Museo Bayanihan, an offline-online participatory museum for disaster education
Guiuan National High School and Cagdara-o Elementary School in Guiuan, Eastern Samar
Maria Victoria Almazan (Team Lead); Elias Jayson Tolentino (Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability, and Learning Officer); Mar Rios (Administrative Officer/Creative Specialist) Janus Galla (Community Engagement Officer)
A participatory museum for disaster education, which comes in online and offline digital formats, as well as a physical storybook. It is primarily intended for but is not exclusive to the use of students, to educate them on a more personal basis on past responses and practices of disaster survivors. The project’s immediate goal is to engage learning from contextualized stories of resilience, and to create a communal pool of learning which grows through interaction.
The team envisions a community that harnesses their strengths through contextualized disaster education for sharing to other communities at risk.
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Museo Bayanihan acknowledges the full support of the Department of Education Eastern Samar. The team is looking forward to partner with other public and private schools across the country.
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We saw that there was a lack of learning materials in the field of disaster risk reduction, because it’s just been introduced into the K to 12 curriculum. When we looked at what materials were available, they were more technical science concepts. So we saw the gap, and the opportunity to discuss values and indigenous knowledge or local practices which could help people prepare for disasters.
It’s important and helpful for us, especially for younger children, to read these stories and learn these lessons because they don’t just prepare us for disasters but also for our lives here at school.
Museo Bayanihan is a participatory museum for disaster education, which comes in online and offline digital formats, as well as a physical storybook. It is primarily intended for but is not exclusive to the use of students, to educate them on a more personal basis on past responses and practices of disaster survivors. The project’s immediate goal is to engage learning from contextualized stories of resilience, and to create a communal pool of learning which grows through interaction.
The municipality of Guiuan in Eastern Samar has rich roots in colonial history. It plays home to one of the oldest churches in the country, by virtue of Magellan’s first landing site being part of the municipality, and is under consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its current airport is the remains of an airstrip that was initially of service to Allied forces in the Second World War, when the town also became one of the largest Naval bases the Alliance had in the East.
Today, Guiuan plays host to 60 barangays. Its last recorded population by the Philippine Statistics Authority in 2015 has them at 52,991 people, with a population density of 270 people per square kilometer. Seeing all its current structures, no one would guess that nearly 6 years ago, Guiuan would be called “a terrifying wasteland” on national news just after the onset of Yolanda. But it was through this coastal town that the super typhoon rolled in, winds at the speed of 315 kilometers per hour, before crushing neighboring provinces and towns. It effectively turned the town into the wild west, where looting ensued in one of the last standing warehouses, and those who had access to weapons held people at gunpoint for rice.
Over in Barangay Cogon stands Guiuan National High School, where Gerardo Dadulla, a Guiuan native and teacher of Information and Computer Technology recounts his experience during super typhoon Yolanda. “It felt like there was no more hope. There damage was great, to the point that you couldn’t see any buildings. We had no idea if we would ever go back to work because there was no structure to go into. There was nowhere to log into. There was no electricity, no food. My child was a year old, and there was no milk for my baby,” says Dadulla. He says the relief operations that unloaded goods onto the island would have empty planes on their return to Manila. His wife and child hitched a ride and stayed with family in Manila, where access to nourishment wasn’t a problem, and Dadulla stayed behind to secure his job. The school administration went to Tacloban (which Dadulla said still smelled of death) to buy a generator, and with one of the computers they were able to save from floodwater, re-established their payroll. “It’s so much harder when you have a small child and you have no roof and nothing to feed them. When you’re older and bigger, you can find ways to survive.”
Dadulla says that after Yolanda, there was great concern as to how DRRM practices were discussed and taught to the youth. He says that despite many of those with personal experience during the onslaught of the super typhoon, DRRM resource materials that weren’t localized for Guiuan felt detached and the students’ interest was more difficult to engage.
In the field of risk communication, there is a rising need for merging scientific information with the creative output of arts and the humanities. Although social media seems to be the most logical avenue for information circulation and dispersal, it is often clogged with memes and celebrity tweets, as well as often subject to brief attention spans. Likewise, with the rapidly escalating occurrences of natural disasters in the country and with Guiuan being a particularly vulnerable location during these occurrences, there is immeasurable value in understanding how locals have reacted to and survived the onslaught of these disasters. The recording of Philippine disaster history has proven to be helpful in understanding the effects of natural disasters, as well as in crafting more localized solutions in times of limited access to resources. This is especially true with regards to communicating DRRM-related complications and possible solutions especially to children and young people, who are most vulnerable and at risk during times of disaster, and underscores the need for remarkably engaging, accessible, and relevant educational materials.
“We saw that there was a lack of learning materials in the field of disaster risk reduction, because it’s just been introduced into the K to 12 curriculum. When we looked at what materials were available, they were more technical science concepts. So we saw the gap, and the opportunity to discuss values and indigenous knowledge or local practices which could help people prepare for disasters,” says team leader Kel Almazan.
Museo Bayanihan is a participatory museum available in three formats: online, offline, and a physical storybook. It is meant for the use of students in the K to 12 system as well as those within the Alternative Learning System (ALS), primarily as an aid in DRRM instruction. It takes the experiences of a diverse range of community members in the area, highlights key lessons in the field of DRRM, and relays this information in the form of stories. “This started with the teachers and with the community. We had many discussions and conversations with multi-sectoral marginalized people, and that’s where all the stories came from,” says Almazan.
The stories value indigenous knowledge as much as it does modern technology, and imparts practical wisdom in extreme cases where relief has yet to arrive. (For instance, one of the stories talked about how families survived by consuming coconuts day and night for weeks, when food in the community was scarce. There are also stories of neighbors welcoming those without refuge and who have lost everything into their homes, sharing their limited resources.) The use of localized examples was a high priority for the Museo Bayanihan team, to establish a deeper connection between the students and the material. Where previous materials might have used examples of marketplaces in Manila and survivors from other provinces, this material contains stories from their neighbors, former teachers, and people they interact with regularly but whose rich experiences they have yet to hear of or understand. In this manner, lessons gear away from a stiff and didactic method of instruction and more towards something more relatable and eye opening. The stories are also told in a simple manner that allows students from every level to absorb and understand.
These stories and the subsequent lessons being discussed within the classroom setting are then divided into four sections: Kwentuhan or Storytelling, in relation to preserving local first-hand accounts regarding disaster; Kamalayan or Awareness; Kasanayan or Practice/Experience; and Kahandaan or Preparedness.
Of the various media utilized by the innovation, Almazan explains, “There’s no medium that’s more superior. The offline museum and storybook have the same effect; we’re just creating more avenues. The storybook an easier way to provide visual aides for every classroom to help students learn more about disasters, especially if it doesn’t come equipped with a TV, projector, or computer. The offline museums, which include video clips can be accessed through their computer labs in a more interactive manner.” She adds, “The teachers have said that the kids’ interest and excitement are piqued when they see the videos, because all the people behind the stories suddenly come to life.”
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT AND IMPACT
“To find the stories, we coordinated with the LGU, specifically Guiuan Resiliency and Sustainable Group for Recovery (GRSGR), which serves as the coordinating unit of all NGOs in the area,” Almazan says. The community members who shared their stories were heads of multiple marginalized sectors, such as farmers and fisherfolk. Museo Bayanihan approached them explaining where their stories would end up and that it would be for the benefit of students and future generations. This then created a safe space, with full awareness and consent among the subjects of the stories.
“In the beginning, our lone goal was to put up the online museum, until we realized that the Internet connection in Guiuan is not that reliable.” It was then that they decided to develop a digital version that would be accessible offline, and a storybook. For both the offline and online materials, teachers were involved in testing the material, giving their feedback for the refinement of the project.
The first prototype of the storybook was a sketchpad on which Almazan and her team had a basic layout pointing out where titles and text would go, for the teachers to give their feedback on. They then developed a firmer prototype that included the actual stories and artwork. Once that was finalized and everyone was in agreement with regards to layout and content, the teachers then requested to have the pages of the storybook laminated, to better withstand wear and tear.
For those who shared their stories, Almazan explains that the process was transformative and gave them the opportunity to own their experiences, allowing them to go from survivors to agents of change. This local knowledge imparted by people who have literally been in the eye of the storm highlights an important fact that preparedness and recovery already exists culturally, before external help was ever available.
Grade 10 student Amanda says that the stories she read made an immediate impact on her. “It’s important and helpful for us, especially for younger children, to read these stories and learn these lessons because they don’t just prepare us for disasters but also for our lives here at school. Many of the lessons can be related to Math or Science or other subjects,” she says. “I think it’s fun and different, and because the lessons are contextualized for our understanding, there’s less of a chance that students will be bored. Museo Bayanihan talks about things that happened in our streets and to people we know, which excites us students and makes the lessons very interesting.”
Dadulla adds, “As a computer teacher, I don’t just teach the subject as is. I always try to relate it to real life and practical application. Even if you know how something works, if you don’t use it practically, it has no purpose. So I teach my students things like conserving their battery power when low pressure areas form around here, so they’re never at a disadvantage when disaster strikes.” It is in this vein that he immensely appreciates the lessons being shared by Museo Bayanihan and the manner in which it is being done, of which he says, “It shares the idea that you can do a number of things and do whatever you have to do so that you don’t have to experience that hardship in disasters ever again. It showed this in different ways, but the lesson is essentially the same.”
Museo Bayanihan initially received support from the Borongan division of the Department of Education, wherein DepEd assisted in conducting teachers’ training as resource persons, oversaw pilot testing of the contextualized learning modules, and supported the idea of continuous updating of the project by its end users. The quality assurance unit of this division has yet to review all developed materials. Once approved, Museo Bayanihan may be included in the DepEd portal, to be accessed by other educators and institutions around the country as a standard in tools for disaster education.
Museo Bayanihan is also in the process of obtaining Intellectual Property Rights and copyrights for all its offline material, which will then be turned over for the use and ownership of Guiuan National High School.