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Local politicians sponsoring scholars is nothing new but local politicians using their own salaries and then continuing to support scholars even after leaving office is. That’s what engineer, and former Talamban and Cebu City councilor Nestor Archival did, and still does.
At any given time, Archival supports 40 to 80 scholars with money from his pocket and from a family-owned corporation.
This is a practice that began in 1998, when he made a campaign promise that his salary as a barangay councilor in Talamban would support poor students. He was later elected to the Cebu City council and stayed in office from 2001 to 2010. While there, he spent his salary the same way.
Although tuition in public school is paid for by the government, putting children through school is still a burden in Cebu’s oldest and biggest barangay, where many are farmers and carpenters. Archival helps less fortunate students them by paying for bags, shoes, uniforms, as well as giving them a weekly allowance that usually means shelling out from P7,000 to P10,000 a week.
Archival does not believe in dole outs, though. His scholars have to attend classes at his Archival Eco-House during the weekends, where they are taught catechism, music, and care for the environment. Attending the classes earns students points. Students also get points for helping cook snacks for the other kids and helping keep the area clean. The more points they get, the more items and allowance they get.
“You have to work for it. If you want to just play around, that’s okay too, but you won’t get anything,” Archival tells Yahoo! Southeast Asia.
What the students earn the most points from—and is a requisite for staying in the program—is learning to read notes and play music.
“Music is the common language. It teaches them to be in harmony. It’s a way of uniting them,” Archival says. He explains it is easier to teach the value of working together through music because it is easy to notice when someone is out of tune or out of time.
Aside from teaching the kids to work together, it is also a way of teaching them spirituality, Archival shares. The children serve as the choir for the barangay’s Sunday mass.
Although many students dream of going to college, Archival advises his scholars to try vocational courses first, which he also helps pay for. It’s all about learning to work for yourself, he says. “You learn a skill first, and then find a job. And then, you can go to college and make something for yourself,” he says.
Archival also established the Archival Eco-House, a self-sustaining house built on simple principles like holes in the wall to allow air to circulate freely and lower air-conditioning costs. The house has become a tourist attraction and a regular destination for school field trips. This, and attention from foreign media, has helped drive tourism and business to the barangay.
With an average of 700 guests coming to the eco-house a week, Archival has had to collect an entrance fee of P25, which means slightly more revenue for the local government.
Although the eco-house is his home, Archival sees it as an extension of his advocacy to spread environmental awareness and sustainable living. He teaches vermi-composting and advocates eating raw food like fruits and vegetables, both of which he has also taught his scholars to do.
“We need to teach people that so their lives will be better,” Archival, who shifted to a more natural lifestyle when his relatives started dying of cancer.
By teaching his “adopted” children not just the value of work and harmony but of health as well, Archival hopes they will have better lives, and better values that they can pass on to their own children