The Flow of Cooperation and Camaraderie in the Villages
Despite the social distancing measures and lockdowns in the Philippines due to Covid-19, JTS Philippines and three village in Damulog County are busy with a public waterworks project. To improve sanitation and the drinking water supply, JTS Philippines is currently carrying out a project to build a public waterworks system for the villages. Although this project was conceived in 2019, it is finally now in full swing.
Previously, it was the norm to install one water tank for each village. However, once the current project is complete, the water tank installed in Sarawagon will be able to supply water to the three villages of Sarawagon, Turonan, and Kimalaya, with a combined total population of 620.
Based on an agreement with the county government, the water tank will supply water to the three villages, as well as Omonay, the local district that includes the three villages. The construction began on March 27th, 2020 and is expected to be completed at the end of May. The county will be providing the technical experts, including the carpenter, electrician, and plumber for the project. The county has also agreed to provide rice to the villagers as part of the “Food for Work” program for the duration of the construction project. JTS will be contributing the material and the heavy equipment for the project. The villagers will provide the labor, transporting the materials and constructing the water tank.
Sarawagon is a very poor village. Suffering from food shortages, the village residents have cut down the trees on the hills around the village to plant corn. In the village, it is hard to find any shade that can protect the people from the hot sun. Every day, the children of the village must walk on hot and dusty trails over the hill to obtain water for drinking and cleaning.
The situation is even more dire in Turonan. Turonan has a stream for sewage and another stream for drinking water. However, when it rains, the sewage contaminates the one for drinking water. Therefore during the six months of monsoon season, from May to October, the villagers are forced to drink contaminated water.
Kimalaya is a small village consisting of 7 families and a total of 27 people. The village children walk a total of 2 km every day to get water. JTS received a request from the Damulog County Office to construct a water system for the village. After making a survey of the Kimalaya to check the situation firsthand, JTS decided to include the village in the public waterworks project.
JTS Philippines transported the cement, water hose, and heavy equipment, including a hammer drill and an engine pump, in a big truck to a location about 1 km away from the construction site. The road from the drop off location to the construction site is only wide enough for a motorcycle to pass, so the villagers used scooters and horses to transport the building materials. Even in the stifling heat, the villagers managed to stay cheerful while carrying 40kg concrete mixes on their shoulders. The communal labor sites of the villages are always full of positive energy.
Cement boxes of various sizes were constructed next to the water catchment area of Sarawagon, and a big water tank, which can hold up to 30,000 liters of water, was installed at the highest point of the village. Water hoses linking the cement boxes and the water tanks were buried underground. Water will be electrically pumped from the catchment to the tank through the water hoses. The children had fun watching their fathers and uncles carrying the construction materials and building the water system. They helped carry pebbles with their little hands.
The water tank will have four valves, one for each of the three villages and another one to connect to Omonay. From the water tank, water will flow through the hoses using gravity. Once complete, each village will have access to the water at the public faucet installed in the center of the village.
It is Ramadan from April 24 to May 23rd. During this period, the residents of the Muslim village of Turonan fast from sunrise to sunset and pray 5 times a day, so they are unable to participate in the communal labor. During Ramadan, the residents of Sarawagon, who are predominantly Christians, have been burying the water hoses on behalf of the residents of Turonan. The residents of the three villages with different religions are learning to cooperate and live in harmony.
This is the third waterworks project Cho Wook-sung, the JTS volunteer in charge of the current project, has managed in Damulog County.
“Once a waterworks project is complete, the village residents bring all the containers they own and fill them up at the public faucet,” Cho said. “When they see me with my JTS vest, they thank me profusely, exclaiming about how convenient it is to get water. At Bayog, the village where I conducted my first waterworks project, the number of households increased from 100 to 140 within six months of completing the project. This shows the vital importance of water supply in the lives of the village residents. It certainly is inconvenient for me to be away from the JTS Center for such an extended period of time. I am very busy, suffering from heat, and have irregular meals, but being able to see the improvement in the lives of the residents firsthand makes it all worthwhile.”
The COVID-19 restrictions were enforced on the first day of the waterworks project, limiting communal labor and making it necessary to obtain administrative approval for travel. Despite these difficulties, it was possible to carry out the project thanks to the deep rapport between JTS Philippines and the local government, which has been built over a long time, as well as the help and cooperation of the village residents.
Not only does the water from the reservoir that flows into the heart of the different villages improve the lives of the residents, but it also helps overcome racial and religious differences among the villages. Just like water, JTS Philippines hopes to save lives without discriminating against anyone and flow naturally into the lives of the village residents.