representatives, which act as the Seacology's ambassadors
in some of the most remote islands of the world, are an extremely
important part of what makes our work so effective. Ferdie Marcelo, who
represents Seacology in the Philippines, maintains a lively blog about his adventures.
His latest post (below) describes one of Seacology's newest projects--providing
a small community called Sitio Lubo with a micro-hydro power generator in
support of the protection of 6,178 acres of watershed forest. But this
post only scratches the surface of Ferdie's amazing experiences working with
Seacology. Be sure to check out Ferdie's other blog posts on his website.
Sitio Lubo is at a cusp. Economic activity is on the upswing, but infrastructure support is not keeping up. Farms are yielding sacks and sacks of corn and peanuts, but the far upland community is not being served by the power grid running through the Municipality of Lake Sebu, water is tapped from the many waterfalls through makeshift flexible hoses, and the roads are so bad that mud is 3 to 4 feet deep in many sections. On one hand, coal mining companies have offered to fix the roads, provide electricity and even scholarship programs, in exchange for rights to extract coal from the area. On the other, Seacology
and its partners, Yamog
, and AMORE
have offered to provide renewable energy through micro-hydro power in exchange for the community's commitment to protect their watershed. The community chose renewable energy.
Barangay Ned is the biggest barangay in the Municipality of Lake Sebu.
With a total area of 21,246.27 hectares, it is likely also the biggest barangay in Mindanao, if not the whole country, in terms of land area. Sitio Lubo, one of some 30 sitios in Barangay Ned, has a total area of 7,345 hectares, 2,500 hectares of which is part of the Kabulnan Watershed Forest Reserve. The climate is cool, a consequence of the 900 meter average elevation.
We arrived in the village on September 10, 2010 at about 3:30 pm after an hour and a half ride on a pick-up truck, which took us from the General Santos City airport to the Municipality of Sto. Nino, and another 4-hour ride on a motorcycle up the southern Tiruray Highlands after a quick early lunch. We were supposed to have met with the community leaders at about 5:00 pm, but the meeting was preempted by an unscheduled PTA assembly at the Lubo High School on Responsible Parenthood, precipitated by an incidence of teenage pregnancy. We had to reschedule the following day. Just as well. Ridingtandem on a motorcycle as it sloshed for hours uphill through thick mud and loose rock took a lot more from me than I expected. I was tired.
Sitio Lubo residents generally rely on kerosene for lighting and fuel wood for cooking. A few households lease solar power home systems from a cooperative for P220 a month - pretty steep considering one unit can only power 3-4 lightbulbs per night. Still fewer households have small 3-kilowatt gas-fed generators, which provide enough power for several lights, a television set, and a satellite dish antenna. Gil Bopas, who graciously fed us and put us up for the night, is one of the latter.
Owners of a corn farm, corn mill and a sari-sari store, Gil Bopas and his wife Josephine, who teaches at the Lubo High School, are one of the more affluent members of the community. But they too are looking forward to the promise of clean energy from the micro-hydro because it would mean 24-hour electricity for their appliances without having to buy fuel all the way from municipal centers like Sto. Nino. There are simply no gas stations in these mountains.
Lubo High School itself owes much of its facilities from the local PTA. Its 12 computers were provided by the PTA, and the generator that powers them was also solicited from the PTA. Internet connection and fuel for the generator? Monthly PTA dues. In a sense, the community seems to have been left to fend for themselves, but it also seems that they are doing a pretty decent job at coping as well.