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A brighter life together

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Richel Morales, 33, shares that watching TV has become an afternoon bonding of their family. Her household is one of the 33 households in Brgy. San Vicente who benefitted from the Kalahi-CIDSS PAMANA electrification project.

As nightfall comes, the darkness triggers memories of a fearful past in Richelda Vargas’ mind.

A resident of the far-flung barangay of San Vicente in Buenavista town, Quezon Province, Richelda has stories of terror from the earlier insurgencies in their area.

“Noong 1980s na mahigpit pa ang panahon sa aming lugar, maraming dumadaan na ibang tao dito sa’min. Sa gabi, bigla na lang may magtatawag sa labas ng bahay, manghihingi ng makakain o maiinom. Palibhasa walang kuryente, hindi namin makilala kung sundalo ba o anumang tao. Nakakatakot. (In 1980s, when insurgency was at its height, strangers would constantly pass by our community. At night, people would knock at our doors and ask for food and drinks. Since we had no light, we could not see if they were soldiers or not. It’s very frightening.),” shared Richelda, 56.

Throughout the years, thankfully, incidence of insurgencies had eased up in the area. The fear, however, stayed because what came next were crimes committed at night, specifically in areas left without electricity.

Beverly Brazal, another resident, shared that her family was one of the victims of theft and murder.

“Walang kasama ang kapatid ko sa bahay nila dahil nakipanood ng TV ang mga anak niya sa ibang bahay. Pinagnakawan sila at napatay ang kapatid ko. (My sister was alone in their house because her children were watching TV in a neighboring house. Someone broke into their house, stole some things and killed my sister.),” lamented Beverly, 32.

With this plight of the residents, they know that they need to do something to feel secure again.

As a community, they led an electrification project last 2014 through the Kapit Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS), a community-driven program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

In the Kalahi-CIDSS implementation, residents are engaged in the development process of their communities by empowering them to implement projects that improve the delivery of basic social services in their area.

For conflict-affected barangays like San Vicente, the Kalahi-CIDSS also targets to bring back the peace in the community in partnership with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) through its PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn (PAMANA) project.

With the electrification project, the residents became certain that they will finally feel the security they are dreaming to have at the comforts of their homes.

Light of unity

Richelda was voted to lead the group of community volunteers that oversee the whole project implementation.

They underwent trainings on proposal development, financial management, construction estimates and project operation and maintenance to gain knowledge and skills in implementing their project. Richelda appreciated these capacity building activities especially that most of them did not finish school.

“Karamihan sa amin ay nasa bahay-bahay lang, nag-aalaga ng mga anak at naglilinis ng bahay. Dito, marami kaming natutunan sa pagsasagawa ng isang proyekto at nagkaroon kami ng kumpiyansa sa sarili. (Before, we only stayed at home and took care of our kids. All we did was clean the house. But now, we know how to implement a community project and have gained self-confidence throughout the process.),” Richelda proudly shared.

In April 2014, the residents have installed the 890 meters power line that includes electric posts, cables and a transformer. The project amounted to PhP664,200, which was funded by the Kalahi-CIDSS PAMANA and the town’s local government.

To distribute the electric supply to the residents’ houses, the barangay council made way to solicit electric meters from the municipal government. Starting December 2015, all the 33 households left without electric supply in the barangay had their electric power at home.

Brgy. Capt. Manolito Vargas is proud to have finally addressed this most pressing need in their community. What makes him even prouder is that the problem was resolved through the residents’ participation and unity.

“Maganda na komunidad ang nagsabi ng proyektong gagawin dahil nakita namin kung ano ang mas kailangan ng majority. At dahil desisyon ito ng lahat, nakisama at tumulong talaga sila sa implementasyon. (It’s good that the community was consulted on what project to implement because we learned the need of the majority of us. And since the project was decided by everyone, the residents actively participated in the implementation.),” shared Brgy. Capt. Vargas.

Light of hope

At night, the community is no longer filled with darkness and fear.

The houses now glimmer with white lights compared to the weak, yellow lights from the gas lamps they used before.

“Dati ay gumagastos kami ng PhP450 kada buwan para sa gasera. Pero ngayon, PhP300 na lang ang gastos namin sa kuryente. At hindi lang para sa ilaw ‘yun. Nagagamit din namin ang kuryente sa ibang bagay. (Before, we spent PhP450 monthly to buy gas for our lamps; but now, we only spend PhP300 for the electric bill. And we use the electricity not just for the lights but for other purposes as well.),” shared Richelda.

Some residents also have television sets at home for the leisure of the children and the whole family.

“Nakapag-provide ako ng maliit na TV para ‘di na kailangang dumayo pa sa ibang bahay na may kuryente ang mga anak ko. ‘Yung kasiyahan ng mga bata, utay-utay kong naibibigay. (I got a small TV so my children don’t need to go to the neighbors anymore. This made my children very happy.),” shared Brgy. Capt. Vargas.

With the electricity, the residents of Brgy. San Vicente feel that their village is now far from being the dangerous, fearful community it once was. As bright as the lights in their community are, their hopes of living with a peaceful mind becomes stronger and closer to reality.#

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