Siargao elementary schools are reaping what they sow

Siargao elementary schools are reaping what they sow

03 Feb, 2020

Are you doing something to be a good ancestor? We owe our present to the future generation. Good legacy, this ideally what we all wish to leave behind.

AGREA’s one way of being a good ancestor, and leaving a good legacy is through The Garden Classroom program.

The Garden Classroom (TGC) programis a signature program of AGREA that flourished and was first implemented in Marinduque. AGREA’s goal is to create TGCs in all the 183 public elementary schools in Marinduque. As of 2020, Thirty-one (31) schools in Marinduque have already been reaping good returns of harvest through having garden classrooms and benefiting more or less 6,000 students.

Now in Siargao, the mission is to create The Garden Classroomsin all 120 public elementary schools in the island and impacting 35,000 elementary students.

Led by AGREA, the replication of The Garden Classroom in Siargao is made possible by the Office of Congressman Francisco Jose “Bingo” Matugas - 1st District Representative of Surigao del Norte, and the and Department of Education – Siargao. These organizations are all united in achieving the goal of enhancing the relationship of students with the environment, and to use the idle lands as classroom to enhance students’ knowledge in agriculture.

Beginning August of 2019, fifteen (15) pilot TGCsserve as blooming centers for learning and living classrooms for 3,000 students in the island. Teachers and students from the 15 schools were trained in sustainable agriculture from AGREA and also received TGC material sets (vegetable seeds, organic fertilizer, seed tray, string and tape measure, watering can, shovel, rake, hoe, multiple hand trowel, 3-pronged hand cultivator, TGC brand tarpaulin, and TGC manual) from the Office of Congressman Francisco Jose “Bingo” Matugas.

READ: The Garden Classroom now officially thrives in Siargao

As the new decade came, the fifteen innovative pilot schools already reaped what they sow. It was amazing to see elementary students, not only learning about academics, but also growing their own food right inside their schools! Through the TGC program, idle lands in the schools became grounds where nourishing food grow for both the students and teachers, and their families.

TGCs were a sustainable income generating project for the schools, many of which cater to families who also happen to be 4Ps beneficiaries.

Collaboration in competition

The TGC program in Siargao also highlights a friendly competition between the 15 participating schools vying for the Bagtik Garden Classroom Award.

The theme for the friendly competition in 2019 was “Makulay ang Buhay ‘Pag ang Gulay ay Buhay na Buhay”. The awarding of the Bagtik Garden Classroomwas held last 15th of January 2020, at Kapitolyo Nan Siargao, Dapa Surigao del Norte.

Congressman Bingo Matugas shared during the awarding ceremony, "We are doing this effort to affect the next generation of farmer-leaders here in Siargao. If we don't nurture our farmers, the whole Siargao will starve. What will we do with thousands of tourists, if we, Siargaonons, have nothing to eat?" Congressman Matugas is the main supporter and sponsor in replicating the TGC program in Siargao.

Moreover, Congressman Bingo shared that thirty (30) more TGCs will be implemented in the island increasing the Siargao TGCs to 45 for the year 2020. This will positively impact more students, families, and communities.

READ: How agriculture can help achieve the SDGs

Criteria of the Bagtik Garden Classroom Awardare as follows:

  1. Productive TGC (40%) - TGC is both productive and innovative, has almost all of the Bahay Kubovegetables, and is grown organically.
  2. Parent’s Teachers Association (PTA) Cooperation (30%) – cooperation and engagement of the PTA to make the school gardens productive and profitable. Parents, together with their children, was able to harness and show agripreneurship aspect. Income of the TGC of the schools was recorded transparently. TGC income will also be a core income generating program (IGP) of the schools that will be mainly utilized for the benefit of the students such as: healthy feeding programs, school contributions, etc.
  3. Eco-Friendliness (30%) – Creative and innovative ecobrick design integrated on the TGC program, to harness the sense of love for the environment for the students.

In the competition, three schools proved that Bayanihan brings positive change to their communities and can make agriculture cool for the younger generation.

Songkoy Elementary School based in Socorro was recognized and hailed as the first ever champion of the Bagtik Garden Classroom,with Php 20,000 cash prize.

San Isidro Central Elementary School bagged first place and Php 15000 cash prize.

Mabuhay Primary School was awarded 2nd place with Php 10000 cash prize.

Moreover, the other 12 pilot schools received Php 5,000 consolation prizes for their outstanding dedication to implement TGC in their schools.

Ms. Cherrie Atilano, President and CEO of AGREA shared, "I really make sure that wherever AGREA goes, The Garden Classroom (TGC) will always be there. This is the foundation of our food security. When we properly educate our children, they will realize the importance of agriculture in all aspects.”

Ms. Atilano was recently appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as a high-level Ambassador of the UN Scaling Up Nutrition Movement. With the role of providing strategic oversight, and scaling nutrition across the globe, Ms. Atilano is championing and anchoring on AGREA’s core programs and best practices, including The Garden Classroom –which can be scalable in SUN Movement’s 60 participating countries.

READ: Cherrie Atilano named U.N. nutrition ambassador

The Department of Education in Siargao was also present during the ceremony.

"I am very thankful for this project that Cong. Bingo, along with Ms. Cherrie, brought in the island. I, myself was a product of 'Green Revolution' way back during my time where all teachers and students participate in production activities. That's exactly how I envision our current generation to do- to be active again in the aspect of agriculture,” said Dr. Nelia Lomocso of DepEd Siargao.

Moreover, the TGC program is well adopted by the TGC ambassadors, schools, students, parents, and even community leaders in Siargao. Here are the results of our evaluation:

96% said that TGC was effective in their community
85% said that TGC trainings were helpful for the project implementation
78% said that the community was actively in the TGC implementation
93% said that they were able to build sustainable partnerships
89% said that they want TGC to continue in their community.

Siargao schools are not only reaping what they sow: the schools are also enabling a new breed of food producers for the future of Siargao – those who have the heart and mind for ecological agriculture, and will ensure food security for the island.

To know more about The Garden Classroom, send an email to

15 pilot TGC schools in Siargao: Esperanza Elementary School, Mabuhay Primary School, Dapa Central Elementary School, Libertad Elementary School, General Luna Central Elementary School, Pilar Central Elementary School, San Isidro Central Elementary School, Baybay Elementary School, Sapao Central Elementary School, San Benito Central Elementary School, Songkoy Elementary School, Atoyay Elementary School, Union Elementary School, Cancohoy Elementary School, and Pamosaingan National High School.