COBRADOR ISLAND, Romblon — The single-story school building in Barangay Cobrador houses the only children’s library on the island village in the capital town of Romblon in Romblon province.
It took school and government officials, however, more than three years to build a library so small (about 80 square meters) for Cobrador Elementary School.
First, they had to gather their main construction materials: used plastic bottles and discarded food wrappers.
Recycling plastic wastes is part of the municipality’s environmental protection program.
Cobrador, one of Romblon’s 31 villages, has only 58 households. The island is known for its long, white sand beaches, about half an hour’s ride by boat from the mainland.
Caesar Malaya, municipal tourism officer, said the library project was started under then Mayor Gerard Montojo in 2014. Construction was completed last year in time for the school opening.
“We initially collected the plastic (trash) around here, but it was still not enough so they had to bring in some more from the other islands,” one resident said.
Malaya said empty 1.5-liter soda bottles were collected and stuffed with plastic wrappers. The bottles were then piled, vertically and horizontally, in between metal frames before they were covered with concrete.
“That’s our problem. We didn’t actually count all the bottles collected. But this amount of trash fills up just one bottle,” Malaya said, gesturing to the size of a make-believe school desk.
The plastic-filled bottles replaced hollow blocks to form four walls and columns.
“We chose to do it first here so we wouldn’t have to bring plastic wastes out of the island anymore, but ended up soliciting plastic wastes from other villages to complete the project,” Malaya said.
Government employees like him were given a quota to fill up 10 bottles. So were teachers, parents and students.
“‘Mahuga’ (difficult),” Grade 4 student Martin Flaviano said in the vernacular, referring to the task of stuffing plastic wrappers inside bottles using wooden sticks.
Just last week, Romblon finished its waste analysis characterization system to determine the volume and type of solid wastes it produced, Malaya said.
The capital has a population of 45,000. Average garbage collection per day fills up two trucks.
Jeruel Fallaria, a school teacher, said having a library was important for the school, the only facility on the island, with 169 students from Kindergarten to Grade 6.
He also believed it was one of the safest and strongest facilities in the town.
“We plan to build more libraries like this in other villages,” Malaya said.
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