Electricity in the Island
Barangay Lapinig is a small island barangay located west of the Municipality of Carlos P. Garcia in Bohol. It is comprised of 150 families that rely on fishing and farming as their main sources of livelihood. To get to the island, one has to take a 15-20 minute pumpboat (a motorized boat) ride to and from the mainland.
When the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) Project arrived in Bohol, the island barangay proposed an electrification project for their community, which totaled up to 4.6 million. Eventually, Barangay Lapinig was ranked first in project prioritization during the Municipal Inter-Barangay Forum (MIBF), out of the 23 barangays that were part of the Municipality of Carlos P. Garcia.
The joy felt by the barangay for being chosen didn’t last long. They ended up withdrawing their application the very next day because they felt they wouldn’t be able to shoulder the Local Cash Counterpart (LCC). Their project roughly cost 4.6 million, with the expenses reaching that amount because the electric wires would have to cut across nearly 4 kilometers of water to reach the island.
LCC is required for each project implementation, in part to encourage community ownership of the project. Because Kalahi-CIDSS beneficiaries are expected to cover 30% of the expense in cash or in kind, this meant that Barangay Lapinig had to provide a counterpart of around PhP 1.4 million, in cash or in kind.
Desederia H. Palapo, a 65-year-old woman who was an active Kalahi-CIDSS volunteer in 2004 and currently the Barangay Captain of Lapinig, said, “Mura mi ug nahugnoan sa kalibutan ug nakahilak gud mi pagpamauli namo kay dako kaayo ang ilang gipangayo sa amoa (Our world crashed down and we cried on our way back home because the money that we had to shoulder was too big.)”
It took an outsider to convince the residents of Barangay Lapinig to not give up just yet. Etchel-Pao Tonillon, the Kalahi-CIDSS community facilitator at that time, kept on going back to the island to convince the community not to lose hope, telling them that there were other ways to obtain funding for their project.
Encouraged by Tonillon’s words, Barangay Lapinig set out to find individuals and institutions that will be able to help them finance their project. The next four years saw the community presenting their project proposal to several funding agencies. They sent solicitation letters to everyone they could think of who could help out in their project implementation expenses, such as their relatives and friends working abroad, the natives of the island who moved out of Lapinig, businessmen, and legislators.
The residents of Barangay Lapinig also gave PhP100.00 per household for the project. Barangay officials, on the other hand, contributed PhP500.00. They even took things further by contributing their mid-year bonus to the project.
Even those who would eventually be hired for the construction and repair of the electricity lines got in on the act, proposing that their salaries be lowered by half in order to minimize costs. The Sangguniang Barangay responded by offering to provide free lunch for all the workers throughout the duration of the project.
The community revised their project proposal to reflect these changes, realigning their budget from the funds they have obtained and project materials they have gathered. Eventually, the project was prioritized in the third cycle. The implementation of the project started on October 2008 and was completed by January 2009.
February 18, 2009 marked the first time that Barangay Lapinig switched on the lights. That night saw the barangay beaming, both from the lights and from the happiness of the people who witnessed the electrification of their town with their own eyes. The celebratory air was infectious, so much so that the government officials and the donors of the project who attended the inauguration also became as festive as the residents.
“Dili makatulog ang mga tao atong gabhiona kay nalipay dili makatuo sa suga sige ipasiga ug palungon na pud (the community were so ecstatic and found it hard to sleep that night that they could not believe their eyes and kept on switching the lights on and off”, shared Jorammy Cadalim, an active community volunteer at that time who now serves as a full-pledged community facilitator in the municipality.
It might have taken five years before the project was completed, but for the people of Barangay Lapinig, the wait was worth it.
Lively Changes on the Island
Before electricity was introduced in the island, there was a small public elementary school in Barangay Lapinig, with three teachers on staff. During gloomy weather, it was practically impossible for the children to see what was written on the blackboard, let alone pay attention to the discussions. While the teachers tried to adapt to the situation by lighting candles, more often than not, they were forced to dismiss classes temporarily because of the difficulties encountered by their students, with the pupils being asked to come back once the weather clears.
After the introduction of electricity in Barangay Lapinig in 2009, student enrollment went up from 15 to 45 students per classroom. Academic performance of the students also improved as children became more interested in going to school because teachers could now employ alternative classroom teaching tools such as film showing and other forms of audio-visual educational activities. The school administration had to ask for three more teachers to accommodate the increase in number of students and is now looking at proposing for additional school buildings.
The livelihood of fisher folks also benefited from the advent of electricity in Barangay Lapinig. Unsold catch at the end of the day could now be placed in freezers and be sold the next day, allowing them to make more profits. Farmers have also added mat-weaving to their income-generating activities since they can now use fluorescent lamps at night so they can continue working.
Margarita Betos, a 66-year-old native of Barangay Lapinig, said “Mas daghan nami magama ug banig karon kaysa sauna na maundang ang paghimo sa banig kung wala nay hayag (We can make more weaved mats now compared to before when we had to stop our mat-weaving when it got too dark)”.
The Kalahi-CIDSS’s approach to development by training the community to be self-reliant and not depend solely on grants was vividly seen in Barangay Lapinig. Through capacity-building trainings, wherein the community is taught to analyze their situation and craft simple yet comprehensive project proposals, the community came to realize their potential to find solutions to their own predicaments. They identified prospective funders and created fund-generating strategies, including presenting the project to various individuals and organizations to generate additional funds to implement their project. They lso recognized the value of revisions when they had to rewrite their budget proposal, trimming down its total cost and replacing some items with viable alternatives such as community manpower and the use of indigenous materials instead of commercial products.
As Desederia shared, “Ang pamaagi nga magtabanganay ug magagikan ang ayuda sa komunidad mao ang nakuha namo sa Kalahi-CIDSS (the process of community building and empowerment of the people is what we gained from Kalahi-CIDSS)”.
From being covered by darkness, the island barangay can now be seen from the mainland on cloudless nights, its beautiful lights dancing and blinking at the distance.