S. Marine Corps’ 9th Engineer Support Battalion and Philippine Seabees from the Naval Construction Brigade.
The Lawin schoolhouse is a brand new two classroom prefabricated building specifically designed to withstand the heavy Philippine rainy season. Although not built from scratch, the Rabanes schoolhouse received extensive renovations to the foundation, walls, roof, support frames, electrical wiring, plumbing and a brand new concrete floor. Both locations received substantial drainage renovations to ensure the new and renovated buildings would better withstand any potential flooding.
School district supervisor Mrs. Virgina Fulgueras said the work performed on the district’s behalf will never be forgotten.
“If you want to be remembered for a year, plant rice. If you want to be remembered for ten years, plant a tree. If you want to be remembered forever, build a school,” said Fulgueras. “What you’ve done in one month will live forever in our children. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.”
The U.S.-Philippines relationship dates back to the early 1900s, when educators known as the Thomasites visited the Philippines to help provide the island residents with basic education. Since then, education stands as a lasting legacy passed down from family member to family member, similar to an heirloom.
“The skills we gain from these projects will help us respond to any sort of natural disaster or other contingency,” said Deputy Commander 1st Naval Construction Division Navy Rear Adm. Paula Brown. “Our U.S. and Armed Forces of the Philippines engineers shared different construction techniques, exposing each to new methods and building technical skills to tackle future engineering challenges.”
Both projects were among seven other engineering civic actions (ENCAP) projects completed in support of Exercise Balikatan 2013.
Balikatan is an annual Philippine-U.S. bilateral exercise. Humanitarian assistance and training activities enable the Philippine and American service members to build lasting relationships, train together and provide assistance in communities where the need is the greatest.