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  • Writer's pictureKevin Balmer

Little White Kid in Mindanao

From 1978-1983, I attended JMS De La Salle school, near Bislig, in the province of Surigao del Sur, Philippines. One of two La Salle schools in the region, the school was heavily subsidized by the once massive lumber/pulp and paper production that dominated the local economy (PICOP). My father, Spencer Balmer, was hired into the company as a mill manager to help the Soriano's make their paper venture profitable. His tenure was initially only meant to be a six month contract. Alas, he ended up working in Mindanao for seven years. My brother and I lived with them in the Southern Philippines for five years and for our final two at Brent International School, in Baguio.

I recently returned to visit the school for the first time in 32 years in the fall of 2015. The old Forest Drive JMS De La Salle Learning Center has been closed for a couple decades now, but many of the old structures still eerily remain intact under the watchful eye of a caretaker. With the mill being closed since the late 1990's, the school was no longer able to support the local population. I'm not sure if there's such a thing as a time machine, but I can tell you this day sure felt like I was in one.

To date, I've rarely made films about my own life story. However, this journey down memory lane was an exceptional moment that begged for a video treatment. Thank you to my partner, Lana Wirges, for running the trusty GoPro. This was the first of a couple of little mini videos that I cut together upon returning to the States.

Kind thanks to our hosts Dennis Formarejo and his wife, Cres Ty for showing us around. It was a treat to be back in Forest Drive Village one more time.

Cres Ty, Dennis and Uriel - Off to Hagonoy Island

Thanks also to another old classmate, Jun Osano. Jun coordinated a lunch engagement with many of my former JMS teachers while Lana and I were camped out in Cebu for a couple of days. What an incredible meet up! Very few people get the chance to reconnect with 10 of their grade school teachers after three decades.

Read more on JMS and the sister school, John Bosco College (JBS), in Mangagoy, here:

Produced and Directed by Kevin Balmer Diggable Monkey Productions

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