There are many reasons to go to Donsol, Sorsogon. You can interact with the whale sharks when it is in season. You can also go to be awed by the fireflies in one of its evening river cruises. If you love reading, you can also go and visit San Jose Elementary School in Barangay San Jose and meet Teacher Ryan Homan, a reading innovator.
I am an avid reader myself and being one, I love visiting bookstores, especially when I am abroad, and reposting pictures of libraries from across the globe. I always tag them as a bucket list.
But, never have I imagined that a reading center in a nondescript far-flung barangay would amaze me as much Beast’s library in Beauty and the Beast.
Meeting Teacher Ryan
I didn’t actually google reading destinations, spotted San Jose Elementary School, and then booked a flight to Legaspi City. It was a work assignment.
I was tasked to interview teachers from different parts of the country by one of my clients, Bato Balani Foundation. It is part of the process for choosing the honorees of The Many Faces of the Teachers, an advocacy campaign that recognizes remarkable teachers whose spirit of excellence and compassion made an impact in their communities and students’ lives.
Teacher Ryan was the last on my list, and I had already gone around the country interviewing teachers from Manila, Olongapo, Laguna, Leyte, and Zamboanga Sibugay.
I was told that before his interventions, San Jose Elementary in Barangay San Jose had 28 non-readers and numerous slow readers. Students were frequently absent because of the weather, when they need to help their parents during harvest season, and because of the distance of the school from the students’ houses. Teachers were mostly reporting only three to four days a week.
These changed when Teacher Ryan decided to return to his hometown. It was not easy, though. He had unconventional methods.
Journey to San Jose
We flew from Manila to Legaspi then stayed overnight at Nirvana Resort, one of the best places to stay in Donsol because it has an overlooking view of the sea and the nearby barangays.
We were lucky because the owners of the resort are familiar with Barangay San Jose and they helped us arranged for our habal-habal ride. From the resort, it was still about an hour of land travel.
It was an interesting back ride on the habal-habal because we got to see more of Donsol’s countryside. During my previous visit to Donsol, it was mostly the hotel and the tourist spots. My excitement peaked when we got to our jump-off point, which is one of town’s lesser known rivers, but equally enchanting.