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How I was Called to Serve the Mangyans

Posted: Mon, April 28, 2014 | By: Philippines

by Rosalina Melendres

Please allow me to share with you my humble beginnings. I come from a very poor family in Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro. We lived in a squatter’s area in Barangay Camilmil. There were ten (10) children in the family. My father worked as a security guard, and my mother sold fish in the market. My parents’s income was only enough for food.

Young as we were, we helped our parents. Plus we not only survived; we also went to school. I finished my elementary and secondary education through my parents support plus my own initiative of selling pastries and bread. To pursue my college education, I applied at the Divine Word College of Calapan, as a working student at the school’s canteen. Despite my too-skinny physical features, Mrs. Erlinda D. Caringal, the professor in-charge of the school’s canteen, accepted me and tried me as marketer, cook, dish washer, and cleaner from 6:00 o’clock in the morning until 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon. The rest of the time was devoted to studies until 8:00 o’clock in the evening, daily from Monday to Friday.

Sally (in pink shirt) assisting the Mangyans
Sally (in pink shirt) assisting the Mangyans

Throughout those years, Mrs. Caringal was very kind and supportive of my studies. So, I decided that I would share her kindness with others. After my college graduation I would be like her - a blessing to others, especially to poor but deserving students who wanted freedom from the bondage of illiteracy and extreme poverty.

In April 1982, I went from one house to another in my neighborhood calling for the attention of all mothers with kids aged 5, 6 and 7 to enroll their children in my “Education for All Program” with my house as the first school of 67 preschoolers. I was assisted then by my younger sister Divina and my niece Amy. We focused on the 4R’s: Reading, Writing, Arithmetic and Religion, the recitation of Nursery Rhymes and the Love of God.

After a year (1983) the number of students enrolled grew from 67 to 237. With this huge number of students enrolled we moved to Camilmil Elementary School. I was helped by eight friends who were also teachers by profession. The students came not only from Camilmil but from other neighboring barangays: Lumangbayan, Lalud, San Vicente South, East West and Central and from Barangay Tawiran.

In 1988, while on vocation promotion to Priesthood and Religious Life, I met a kindhearted Italian Priest who helped me buy a piece of land in Lalud for the establishment of my own school. Out of courage, determination and unshakeable faith in God the San Lorenzo Ruiz Academy of Calapan City - a school for indigent students of the province - came into existence in the year 1990.

A year later, the Alangan Mangyan elders from San Ignacio Banilad , Dulangan 3 Baco headed by Pinoy Oscado and Moises Calignayan, became aware that the school was giving free education for all. They appealed for Summer Education Classes for the Mangyans, with an emphasis on Reading Writing and Arithmetic.

The sincerity and seriousness of the intention could be seen on faces of the seven Alangan Mangyans Elders and their request was granted. Before summer classes ended in Banilad, the Mangyans requested further for a formal school in June of 1991. I said yes and together we put up a school out of kakawate logs as walls, nipa as roof and earth as floor.

From 1991 up to the present time I have kept on being with them, through thick and thin, voluntarily and out of genuine love for the children.


Sally Melendres is the director of the San Lorenzo Ruiz Academy in Mindoro, The Philippines, where she cares for the Alangyan Mangyan tribal indigenous people - “the poorest of the poor” in the archipelago. To assist Sally in helping the Mangyans, email her at


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