Thursday, 31 March 2011

Mangool Mother's Association: A Tribute on the Occassion of Women's Month


The town of Baclayon in Bohol is famous in the local tourism industry as the home of one of the Philippine’s oldest churches. Both foreign and local tourists stop at its age-old church and the nearby museum that showcase the rich culture and history of the Boholano as a people. Little do they know that a few kilometers from this tourist attraction lies a community whose dream of having safe and accessible potable water has been so elusive in the past years.

The sitio of Mangool is part of the rural barangay of San Isidro, located 4 kilometers from the town center. The sitio sits on top of a hill 90 meters above sea level and is the home to 112 residents. It is only accessible through a rough access road that gets very muddy and slippery during rainy days. Livelihood opportunities were so scarce in the sitio with farming as an only option. But farming did not bring in the profits, primarily because crops were dependent on rain and whatever was left of the limited water source.

Indeed, if there was one household problem shared by all residents in the sitio, it was water – water for the kitchen, water to drink, water to wash clothes, water for almost anything and everything. Water, at the very faucet inside the house, or just even very near it, was every person’s dream ever since.

Residents tried on their own ways to cope up with the situation. Some would go down to the Poblacion, the town proper, to fetch water or do laundry while others would ask their children who were then studying in the town to bring with them a container or two that they had to fill and bring home. There was even a time that some would go to the nearby town of Sikatuna, riding on a dump truck with their husbands who were then working in a road construction project, to buy water at P1 per container.

In 1998, things changed. With the help of Mayor Ben Uy, the main source of water was rehabilitated and an electric submersible pump was installed. People were assured of a stable water source and they no longer had to travel far just so that they would be able to have water in their homes. “Pero magbaktas gihapon mi ug layolayo” (But we still have to walk a considerable distance), Rosalinda Jayo, the sitio’s day care worker said.. She said that her students, though how very young, were already trained to carry a gallon of water. “Mao siguro nga mga mugbo na sila kay naanad na sa trabahong bug-at” (Maybe that’s the reason why they are shorter than the average child because they were already accustomed to hard work.), she added.

The community heard of Peace and Equity Foundation from PROCESS – Bohol in 2004 and learned that it would assist community-based water development projects. PROCESS-Bohol is the sitio’s long-time development partner. Joy Bucia, supervising community development facilitator of PROCESS, helped the Mangool Active Mothers Association (MAMA) draft their water development proposal and facilitated the passing of the document to PEF. “Sus, grabe jud sila ka-excited”. (They were very excited), Joy recalled. MAMA is the sitio’s only active community organization that has done different projects in the past – from feeding children to solve the growing problem on malnutrition, to the construction of the sitio’s only consumer store. MAMA used to be an all-women organization but now, its current membership totaled 35, with 19 female and 16 male members. With this new development, the organization’s leadership saw it fit to change its name very soon.

In August 2005, the project proposal – Construction of a Water Tank and Installation of Pipelines – was approved with grant funds amounting to P441,160. To fulfill the conditions of the grant agreement, people were very cooperative. The donors of the lot where the water source was located, the owner of the lots where the water tank and the tap stands were to be constructed, and those whose agricultural land will be disturbed by the pipelines, yielded to sign the necessary documents very easily. Even the mayor (now on his third term) and the barangay captain committed to release P50,000 and P20,000 , respectively. To have the funds released from PEF, they had to secure a bank account under their name and experience a great deal of difficulty because they do not have valid IDs and the local bank will not accept postal ID as alternative. With the help of Joy, they were able to finally open a bank account to use and the first tranche came in.

Construction and the laying down of pipelines happened thereafter. One major feature of the project was the use of ferrocement technology in constructing the water tank. With the help of PEF’s Development Associate, Engr. Petronio Muring, the technical specifications that were designed and analyzed during project appraisal were implemented. People did volunteer work – from purchasing, to construction, to bookkeeping. The community spirit was animated by the new development that for the past years was so elusive and was promised on repetitively by politicians. Very recently, the trial run of the whole design was conducted, and to the happiness of every member of the community, the tap stands started to flow water from the source.

What makes the assistance of PEF unique and distinct from other water assistance that Mangool received in the past was its comprehensive grant package that does not include only money for construction but technical support as well. PEF provided funds for institutional support (salaries for project officer) as well as capability building activities (project orientation, organizational management, legislation and administration training-workshops) to ensure that the proponent organization MAMA will be ready to assume water systems management after project turn-over. What was most appreciated by the community, however, was the presence of Engr. Muring to help them in every step of the process.

The project also engaged various stakeholders. While PEF provided funds and technical support, NGO partner PROCESS assisted the community organization in building their capacities to manage their own development. The Local Government Unit also supported the project by providing portion of the local counterpart. More importantly, the community was actively involved in the project, from construction to drafting the policies that would govern them.

“Para namo, usa jud ni ka mahinungdanong panghitabo.” (For us, this is a very important event.), says Salome Miculob, MAMA’s BOD Chair. She said that while they encountered hardships in the process of drafting the proposal and later implementing it, they persisted because they knew of the tremendous effect that the project would bring to the lives of people. The older people said they never thought that something like this could happen in their lifetime. The donor of the lot where the water source was located , Gabriel Mancha, was heard to say that he would do everything within his means just so that they would be able to experience having water, if not within their house, just within their neighborhood. It was just unfortunate though, that he never lived to see the realization of his dream. Months before the water tank was constructed, he died of old age.

With the help of PEF and PROCESS, the officers of MAMA were able to visit a water system project site of Ramon Aboitiz Foundation in Cebu and learned from their experience. As a result, tapstand policies and procedures were already drafted and signed by tapstand members. Consumer rates were already agreed on and validated by water users (at P1 per container). Books of accounts were already updated and turnover of records and funds from the water brigade to MAMA, the new custodian, was already done. Somehow, all things are set for the inauguration and blessing of the community’s first ever water system.

“Sinugdanan pa lang ni. (This is just the beginning), says Felipe Hayo, one of the members of the barangay’s Sanggunian in 2006 and a resident of Mango-ol. He, together with his neighbors, still dreamed of a level 3 water system, just like their neighboring barangays. But before they would be able to enjoy that, they knew that they have to contend with the big challenge of sustainability. They knew they have to look for ways to ensure sustainability of water source or tap alternative sources. They need to make certain that their collections are prompt and can pay not only the electricity bills and the required minimal maintenance, but also provide for a depreciation fund to take care of major replacements in the future. They knew that they just can’t rely on PEF to do it for them, or from the chief executive of the town, whose priorities may change at every election time. MAMA, in this case, is committed to plan, together with the community, activities that would answer these critical concerns.

Since 2006, Mangool residents started to enjoy the benefits of a level 2 water system; 30 households, 142 individuals, and 54 children enjoyed the convenience of having water just within a short reach. People had more hours to spend for livelihood and children have more hours to spend for school work. “Basta diay jud maningkamot, naa diay juy maani.” (If there is hardwork, there is good harvest), Honorata Iyog, MAMA’s treasurer said, happy and thankful of the people and institutions that helped them put up their water system.

I visited MAMA again in 2009, when my students and I helped it improve its accounting practices and policies. One of the forerunners of the organizations, Salome Miculob was still there, running the daily affairs, and ensuring that their consumer store, a source of affordable goods needed by households is profitably operating and that the water systems, a product of their efforts, is sustainably maintained and able to provide the water service to households. It takes more or less twenty courageous women to make these things possible.

This piece is a toast to MAMA, and to the other women in the countryside who do not only nurture children but communities as well. This is a tribute to my women friends who have made a tremendous difference in the development landscape of Bohol. This also is dedicated to my mother, teacher, and friend, who has been a courageous fighter of all odds with two weapons at this hands - perseverance and prayer. This also goes to my wife of seven years, who effortlessly made this world a beautiful place for myself and our kids.