PILAR, Siargao Island – Since late last year, many residents in the village of Mabuhay would wake up as early as 2 a.m. to queue up and beat others to the only water pump station serving their community of 144 households.
The onslaught of the Super Typhoon Rai (local name Odette) last December 16, 2021, disrupted the community’s water supply. The typhoon toppled power lines leaving the community without electricity which powers the submersible pump that provides water to the households.
In the last ten years, about 97 percent of the households in the village have enjoyed abundant water resources in the comfort of their homes. This is due to the Level 3 water system installed by the Kalahi-CIDSS program, otherwise known as the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services, a poverty alleviation program of the national government implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
For almost a month after Odette inflicted massive damage on the island, the villagers suffered the agony of lining up from dawn to dusk to fetch pails of water from the hand water pump to quench their thirst and for their hygiene needs.
“Sometimes, the hand water pump would trigger quarrels among residents, especially when somebody wants to get ahead of the line. The queue will start as early as 2 a.m.,” Village Chairperson Manny Delgado recalls.
Following the onslaught of Odette, Engr. Mark Alain Punzalan, the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Specialist deployed by Oxfam Pilipinas to the island, assessed the damages incurred by the village from the super typhoon.
Delgado initially told Punzalan that they don’t expect much from humanitarian groups since almost all villages on the island also need assistance to recover from the havoc wreaked by the typhoon.
A month later, Oxfam Pilipinas and Sentro Para sa Ikauunlad ng Katutubong Agham at Teknolohiya Inc. (SIKAT), team returned to inform Delgado that they would provide a generator set to power up the submersible water pump of the community.
“When we brought in the generator set, we were surprised because there’s a festive community mood. They even prepared simple food for the team out of sheer gratitude,” Punzalan recalls.
Barangay Mabuhay received a 6,500-watt generator set worth P62,000 from funds donated to Oxfam.
“We’re delighted that we’re chosen as one of the beneficiaries of the generator set. This is a huge help to us since water flowed again directly to the houses. The elderly, women, and children will no longer have to queue at the hand water pump station,” the Village Chief stresses.
According to him, fetching water in a long line is counterproductive because it consumes time otherwise spent on other activities.
Delgado noted that the generator set will still be useful to them even if the electricity is restored in their village. “If there is a brownout, the generator set can still be used to light up the entire village,” he added.
Delgado assured that the community will take good care of the generator set and will generally use it as a power backup for their water system in case of an unexpected electricity outage.
The village’s water system is made up of a submersible pump that siphons water towards the three elevated water tanks with a combined capacity of 9,000 liters. The pump connects to water lines of different households, which pay monthly dues, depending on their consumption, to the association run by the villagers.
Delgado stressed that the lack of water supply is a significant threat to human health, referring to risks of hydration and hygiene problems for residents.
“Water is important. Water is life,” Senior Citizen Loreta Tesiorna points out.
The 62-year-old, who is in charge of taking care of the village’s water system, cited how challenging it was to live without water.
“It is inconvenient without water flowing directly to your home. You have to fetch water at the hand water pump or a well. For us senior citizens, fetching water is difficult and dangerous – either we slip, or the weight will break our back,” she says.
Delgado said that they are working to improve the water system, including replacing line connections and the rusting water submeter devices of the households.