Lamitan City special children participate in ARMM athletic meet
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Armand Asannang, 14, Herminia Gulam, 9, and the eight-year-old Reynalyn Avanzado are pupils of the still experimental Lamitan City School for Special Children.
The school, which has 28 pupils, is being operated as a joint project of Lamitan City Mayor Rose Furigay and the city’s public schools division under the Department of Education-ARMM.
None among the delegations from the ARMM provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan and from Marawi City brought special children to compete in various events in the March 6 to 10 regional meet in North Upi town.
The “Palarong ARMM” in North Upi, touted as the “summer capital” of Maguindanao province, involves some 2,000 athletes from across the autonomous region.
Teachers of Asannang, Gulam and Avanzado said school officials and their mayor decided to send the three of them to the ARMM athletic meet as an exposure experiment and to encourage other local government units to engage in projects for special children.
Facilitators and audience to Wednesday’s regional swimming event involving regular swimmers at a resort in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao, an hour away via land travel from North Upi, were amazed with the good attitude and talents of the three children, who spoke in sign language.
They thrust their clenched fists forward when asked if they knew who President Rodrigo Duterte is.
John Magno, regional secretary of DepEd-ARMM, said he admires the project of the local government unit (LGU) of Lamitan City for its constituent-special children.
Magno, an industrial psychologist, said he understands “how special a special child is” and acknowledges the importance of providing them the necessary interventions for them to become responsible and productive Filipinos.
Magno is personally overseeing the activities in the Palarong ARMM, launched last Monday afternoon.
Lamitan City is the capital of Basilan. Both have separate independent delegations to the regional athletic meet.
The LGU of Lamitan City is popular for its projects complementing the operations in its more than 40 barangays of ARMM’s health, social welfare, public works and education departments.
The office of Furigay, now in her second term as mayor of Lamitan City, even provides local Islamic missionaries with monthly stipends to help sustain their community peace-building initiatives in support of the Southern Mindanao peace process.
The Lamitan City LGU is a recipient of the 2016 Seal of Good Local Governance citation from the office of Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno in recognition of its efficient operation and domestic programs meant to politically empower its Muslim and Christian constituents.
Meanwhile, Magno and ARMM’s chief executive, Gov. Mujiv Hataman, on Wednesday separately expressed gratitude to North Upi Mayor Ramon Piang for his cordiality with the athletes and teachers now housed in school campuses in the hinterland town.
Public school teachers from Basilan and Marawi City told reporters they found North Upi clean and peaceful.
“The people in North Upi are friendly and the surroundings are clean,” said Liza Jimenez, an elementary teacher from Maluso town in Basilan.
North Upi, located in the first district of Maguindanao, is predominantly populated by non-Muslim ethnic Tedurays.
Piang, a former principal of a Catholic school in the municipality, is a Teduray “timuay,” a generic term for chieftain in most dialects of Mindanao’s indigenous non-Moro tribes.
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