By SAMUEL TATOM
I'M NOT being boastful, but the title of this piece says it all: that our beloved LaPIMA has always been on the road … always on the go.
The camaraderie among our members - whether in Larap, overseas or elsewhere in the Philippines - could not be denied: We, the sons and daughters of Larap, are bound by one thing only - our inherent closeness that welled during the heyday of the iron mines.
Those who experienced the boom days in the late 40s, 50s, 60s could well feel what I am saying; those who came later may just as well sit tight and read, but they would understand why things happened to us – the early Larap children.
The key to our being close, I believe, were the "busing" days of Larap-based students -- from Larap to the Jose Panganiban High School in the morning, and back in the afternoon when we were homeward-bound.
Five days in a week, four weeks in month and ten months in a year -- we gathered together at one point in Larap every morning as we awaited the ALATCO bus that was to take us to our school in Parang, some five kilometers from our homes.
And as we journeyed on to our school, we sat close together in the bus, while we exchanged banters with one another, teasing one another and exposing someone's crush towards another; who got the highest grade in the day's exam and who got plastered for having cheated.
Little things like this piled up over the years, building the bricks of friendship and brotherhood right in our system - all being developed inside the bus, something that could never be demolished by any earthquake or tsunami.
At the end of the day when we finally left our Alma Mater to pursue further education elsewhere, the seats that we used to occupy in the bus had been taken over by our younger brothers and sisters who pursued education at JPNHS.
And the same story went on -- the building of friendship while riding together to our school.
The "busing" of the Larap youths to school during those days has become the superglue that has bound - and continues to bond - us today.
That's why we have the LaPIMa group because we can't just cast away those busing days from our system - and LaPIMa has served to be THAT BUS today - giving us a good ride towards helping our own.
That's why we have the "Taga-Larap Ako" Facebook group, that has drawn more than 800 members, and the number is growing.
It continues to be the chat airwave that the veterans of the "busing days" used to have while journeying home.
That's why when we, the LaPIMa, decided to graduate from being just a talkie group to being a helping group, all we had to do was tell our members what was needed to be done towards our fellow Larap neighbors.
The willingness to share - the way they shared their little stories while riding home together in a bus - has always been there, ready for the taking.
And that we did. We tapped - for help - many of our members, who willingly gave.
This is why to date we could claim modest successes in our "helping hand" project towards our own.
Over a period a period of seven years - from 2005 to this year - LaPIMa had financed six major projects at a cost of K151,000.
For instance, from we supported four students as scholars at the high school, and graduated, namely: 1) Mark Kevin Lozares (2008); 2) Kenneth Pandes (2009); Charlene Rosello (2010); and Janine Cuba (2011).
Ms Cuba is now studying a four-year- college accounting course at the Mabini Colleges, Daet, under a personal scholarship financial support of Elep-Tatom Family, through LaPIMa.
We have three more in the pipeline, who are to graduate one after the other starting 2014: 1) Maria Paula Alvarez (2nd year to graduate in 2014); 2) John Michael Mendoza (3rd year to graduate 2013); and 3) John Joven Flores (4th year to graduate in 2012).
The cost of such scholarship support is Php60,000.
We have an active Tesda vocational scholarship program, benefiting four students, namely 1) Aaron Kevin Escarcha - welding; 2) Reymark Secuya - welding; 3) Julius Ibasco - welding; and 4) John Joven Flores - automotive.
These four are expected to graduate this month from a four-month course that began last September at Tesda-Labo. The cost: K46,000.
We also extended financial assistance to the 10 families of our deceased members at a cost of K10,000.
When our members' families needed medical help, LaPIMa, as we say in Filipino, Hindi nagpa-wala.
We financed the medical attention for Mr Mike Kinnecker's wife who had a breast cancer treatment and that of Mrs Tita Gadi's son who had a by-pass heart operation. Total cost Php8,000.
Our piglet dispersal project as part of our livelihood scheme for our members had benefited a number of families at a cost of Php12,000.
We love fiesta, that's way LaPIMa extended funding to the holding of the yearly celebration of Larap's patron saint's day and that of Pag-Asa.
All in all to date, our association has spent Php151,000 to pursue these projects that we hoped would help change the lives of the beneficiaries.
Where did we get all this money?
Our members are aware of the noble projects that LaPIMa has been pursuing all these years.
It's something like "kantiyawan" in all sense of the word among our members.
Something that goes back to those days when innocent "kantiyawan" went on inside that ALATCO bus on our way to school and back, and the target of that "kantiyaw" had no other option but to say "yes... I will."
Today, it translates to "Yes ... I will help."
Well, folks, the busing goes on and we are on the road to success -- onboard LaPIMa.
(Editor’s note: The “busing” of the Larap students was one of the free services provided by the defunct Philippine Iron Mines Co to the children of its employees who studied at the JPHS during those days. The students were provided token bus tickets going to the school and going home. Under a special arrangement with the bus company ALATCO, the Larap students were picked up at a certain place in the morning and shuttled to Parang, J Panganiban some 5km away where the high school was located. This assured that the students came to school on time. The same arrangement was made when going home after classes in the afternoon.)