Aklan’s Most Beautiful School:
Balete Elementary School
by Nyl L. Gallardez (MT-1, BES)
The history of Balete Elementary School (BES) dates back to the “Escuelahan it Hari” and the use of the cartilla method as the mode of instruction for education. Based on well-researched documents now stored at the Philippine National Archives, it could be concluded that churches, covenants, and chimes found in Balete are similar to the ones discovered in the University of Michigan, U.S.A., known as relics from the mid-1800.
In 1904, the Americans led by Governor Francis Burton Harrison approved a decree that merged Balete to Jimeno (now Altavas) and Batan to Lagatic (now New Washignton). Among the first laws enacted by the Philippine Assembly was the Gabaldon Act which mandated to build a two-room school building that Balete was lucky to acquire. Combination of Grades 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 classrooms were offered in Balete while Grades 5, 6, and 7 were to be continued by the students in Batan. Baleten-ons have to pass Himbis riding a banca and cross to Batan from Bay-ang only to finish their elementary education.
The late Governor Miguel Gervacio of Altavas attested that he taught in BES since 1935 at a school site donated by Tan JuanchoOquendo, presently the site of the town hall. In effect, BES was transferred to the former location of the municipal cemetery in 1939. The school is now situated in a hill in the northern part of the town proper and popularly known as “Uphill” to the locals. Balete trees used to grow luxuriantly in the area but were deforested to allot more space for the expansion of the school.
Currently, BES has a land area of 1,528 square meters with 43 rooms, 38 regular teachers, and two municipal school board personnel. The school has a total of 1,089 pupils enrolled from Kindergarten to Grade 6 for this S.Y. 2015-2016.
The remarkable milestone in the history of BES took place when Dr. Jesse M. Gomez, CESO V, the Schools Division Superintendent of the Division of Aklan, launched the Search for the Most Beautiful School Season 1 in 2012. BES was one of the schools that participated in the contest. Through the leadership of Principal Julio R. Gallardez Jr., the school underwent a complete overhaul. The efforts of the BES teaching staff did not go to waste as their dream of becoming the Most Beautiful School in the province of Aklan came true.
The win for the title is attributed to the extreme cooperation of the teachers, parents, students, and teachers association (PTA), and the relentless support of the municipal and barangay officials spearheaded by the municipal mayor, Hon. Teodoro V. Calizo Jr., and the loyal BES alumni. The victory is a joint effort of everyone who has a big heart for BES. The new landscape and decorations of the school is constantly renovated to preserve the beauty of the school amidst calamities.
Rehabilitations and repairs are done as well as streamlining of the parks and some structures inside the school to sustain its elegance as preparation for its second-time entry in the Search for the Most Beautiful School Season 2. BES hopes to snatch the prestigious title back-to-back. /MP