top of page


In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the largest storms in the planet's history, took away homes, ripped open classrooms, downed trees, and razed rice fields, leaving families stunned and without income. 

When we met Mangoso, it was ravaged.








Mangoso, Sigma, Capiz, Philippines

Mangoso was so determined to rebuild, they wanted to pay double what others pay for the ARK Lunch in the first year! 

The ARK Lunch is paid for by parents, and catalyzed by ARK. Parents pay 20% in year 1, 50% in year 2, 80% in year 3 and 100% thereafter.


In the first year, Mangoso increased attendance, wiped out hunger, and brought back the parents in school and in full force. The community's incredible results inspired ARK and its partners to rebuild its classrooms.




(down from 30%)




But their spirit was strong and they had a new, fearless leader. 

Ma'am Merlie was assigned to replace Mangoso's retiring school head. Haiyan just made more difficult the challenges on hand - unengaged parents, low attendance, high malnutrition, and as every parent, teacher and grounds keeper lamented - no access to water. Everyone had to bring water to school for drinking and cooking.  


The situation did not scare Ma'am Merlie. She is from the village of Mangoso. She is one of seven children. Her parents worked for other people's farms and, like many farmers in the Philippines, struggled. Despite many challenges, Ma'am Merlie went to college and completed a doctoral degree. She is positive, high energy, has the courage to dream and is determined to find a way to lead her community to success. 

In February 2014, Ma'am Merlie travelled 2 hours away to meet with ARK. Before March, she inspired the parents and teachers to start a garden. By April, she organized a meeting between ARK and the community.

Merlie Rubio

But Mangoso would not have this,

and executed an incredible coup! 

At this point, Mangoso students were loving vegetables and looked forward to their daily ARK Lunch. Their parents were saving money and donating a lot to the program. On the build side, each parent and teacher invested a meaningful amount. They also signed up for volunteer work while Mangoso's barangay gave funds.

On their own, Mangoso parents paid for an ad - a large tarpaulin that they hung outside the school. On this, they shared with the DepED their heart, their dream and their strong desire to have Sir Joebel lead them to accomplish this.

What Mangoso did was badass.

It was the first time anyone saw this bold self-determination and voice. What Mangoso did was amazing, especially in an environment where votes are bought, hierarchy rules, and the DepED fosters the staunchest top down bureaucracy.

In a few weeks, the DepED made a decision and kept Sir Joebel in Mangoso. Although the process felt like a roller coaster, it turned out to be a blessing. It reminded and reinforced to everyone that if we are united and determined, we will overcome any challenge.

A set of events threatened Mangoso's shared dream:

to build innovative classrooms that catch water, inspire the community to venture and send all their kids to college. 

A promotion. Ma'am Merlie's work with ARK at Mangoso gave her more visibility. As the school preps for the 2nd year of the ARK Lunch and the classroom build, Ma'am Merlie was promoted to lead Filipino language instruction for the entire province! 


The teachers, parents, barangay council and ARK were so proud. But we all were also worried. Who is going to take over? Will she support Mangoso’s DREAMS? Will she foster a close relationship with the parents and barangay? Will she partner with ARK?

A search. Ma'am Merlie and District Supervisor Ma'am Ucag wanted a new school head who has integrity and can lead Mangoso to build their dream classrooms. Sir Joebel became the top candidate.


Sir Joebel is from a village east of Mangoso. He has been a teacher for over 15 years. He is honest, hard working, deeply cares for his fellow teachers, and wants the very best for his students. Championing Sir Joebel was not so simple, as the Department of Education (DepED) is known to be bureaucratic. 


Sir Joebel was assigned to the school. Reserved but steely, he led the classroom build by searching for our partner contractor, engineer and material suppliers.

A nationwide shuffle. In the middle of this, the DepED called for a nationwide shuffle of all school heads. This mandate, which aims to infuse new energy and ideas in each school, would also capture Sir Joebel.  

Three classrooms for upper level students. Integrated water catchment and filtration system. Built by hand by the parents and community. Designed by Scale Studio and Elemental Interiors. Funded by ARK and Global Playground.

They are the first to graduate from

the three-year self-sustaining ARK Lunch.

In June 2017, the start of its 4th year relationship with ARK, Mangoso parents made history. They are excited to fund the ARK Lunch all by themselves. The classroom build is complete. The teachers continue to be active stewards. The barangay continue to invest.

It is not over. Mangoso is beginning a new chapter on its path to self determination, securing their food and their kids’ future. With ARK, Mangoso plans to offer high school scholarships. With Parktivity, to build a playground. With Global Playground, to foster cross-cultural learning.


It is not simple. Everyone is learning something new. Will the parents deliver on their commitment? Will the teachers cede control and focus on new projects? Will they be able to create savings for the scholarship program? Will someone come forward to lead? 

bottom of page