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(Inspirational Message of Rep. Edcel C. Lagman during the rites marking the restoration of the Gabaldon School Building on October 4, 2019 at the Tabaco South Central Elementary School)

I was a frail looking 5th and 6th grader more than six (6) decades ago, along with other pupils, who attended classes in the huge Gabaldon School Building here at the then Tabaco Central Elementary School, now the Tabaco South Central Elementary School.

Today, 66 years later, we are celebrating the restoration of this heritage school structure where hundreds of thousands of school children learned the rudiments of basic education.

Let me give you a brief backgrounder for this morning’s festivities.

I was the pioneer in the extensive conservation and restoration program/project of Gabaldon School Buildings nationwide. I started this initiative on September 2, 2016 during the hearing of the proposed budget of the Department of Education (DepEd). Allow me to quote the relevant congressional proceedings documenting my initiative:

THE PRESIDING OFFICER. Thank you. Next will be Congressman Edcel Lagman.

REP. EDCEL C. LAGMAN. Thank you, Madam Vice Chair.

REP. EDCEL C. LAGMAN. Good afternoon, Secretary Briones and your official contingent. I will go to a relatively small appropriation proposed in your budget and that is the restoration and conservation of Gabaldon buildings. You have now about 300 million pesos proposed appropriation. This is already an increase from the current budget of only 50 million which is even a congressional initiative. The Philippines Public School System was born in the Gabaldons which are now considered as heritage structures. Just a bit of history. In 1907, the Philippine Assembly enacted Act No. 1801, which was authored by Assemblyman Isauro Gabaldon of Nueva Ecija. The initial appropriation for constructing school buildings in every municipality in the country was only one million pesos, but that was in 1907. From 1907 to 1946, these Gabaldon buildings were constructed all over the country. Many are already more than one hundred years old and countless are in varying stages of disrepair. It is recorded that around 1,446 Gabaldon school buildings are still existing and I think that has been validated by your Department… Now, if only one restoration would cost, say, three million, that would amount to 4.3 billion pesos. But, that is small. There are some which could cost about 10 million because they are in utter disrepair and really dilapidated. But, let's us have an average expense of, say, five million per 1,446 Gabaldon buildings, that would translate to 7.2 billion. So you would agree with me Secretary Briones, that the 300 million is grossly inadequate because you have to fund more because every year that passes, everyday that passes, the disrepair is aggravated. So, can we have a more adequate appropriation for the restoration and preservation of these heritage structures?

BRIONES. Thank you very much, Your Honor. I would like to give a recognition to a fellow warrior on the issue of more expenditures for social development. Also, Congressman Lagman authored the resolution which allowed civil society organizations to present alternative budgets for social development and we are very grateful for that.

Our master list identifies 1,446 sites. Our original estimate, it might even be an understated estimate… we would need an additional four billion.

REP. LAGMAN. Four to seven.

BRIONES. My staff tells me that your calculation is very accurate. Unfortunately, what was provided by DBM is 300 million and we would appreciate very much the assistance of Congress in this regard because I also believe, we all share the belief that the Gabaldon buildings should be restored and should be kept to continually refresh our memories of what education was like in those days.

Thank you for the expression of support.

REP. LAGMAN. Thank you. Are you now articulating, Secretary Briones, for an augmentation of your budget in order to address the conservation and restoration of these Gabaldon buildings which are heritage structures?

BRIONES. Yes. I cannot see any reason why this budget should not be augmented especially since, obviously, it is inadequate. So we are articulating that need. Thank you.

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REP. LAGMAN. Thank you, Secretary Briones. Most probably, Madam Vice-Chairperson and the Chairman of the Committee, we should be able to find or source funds to the tune of from three billion to seven billion. But, you know, we don't have to go exactly to seven billion immediately. We could start with three billion and have it as a continuing appropriation until all of the 1,446 are restored. I hope the Committee could look kindly on this request.

BRIONES. Madam Chair, we can consider multi-year allocation...

My singular advocacy succeeded when in 2018 the budget for Gabaldon restoration was increased to P2.0-Billion and this year to P2,060,418.00 for the entire country.

My idea for a nationwide conservation and restoration of heritage structures known as Gabaldon School Buildings was “pirated”, so to speak, by well-meaning colleagues who caused the enactment of Republic Act No. 11194 which was signed into law on January 18, 2019, two (2) years and four (4) months after I started my campaign for a much bigger appropriation for the Gabaldon conservation and restoration.

With respect to your invitation dated August 24, 2019, may I make some historical corrections, as follows:

1. The restoration of this school’s Gabaldon was not “made possible through an Act mandating the conservation of Gabaldon Schools (RA No. 1801, otherwise known as the Gabaldon Act)”.

There is no “RA No. 1801” relative to the conservation and restoration of Gabaldons. Act No. 1801, which was enacted by the then Philippine Assembly in 1907 was authored by Assemblyman Isauro Gabaldon to fund the construction of school buildings, now known as Gabaldon in honor of the proponent. To reiterate, Act No. 1801 was not about conservation and restoration but it funded the construction of said school buildings nationwide.

2. The restoration of this school’s Gabaldon School Building was not even undertaken pursuant to RA No. 11194 or the “Gabaldon School Buildings Conservation Act” which became a law only on January 18, 2019, months after the restoration works of this school’s Galabdon began in July 2018.

In fact, the restoration of this school’s Gabaldon was made possible through my intervention when on several occasions I asked Sec. Leonor Briones to prioritize the restoration of my alma mater’s Gabaldon, the last of which was a letter dated September 17, 2018 requesting the “complete restoration of the huge Gabaldon School Building with 20 classrooms in the Tabaco South Central Elementary School”. For the record, I am furnishing the school a copy of my said letter which was a reiteration of my prior requests.

I also caused the completed restoration of the Gabaldon School Buildings in Sto. Domingo and Bacacay.

Incidentally, I have also requested the restoration of the “Marikina Building” (akin to a Gabaldon Building) in the compound of the Tabaco South Central Elementary School in a letter dated Sept. 17, 2019 to Sec. Briones. In said letter, I also reiterated that the “restoration of Gabaldon buildings must be truly restoration projects by rebuilding the historic structures and using the original (indigenous) materials as must as possible. Contractors must be enjoined not to treat the projects as mere rehabilitation or renovation works.” A copy of this letter is also submitted for the record.

Today’s celebration on the restoration of our Gabaldon School Building should remind and inspire us to conserve and protect our cultural heritage not only as a reminder of our enviable past, but to spur us to enhance further our culture and history for the succeeding generations.

Marhay na Gabaldon saindo gabos.