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Home » ALTEC Events » The Leap into Digital Empowerment in La Libertad

The Leap into Digital Empowerment in La Libertad

Some time ago in the streets of La Libertad, Zamboanga del Norte, a friend invited 12th Grader Geramie Montecalbo to play games at a computer shop. Having been raised in the rural areas of Zamboanga del Norte with little to no internet access, Geramie was shocked when her computer unit lit up after her friend inserted coins into the coin slot under her keyboard. Her friend began clicking buttons and pressing keys, much to Geramie’s confusion. Curious and in an attempt to not embarrass herself, Geramie asked her friend several questions on how each part of the computer worked before they actually got to play computer games together.

Later on at school, Geramie had to use a computer for a hands-on activity during class. Not knowing what to do, she had to seek out her teacher at the office to ask her how to switch on her unit. 

“That time, first time ko ‘yun. Jesus’ name, hindi ko talaga alam! So bumalik ako sa office, tinanong ko si Ma’am na ‘Ma’am, paano ‘yung i-on ang computer?’ Sabi ni Ma’am, ‘I-on mo lang ‘yung sa likod.’ (…) ‘Di ko talaga alam, ‘yun na nga kasi taga bundok ako. (…) ‘Yung plug in sa outlet lang talaga ang alam ko. Jesus’ name, may switch pala sa likod ng computer.”

(“That time was my first time. In Jesus’ name, I didn’t know what to do! So I went back to the office and asked Ma’am, ‘Ma’am, how do I turn on the computer?’ Ma’am answered, ‘Just turn it on from the back.’ (…) I didn’t know, because I live in the mountains. (…) All I knew was how to plug things into an outlet. In Jesus’ name, there was a switch behind the computer after all.”)

Geramie shared that it was an embarrassing experience for her. She even confided this sentiment to her teacher, who then taught her how to properly turn a computer on.

“‘Pag gagamit ako ng computer tapos hindi ko alam, mas lalo akong mapapahiya. Kaya ang ginawa ko, panay tanong ako sa mga kasamahan ko about doon sa computer.”

(“If I used a computer with no idea how, it would be more embarrassing for me. So what I did was ask lots of questions to my companions about computers.”)

So when La Libertad Local Youth Development Officer Lizlie Joy Manlupig began looking for willing participants to join FIRST LEaP (Fostering ICT-related Skills through LEaP), SUGPAT’s digital literacy and empowerment program, Geramie immediately joined without any inhibitions.

“Sobra akong nagpapasalamat kay Ma’am Joy dahil siya nag-offer sa akin. (…) Walang akong pag aalinlangnan na sumali sa inyong programa.”

(“I am very grateful to Ma’am Joy because she was the one who offered it to me. (…) I had no doubts about joining your program.”)

It was through FIRST LEaP that Geramie finally learned the basics of operating a computer unit and more. With the skills gleaned from the program, she now feels more confident doing her school work, and even goes as far as volunteering to do computer-related tasks in class. 

“Hindi na ako nahihiya kasi hindi na ako ignorante about computer. ‘Pag kaharap ko na ito, alam ko na ‘yung mga function. Alam ko na paano gawin.”

(“I’m no longer ashamed because I am no longer ignorant about computers. When it’s in front of me, I know about all its functions. I now know how to operate it.”)

When asked about what her favorite part of the session was, Geramie shared that she enjoyed learning about what a CPU is. She explained that back then, to her it was simply a big black box that lit up. She even recalls the moment when a teacher once asked her to pass her a stack of bond paper laying on top of a CPU. Having no idea what a CPU was at that time, she had to ask the teacher several questions before finally locating the papers her teacher was asking for. “Napahiya talaga ako kasi paulit-ulit talaga ako. So dahil sa inyong programa nalaman ko ‘yung CPU, at hindi na ako nahihiya sa tuwing inuutusan ako.” (“I was really ashamed because I kept asking and repeating questions. So it’s because of your program I learned what a CPU was, and I no longer get embarrassed when there is a task asked of me.”

Geramie also stressed the importance of digital literacy in today’s day and age especially when applying for work. 

“Sobrang importante matuto sa computer kasi nga ‘pag mag apply ka ng trabaho, ‘pag papasok ka sa trabaho, ano’ng gagawin mo kung wala kang alam about computer? ‘Pag sabihin ni manager na mag-encode ka gamit ang computer, paano mo naman gagamitin kung wala kang alam? Kung isa ka naman sa walang alam, ‘di mo rin magagawa ang trabaho mo. Edi wala, wala ka nang mapapala.”

(“It’s so important to learn about computers because when the time comes to apply for work, when you enter the workforce, what are you going to do when you know nothing? If your manager asks you to encode something on a computer, how will you use it when you don’t know how to operate it? If you are one of those who don’t know, you won’t be able to do your job. So then you’re left with nothing, you will gain nothing.”) 

Geramie now feels more confident as she prepares for college. She even expressed excitement at the possibility of learning more about computers by then. 

With her future ahead of her, Geramie is now ready to take it on in stride, but not without considering other students who are like her — living in areas with scarce computer and internet access. She wishes for the program to continue on, in hopes that it reaches those who need it the most. 

“Ipagpatuloy ‘niyo lang talaga kasi mas marami pa kayong matutulungan na mga estudyante na mga malalayo na kagaya ko, na malayo sa internet access. ‘Yung mga tipong ‘di talaga alam kung ano ang computer.” 

(“Continue the program because there are more students you could help who live far away like myself, those who are far from internet access. The type who don’t know what a computer is.”)

Learning the basics of how to operate a computer is the first and biggest leap towards computer literacy. Equipped with these new skills, Geramie is now capable of discovering new ICT-related concepts and is deemed ready to tackle advanced topics in digital literacy training. For now, she remains open to learning more as she navigates endless possibilities in the digital world. 

 “Hanggang sa paglaki ko, ‘yung learning na natutunan ko sa inyong programa ay mananatili sa aking isipan.” Geramie vows.

(“Until I grow up, the things I learned from your program will remain in my mind.”)