Annabelle Alipo-on, Principal II of Payao Elementary School, District of Binalbagan II in Negros Occidental, embarked on her noble profession as a public school teacher in 1992 – a journey which provided her unlimited opportunities to unleash her full potential toward achieving excellence and triumph.
Her entire life as a teacher was dedicated to providing quality service to the learners and to the community members as well.
Principal Annabelle believes that teaching is not just a profession, but a calling. In spite of the hardships she has gone through, she performed her duties with passion and distinction: “I sacrifice my personal life to enhance the social, cultural, intellectual, moral, spiritual, and physical development of the youth.”
In 2009, her hard work and sacrifices paid off when she was promoted as a Master Teacher and the teacher-in-charge of two far-flung schools – Tiqui Elementary School and Balatogan Primary School of Himamaylan District I. To make sure that she is on time for Monday classes, she usually travels on Sunday, traversing mountains and rivers to reach her destination.
For this 48-year-old teacher-turned-school principal, her strong leadership is deeply rooted from her virtues of honesty and justness, which are her guiding principles in life. She believes that an educator serves as a role model in the society, and should always be just and fair at all times.
In 2015, Principal Annabelle initiated the conversion of Paloypoy Elementary School into Paloypoy Integrated School – the first and only secondary school which caters to underprivileged out-of-school youth (OSY) in the remote areas of Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental. She likewise established the Paloypoy Integrated School-Culihao Extension to accommodate the poorest OSY in the barangays, which enable them to enroll from Kindergarten to Grade 2.
Because her heart beats for the indigenous children and youth in the barrios, Principal Annabelle spearheaded the opening of the Senior High School at Paloypoy IS that offers organic agriculture, which contributed to the food security of the community.
With her innovative and creative nature, Principal Annabelle converted the 20-year-old idle lot used as school dumpsite into an organic garden named as their Gulayan sa Paaralan, which grows organic vegetables that support the School Feeding Program. She likewise initiated the Gulay Itusok sa Bawat Sulok Program, which encourages learners and teachers to plant vegetables in every vacant space at their school areas and at their homes.
To cultivate the habit of reading, as well as the enhancement of reading skills among the learners, Principal Annabelle introduced projects such as the Appraise Reading Area and Nurture Payao Descendants to become Achievers (ARANDA), wherein the school park was turned into an open library to promote the love for reading. The Verses Encourage Reading (VERSE), meanwhile, is located at the school’s Gulayan sa Paaralan entrance with strips of laminated Bible verses aimed at encouraging learners to read and memorize Bible verses in a fun way. Finally, the Poso negro Occupied Space for Organic (POSO) library is a 30-year-old unused poso negro converted into an Agri-learning lodge inside the Gulayan sa Paaralan site with reading materials on agriculture and farming.
Principal Annabelle also strategically addressed the needs of slow or non-readers and non-computer literates by forging partnerships with private stakeholders. One project for low and out-of rank learners engaged mothers in the conduct of remedial learning sessions while providing free lunch and chocolate drink for the identified learners. Absenteeism was reduced and the nutritional status of the beneficiaries significantly improved.
Other equally productive projects of Principal Annabelle, which provided sources of livelihood for the parents of schoolchildren and the people of the community, are the Project RiSe [River Seeding] and ReSt [Recruitment Structure]. Tilapia fingerlings are raised in the school pond and are utilized for seeding in nearby rivers and lakes. Some of the fish fingerlings are given to the farmers with small ponds, so they can multiply the fish and pass them to the other community people as a form of recruitment structure.
Due to Principal Annabelle’s exceptional contributions and innovations with great impact in advancing the state of education and improving the lives of people in the communities of Negros Occidental, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) conferred to her a Pagasa Award in the 2018 Outstanding Government Workers Awards.
“When I look back, never did I expect that time will come that all efforts will be recognized because my only purpose is simply to help and make education accessible to the underprivileged children. I have proven that if we do things for the betterment of others, everything will find its place in this world,” she enthused.
Other awards she reaped for the schools she led and handled include being the Division Champion in Gulayan sa Paaralan, Best Implementer for Brigada Eskwela, Division Harvest of Excellence, Seal of Good Environmental Governance, Most Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Large School Elementary, Meralco Leadership Award, and Landbank Green Leadership Award. She also received recognition as Most Outstanding School Head.
The CSC’s Pagasa Award is conferred to an individual or group of individuals for outstanding contribution resulting from an idea or performance which directly benefit more than one department of the government. Awardees received a gold-gilded medallion expertly crafted by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, a plaque containing the citation and signature of the Chairperson of CSC, and a cash prize of P150,000.