Human Interest Stories
Outreach Philippines, Inc.
Sustainable Good
Brightened Homes, Enlightened Minds
March 9th, 2007
Written by Ami Dasig-Salazar

    Mylene and Edgie Ladignon are sisters-in-law.
    Their husbands are brothers and like them,
    members of the Barangay Power Association
    (BAPA) in Sitio Saguingan . When asked if they ever
    dreamt of electricity before learning about the
    PHDP, they replied, “Yes we did! We dreamt of
    electric lights in our homes and in our community.
    But we kept this to ourselves because we didn’t
    know how to make it happen. We accepted
    darkness as part of our lives to a point when we no
    longer thought of having electricity here in
    Saguingan . We were like the river then, flowing
    only to where time and opportunities lead us.”

Sitio Saguingan, which meant “banana plantation”, is a sub-village in Brgy. Nazareth , General
Tinio, Nueva Ecija , Philippines . More than 30 years ago, the residents of this community end
their day as early as 6:30 in the evening because at this hour, it was already dark everywhere.
People only have flickering kerosene lamps called sulo and kengke to light their homes as they
cook food, eat and sleep for the night.

“It gets darker as the evening progresses and this made our movements more restricted. We
can no longer go outside and talk to our neighbors. We stayed inside our houses. If kerosene
supply runs out in the community, children were compelled to endure a 1.2 km walk to the
Crossing Area to buy some. They risk possible accidents along the way but they have to obey or
else, the family will be spending the night in total darkness. There was also the risk of fire if the
lighted kerosene lamps are knocked-off by cats or strong winds. It was difficult! Life was very
difficult especially for women who are left alone with small children when their husbands go to
the uplands for months to get their livelihoods”, the Ladignon women recall.

Until one day, they heard of this person who was assisting other groups in resolving their
problems. “We informed her, through our acquaintance, of our interest to install electricity in our
sitio . She came a few days later and that started us on the road towards our dream. Reaching
our dream for electricity didn’t come easy. We went through a lot of meetings, mobilizations and
training. There are times when we felt tired and frustrated. Particularly that time in 2003 when
the electric posts were already in our community, just waiting to be unloaded from the truck.
Everyone was excited and raring to help in whatever way they can to put up the posts when all of
a sudden, the landowner of that piece of land where the electric wires would pass, came
rushing towards us. He confronted and stopped us from unloading the posts. He was against
the installation of electricity because he suspects that if this happens, the informal settlers in
his property will have more rights to stay. The landowner won that day and we were left in the
dumps unable to do anything else but watch the electric posts fade in the distance. Clouds of
dust gathered in front of us as the truck sped away.”

The good thing was that the truck brought only the electric posts with them. It did not take away
the people’s determination. The BAPA-Saguingan leadership tried not to lose courage despite
slowly losing hope because of that incident. They evaluated the situation with Nancy, the
Human Development Facilitator, and planned for their next action. They asked for assistance
from the provincial governor in settling the issue. They persevered, believing that hard work is
needed if a mission is to be achieved. They were not mistaken because their efforts paid-off.
After several months of follow-up, the provincial government bought the landlord’s property and
finally, in April 2004, electricity was installed in their community.

The experience was life-changing for Mylene, Edgie and the rest of the community. Before, the
expenses for battery recharging and kerosene would reach about Php 570 per month (roughly
$10). Today, expenses were cut to an average of Php 200 per month (roughly $3.5). Life was
better because of electric fans and cold water with ice bought from stores with refrigerators.
This is truly a blessing in a tropical country like the Philippines especially during summer
months when the heat can really become unbearable.

More than the monetary savings and a better quality way of life that the community achieved
through the BAPA-Saguingan Electrification Project , Mylene and Edgie are also very grateful for
the knowledge they gained from the project. Through simple radios and T.V. sets, they are able
to prepare for typhoons when news alerts are made, their school children are able to complete
their homeworks and the younger ones learn about values such as respect for elders from
children-oriented shows. And because the electricity project is an ongoing effort, Mylene and her
co-members continue to learn more about managing their project and their organization. Today,
the association takes charge of tasks like electric meter reading, collecting and remitting
monthly dues and bookkeeping. Because of these services, they avail of discounted power
rates which in turn, are transformed as savings for the association. What started as a dream to
brighten their homes turned into a reality that lit-up their community and enlightened their minds.
The Participatory Human Development Process (PHDP) is an empowering process of
consciousness-raising and problem-solving that places those being affected at the center of
their own development. Within the process, PHDP mobilizes people to comprehend, act and
resolve their identified issues/problems through a series of steps.