Bahay Bulilit

Everything looked familiar inside the daycare center. There were students writing and playing. Colorful rubber mats covered the walls and floor like giant jigsaw puzzle pieces.

Infront, however, the teacher wore an unusual uniform.  Printed across her blue shirt were the letters P, U, L, I and S, identifying teacher Elma Labine with the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“Nasa letter ‘O’ kami. Nagstart kasi kami sa vowels (We started with vowels; now we’re with the letter ‘O’),” said PO1 Labine, one of the teachers in the "Bahay Bulilit" daycare center inside Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan.

In the daycare center, the teachers looked after 40 students, mostly children of police and residents of nearby barangays.

Labine was a graduate of Education, and she taught nursery and high school before entering the police force in 2006. She said it was a more stable job and there were more vacancies in the police.

However, she did not expect to practice her former profession in the police force when the “Pulis Ko, Titser Ko” program of PNP and the “Bahay Bulilit” project of the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) were created.

“Naging dalawa nga ang profession ko. Teacher na ako at the same time pulis pa ako. Masaya ako dahil nakakapagturo ako kahit pulis na ako. (It’s like having two jobs at the same time. I’m a teacher and a police. I’m happy because I can still teach even if I’m a police),” Labine said. 

The “Bahay Bulilit” project in the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) was revived last year after it closed down in 2005 because of an explosion inside the camp. The 30-square meter nursery building donated by the RMHC in 2004 was heavily damaged by debris from the accident.

NCRPO community relations Chief Supt. Rodelio Jocson, however, pushed the rehabilitation saying that the project greatly benefited police officers and residents in nearby barangays who cannot afford to send their children to private schools.

The “Pulis Ko, Titser Ko” program, on the other hand, started in 2008 in Central Visayas, pursuant of RA 8980 or the “Early Childhood Care and Development Act.”

“It is also part of PNP’s advocacy to teach young children because of the shortage of teachers and the expensive schooling in private institutions,” he said, “…and this is our way of bridging the gap between police and citizens to show people that not all police officers are corrupt.”

In the NCRPO "Bahay Bulilit," the students are given free uniform, books and feeding program courtesy of RMHC and the PNP. Parents do not pay a single centavo and need only to send their children to school daily.

This summer the nursery school offered courses in basic reading and writing. Starting June, they will resume offering regular subjects for pre-school and nursery, including Physical Education, dance and song.

Parents started trooping outside the container-van-turned-to-classroom around noon, ready to fetch their children. Housewife Marilyn Obero, 34, a native of Negros Occidental, was among them. A cousin who works at the NCRPO told her about the program.

“’Yung dalawang anak ko po dito ko na rin pag-aaralin. Malaking tulong po sa’min kasi libre (I’ll also enroll my two other children here. It’s a big help to us because it’s free),” she said.

SPO3 Oscar Tolentino, 55, added that he enrolled his five-year-old daughter, Maricar, in the Bahay Bulilit because he doesn’t earn much.

“Kaysa sa private school na P3000 and tuition, dito na lang (I enrolled her here, instead of in a private school were tuition is P3000),” he said.

When the clocl struck 12, the children slowly emerged from the daycare center. Another day of learning was over.

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