Begang National High School (BNHS) is a school that takes pride in the strength of its community. When a general community quarantine was declared across Isabela City due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the school was quick to organize volunteers and mobilize resources needed to extend relief to 1,200 students. 

The school principal, Dr. Arnel Hajan, donated a month’s worth of his salary while his co-teachers also donated a portion of their salaries. Friends of the principal also donated sacks of rice, which helped ensure that the school had more than enough to provide for the students and their families. Within a week, the school started its house-to-house delivery of relief goods on March 25.

Distribution was relatively easy with the help of teachers, alumni, and parents who took part in the relief operations as volunteers. On April 1, a meeting was held to evaluate ongoing efforts after relief packs were delivered to a number of student households.It was then that inspiration struck the team to “hit two birds with one stone,” according to Hajan.

“We thought, ‘what  if we conducted a house-to-house graduation while delivering relief packs?’ And then everything else followed from that single idea. We immediately thought of how social distancing guidelines can be observed and, although we weren’t able to immediately inform our local government unit about the graduation, we had already informed them previously about our relief efforts,” he said.

The Department of Education (DepEd) had previously announced that it would leave the decision to hold graduation rites up to schools, as long as they consult the parents of graduating students. In the case of BNHS, the parents were among volunteers who assisted in the school’s relief operations and were present in the meeting as the possibility of a house-to-house graduation was raised.

Things were quickly set in motion, and the school found itself ready to conduct the graduation on April 2 — less than a day later.

Pictures of the graduation quickly went viral, and DepEd expressed its support and described the school’s efforts as “positive news amidst this pandemic.” The Isabela City LGU echoed the same sentiment and congratulated the school personally by reaching out to Hajan.

“It was an emotional day, and was especially moving for our students and their parents. Some of them were so overwhelmed with joy that they ended up crying,” Hajan said.

It was faith that inspired everything, the principal also mentioned as he credits the idea to Allah’s rahmat, or mercy and compassion. “We were already anticipating the extension of the quarantine because of the pandemic, and we are thankful that the idea came to our minds and we were ready to follow through,” he added.

Hajan recognizes the importance of “thinking out of the box and being proactive in approaching challenges, while continuing to comply with government policies.” He also makes it a point to emphasize the importance of “leading by heart, because things that may initially seem difficult are made easier by leading with a heart that is willing to give.”

Lastly, he notes the need for what he calls the 5Ps. “Be positive, passionate, and persistent in pursuing goals, especially the goals we set with our children’s welfare in mind, and be patient and polite when faced with difficulties.”

BNHS continues its active involvement and participation in Isabela City’s COVID-19 response. Teachers and students recently volunteered to encode and consolidate information derived from social amelioration card forms as the local city government expedites the process of distributing cash assistance to its constituents. 

Photo taken from the Facebook Account of Mr. Arnel Hajan.