edgar custodio finalOur breakfast starts at three in the morning with empty stomachs.

My family prefers taking their queue in what seems to be a stretch of vampires racing against time to fill our water containers. Being the head of the family, I also make sure that we are the first in line to fill-up our kiokmay (plastic water containers sold at Php15.00 each) with water gushing from the bamboo pipe called tubod our townsfolk in Barangay Sisimon have devised from a source in the mountains.

This may sound like a scene from your nightly dose of soap opera or from the award-winning film Pila Balde, but the real picture that gets me is these children who would have to rise from their beds and interrupt their excursion to fairyland in the wee hours of the morning in exchange of that scanty, crystal-clear water at the end of the bamboo pipe. The flow of water dwindles every hour and come eight in the morning, one sees the tubod with only the amount of teardrops in their eyes and the place is packed with famished women and children. Those who are in the last segments of the line usually find themselves returning back home walking through rugged terrains with empty gallons and an empty stomach.

Then again, not all clear water is clean water. As a liberty to further express a clichéd story as a diarrhea outbreak, little has been documented on how significant the mortality rate here especially in toddlers. This is because of the lack of safe water to drink. Our quiet town is hardly reached by the medical community and we don’t usually have the basic necessities of a decent village. We resort to fatalism – letting nature takes its course.

All families in this barangay share the same predicament as what our family is experiencing in a daily basis. One may find students coming late to class or even worse, where half of the class has not even bathed or brushed their teeth. When you come to think of it in a massive, Nazi-scale, a classroom would be enough to create a biological warfare to suffocate their teachers to death early in the morning.

 

Poor teachers. Poor kids.

 

Years have passed even to the point of counting every minute of it, things have changed now. Thanks to the poverty-alleviation program of the government through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), our barangay is now witnessing a new dawn.

Last July 7, the beneficiaries and volunteers of the project gathered in the municipality of Veruela to present their sub-project proposals for the Municipal Inter-Barangay Forum (a part of the Project Approval Stage of the Community Empowerment Activity Cycle that runs for three years utilized by the special project in eradicating poverty cycle in the country) where ranking and prioritization of the barangays who will enjoy the first year sub-project implementation took place. On the other hand, we reached a consensus that presentation must be done in the most creative possible way and this we did with flair. With no scripts in hand, our Barangay Project Preparation Team headed by Ms. Lilia A. Lomotos decided that we do a dramatization of the situation in our barangay. We placed fourth that day. Much to our surprise when news of our proposed Level II Water System reached our humble village, a lot of families asked to be volunteers for the sub-project and we obliged.

Still, we counted the days – anticipating the day when we will no longer be experiencing churning stomachs and blurred visions, where we will be drinking safe and potable water. On September 15, Sub-project Implementation started. The physical accomplishment as of now is at 61.40% and is targeted to be completed on January 8, 2011.

Aside from the fact that inhabitants of our little village of Sisimon, mostly Manobos, are empowered and steered to improve local governance, what makes us much prouder is the fact that even our neighboring villages bordering Caraga Region and Region XI would want to register in our barangay just to avail of the sub-project.

The villagers and I are very pleased and grateful to the DSWD for instilling in us that we can own such valuable and life-changing sub-project and that, we here in a far-flung area have a voice. We couldn’t thank DSWD enough for acknowledging us.

Indeed water spells life – to some it’s a form of business, a recreation, a healing agent. It breeds friendship between two villages all the more so in alleviating one’s economic status.

We cannot wait to run water in our tap stands and feel the water kiss our sun-dried skin and many a parched throats. ### (Social Marketing Unit)