We surveyed many fishermen families. If the families resided near to the town, entire neighborhood was very congested. If the families were far away from the town then the landscape was sparse houses spread over large open space. In a household we saw the head of the family had respiratory disease and was paralyzed. We informed them about PhilHealth and free treatments at Candelaria hospital. The family cooked in open pit fire in the same room. This family got a Prakti stove from REEF and we did not see them using the stove. The owners kept the stove nicely packed. A stove surface burner was missing and hence the stove was lying unused. We had to take care of getting them a burner.
One of the fishermen’s household is particularly noteworthy. Two brothers with their families lived jointly. Besides fighting constant poverty they managed to keep a hobby. They had a drum and an old guitar. During Christmas they played carol on the street and raised fund for local church. Isn’t it amazing that a person in need is indeed donating to the more unfortunates? At our request, they got their musical instruments out and sang a Christmas carol in Tagalog.
In the last but one house in our list lived an old woman aged 80+ who still carried heavy loads of woods for miles. She had an adult son aged 50+ and an infant grandson. The son was unemployed and did not do anything for living. His wife ran away. The family relied on a meager Government aid what the old woman received.
The last house we visited was of an old man who was living with his wife and two college going daughters. The daughters stood against all odds, aspired to be teachers. The family made bamboo tables & chairs in front of the shaky house. I couldn’t stop thinking about Western influence to Philippines. An old empty bottle of rum was used as plant vase – seaside pastoral ambience. Standing and talking there I sensed the ocean breeze, then bade goodbye to the family in the light of setting sun.
We took a halt at Candelaria district hospital situated over a small hillock. Ocean wind hits the hospital straight. We were accompanied by associates of an energy company in the day’s trip and wanted to explore feasibility of installing a wind turbine on that plot. Hospital can save on electricity bill and build a power backup via renewable energy sources. Grace is a nurse at this hospital and a key figure in promoting PhilHealth insurance awareness among poor through REEF.
In the evening we came back to the pavilion Candelaria. Dodo boarded the local auto rickshaw (a motor bike is attached to a 2 or 4 wheeled vehicle and it’s a popular means of transportation) and went to a beach during the day. We visited the local open market, picked flowers for his Lola there (Grandmother in Tagalog) and afterwards packed for the return trip. Next morning we said ‘Salamat’ (aka Thanks in Tagalog) to Ralph and family, then started for Manila. We grabbed a ‘halo halo’ on our way. Vast greenery, ocean side roads and bucolic landscape accompanied us in the journey from countryside to Manila. It took us more than an hour to cross Manila city from one side to other in a busy weekday. Running we barely caught the flight. Though left behind – underprivileged communities, their lifestyle, solar lantern hanging from a tree facing the direct sunshine, a new culture and a distinct developing country – stood in my mind’s frame.
By Manimala Kumar