The Philippine Star, Feb. 10, 2007

A different kind of surfing in Baler

The town of Baler is rich in history. Founded in 1609, it is birthplace of Manuel L. Quezon, president of the Philippine Commonwealth. In 1735, it was engulfed by a tsunami, and in 1899, Spanish resistance fighters made their last stand against American troops in Baler church.

Nowadays, the town is a popular surfing hub, known for its nine-foot high waves and 4.5-meter barrels in Cemento Reef, where the annual Aurora Surfing Cup is held.

Last December, a different kind of surfing began to take place in Baler, and students from Aurora's best public high schools were the first to make waves. Smart Communications Inc. launched the Smart Teacher Learning Resource Centers at Baler National High School and Aurora National Science High School.

Public high school students in Baler are now enjoying the marvels of information and communications technology (ICT). The capital town of Aurora province is about eight hours from Manila by land travel, accessible only through the Sierra Madre mountain range. But with ICT at their fingertips, in a matter of seconds, the students can now take a virtual tour to any part of the world.

"The Smart Schools Program brings Internet connectivity to public high schools and helps pave the way for ICT development in these schools," said Darwin Flores, Smart public affairs senior manager for community partnerships.

Networked computers and peripherals are installed in the chosen schools, along with one-year free Internet connectivity.

Through its flagship program, Smart hopes to uplift the standard of education in public high schools, particularly through the use of ICT in the basic education curriculum. The objective is to put teachers and students all over the country at par with their counterparts in other countries.

The Smart Schools Program improves the lives and promotes the educational welfare of teachers and students in over 100 schools through its three components: Internet Access, support for educational online Content and Training for teachers and stakeholders (ACT).

Teachers of Baler NHS and Aurora National Science HS undergo ICT skills training, enabling them to pass on the knowledge to their students. They can also access the Smart Schools Program website (, which offers online content that can be used for research and class presentations.

Aside from enabling teachers to exchange best practices with their colleagues, Smart Schools also hosts the websites of its partner schools.

As Flores said during the launch of the two centers, the Smart Schools Program is one of the ways through which Smart is giving back to the communities who have contributed to its success.

According to the Philippines Travel Guide website, surfing became popular in Baler, thanks to the film crew of Apocalypse Now. After shooting a surf scene for the movie at Baler's Charlie's Point, they left their surfboards behind, encouraging local folk to pick up the sport.

Through Smart Schools Program, Smart leaves the two schools of Baler with the capacity to surf along a much longer coastline - providing them access to the rest of the country and beyond.

The Smart Schools Program continues to grow with the support of the Department of Education and through its partnerships with the Philippine Business for Social Progress,, and Microsoft Phils.' Partners in Learning.

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