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Courage for Water

Seventy-two year-old Teodora Tan, known as Ka Doring, knew just how badly her community needed clean water. Residents in Barangay Matuyatuya in Torrijos, Marinduque had to pay PhP 35 for a drum of water, a price that the villagers who are steeped in poverty can ill afford. "Kagustuhan ko po talaga magkatubig ang barangay. Talaga pong mahirap iyon para sa aming mahihirap [It is really my desire for our village to have water. Paying the money is hard for us who are poor]", she said, with tears in her eyes.

As such, when Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) came to their village, she was one of the first who rushed to sign up to work for the project. "Naiyak ako nung nalaman kong na-approve iyong patubig project namin. Dali-dali akong nagpalista para tumulong [I cried when I found out that our water system project was approved. I hastened to be included in the list so I could help]", she recalled.

Courage, Doring!

"Sa tanda ko pong ito ngayon lang po ako nakarating sa barangay na ito sa kagustuhan ko lang po na magkatubig [In my old age, this was the first time that I reached that barangay because of my desire to bring water to our community]", she narrated. She described how excited she was on her first day of work. "Nung gabi bago nung araw ng trabaho, hindi po talaga ako nakatulog. Alas-tres ng madaling-araw gising na po ako. Alas-singko papunta na po ako ng bundok [On the night before the first day of work, I could not sleep. I was awake by 3 a.m. By 5 a.m., I was on my way to the mountain]."

Still, her enthusiasm about the project was not widely shared by some of her fellow villagers. Some even have told her that she could not do it. "Ang sabi nila kay Ka Doring, Anong alam niyang matanda na iyan? Katandaan na ni Ka Doring, parampa-rampa. Baka pa magkasakit. Masakit kasi parang minamaliit ako. Hindi naman po ako papasok diyan kung hindi ko alam [They told Ka Doring, What does that old woman know? She is so old, but she is still strutting around. She will just end up getting sick. It hurt because it felt like they were underestimating my abilities. I would not get involved in the project if I did not know what I would be getting into]", Ka Doring shared.

Even so, she was not prepared for the amount of work that she had to do, including shoveling and carrying rocks and sacks of sand and gravel, and that is not even counting the difficulty of having to trek up and down the mountain, where the water source is. It came to the point that she began doubting herself. "Matanda na ako. Kaya ko pa ba ito? [I am old already. Can I still do this?]" She continued, "Isang linggo po kaming nagbubuhat doon sa bundok. Sumasakit na tuhod ko, tapos nung lumipat kami sa kabila ay napakadulas. [We worked in the mountain for a week. My knees hurt, and when we moved to the other site, the path was really slippery]."

Still, her desire to give water to her community spurred her to continue working. "Ang inisip ko po talaga ay ang kapakanan ng bayan [What I really thought of was the well-being of our community]", she shared. In particular, she thought of her grandchildren, who stood to gain from the project. "Tama nga na matanda na ako, pawala na ako, pero paano iyong mga apo ko na puwedeng makinabang dito? Gusto ko pong masabi sa kanila na, Apo, nagtiis ako para magkaroon ka ng tubig [It is true that I am old and not long for this world, but what about my grandchildren who can benefit from the water system? I want to be able to tell them, Grandchild, I endured all of these difficulties so you can have water]."

She continued pushing herself, not heeding the aches and pains she collected while working. "Tatlong beses po ako nadulas, nalaglag, nahulog pagpunta doon sa project site, pero pinilit ko pa rin. 'Lakas ng loob, Doring, para sa tubig!' [I fell down three times on the way to the project site, but I still pushed myself to go through. 'Have courage, Doring, for the water!']"

Ka Doring enjoys the now easily available water in their barangay

Ka Doring's pep talks to herself allowed her to continue working for the project. She continued to remind herself what her town needed to drive her into doing what she could. "Hindi na po ako makabangon, pero lakas ng katawan, Doring, tubig ang kailangan. Sabi ko talaga lakas ng katawan ang kailangan para sa tubig [I could not rise already, but I told myself, 'Have strength, Doring, water is needed'. I really need strength in order to get water]." It reached the point that she was able to shrug off the pain in order to work for what she wanted. "Parang hindi po ako napagod kahit na hindi na ako makalakad [I did not feel tired even if I could not walk already]", she said, with a fulfilled look on her face.

Walang iwanan

Ka Doring's pep talks were not only for herself, but for her fellow volunteers, particularly the women. Even though she did not hold a leadership position in Kalahi-CIDSS, she rallied everyone to continue working. She brought enough snacks to the project site to feed everyone in the team, and she carried face towels so they could wipe off their sweat. She brought over-the-counter medications to give to the other volunteers in case they got sick. She even bought lollipops to give as treats to those who continued working in the project. "Iyong binibigay ko po iyong lollipop na tig-limang piso. Talagang nagtitipid po ako para makabigay sa kanila [The lollipops I gave them were worth PhP 5 each. I really saved my money so I could give something to them]". She added, laughing, "Ang mga tamad, walang lollipop [The lazy ones do not get lollipops]."

Those who lazed around in the work site were castigated by Ka Doring. "Nung naghahakot na kami, nakakita ako ng tatamad-tamad. Sabi ko, 'Huwag kayong tatamad-tamad. Dali-dalian natin para tayo makatapos at makinabang tayo sa tubig na inaasam-asam natin' [When we were already working, I saw some idle workers. I told them, 'Do not laze around. We need to work fast so we can finish quickly and get the water that we have long wanted']."

Her drive, passion, and enthusiasm for the project made her a source of inspiration and encouragement for the other volunteers, particularly for the women. "Si Ka Doring ang aming boses [Ka Doring is our voice]", said Nora Gamboa, 43, a member of the Kalahi-CIDSS procurement team for Matuyatuya who also engaged in paid labor in the water system sub-project. "Kahit itong matandang ito nadudulas na, kaya pa rin. Kaya kahit kaming babae mabibigat ang nasulong na bato, minsan nagtutulong-tulong kami [Even if she is old and slips several times, she still continued working. That is why we women worked together to get the job done even if the rocks we needed to carry were heavy], Nora said, sharing that they got this from Ka Doring's mantra, "Walang iwanan [No one left behind]."

Ka Doring explained, "Paano kung wala sa kanila ang pumasok? Kaya sabi ko walang iwanan. Kahit na anong mangyari, ipagpatuloy natin ang gawain natin [What if no one went to work on the project? That is why I said no one should be left behind. No matter what happens, we should continue doing our job]." This inspired her fellow women volunteers to give the same amount of passion and dedication in their tasks. They even provided ways to make Ka Doring's work easier, by allowing her to go home earlier than they so she did not have to go down the mountain in the dark.

Ka Doring's reasoning for inspiring women is simple: "Sa akin po kung ano kaya ng lalaki, kaya rin ng babae, basta pangatawanan [For me, what men can do, women can too, as long as they stand by what they are doing]." She continued, saying, "Ang masasabi ko lang sa mga gustong tumulong, subukan lang nila. Tingnan niyo nga ako, matanda na, pero nakaya ko pa [All I can say is that those who want to work should try it. Look at me, I am old, but I was able to do it]."