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Stories of Hope

Bicol’s typhoon survivors find solace in solar-powered lights

 

Paulina Ocampo

 

FINDING LIGHT. The fishermen of Baliguian Island make us of solar-powered torches to help two other fishermen out at sea.

More than 1.6 million Filipino households still do not have access to electricity, according to the Department of Energy’s October 2020 report.                                                                                            

This situation has forced many families to rely on kerosene lamps that are hazardous, harmful, and costly, among other alternatives.

For many regions, this reality is aggravated by the Philippines yearly spate of typhoons. This was especially seen in Bicol in 2020, when the disaster downed power lines and affected cell sites. Months have passed since Typhoon Rolly and Typhoon Ulysses struck the region, but Bicol residents continue to feel their effects today. Many also do not have the resources to rebuild their homes and livelihood.

For communities without light, livelihood usually ends by sundown. For the abaca weavers of Bicol, it means either stopping earlier in the day or working with a dim light. For the fisherfolk, it means taking a kerosene lamp out to sea.

Seeing the situation in Bicol, One Million Lights PH and For the Future and Kids for Kids PH brought light, literally, to 2,000 off-grid families who have yet to recover from the damage cause by last year’s typhoons, through youth-led crowdfunding.

One Million Lights PH is nationally-awarded, youth-based, nonprofit organization that brings solar-powered lamps to off-grid households. It aims to replace kerosene lamps with clean and sustainable lighting. By replacement kerosene lamps with solar-powered lamps, families can enjoy brighter and safer nights, breathe cleaner air, an save up to P 36,000 up in five years.

The organization travels to off-grid communities to deliver these lamps. These are often the same communities that suffer the brunt of the strongest typhoons.

More Efficient

Several fisherfolk in Baliguan Island, Camarines Sur, also received One Million Lights PH’s solar-powered lamps. Fisherfolk in the area typically use kerosene lamps when they are out fishing, but these lamps can easily be extinguished and knocked over in rough seas.

Buddy Alvarez, a leader among the fishermen in the area, shared how solar-powered lamps helped then find the sons of their fellow fisherfolk. Their boat engine broke down and had kerosene lamps that would not light up.

The solar-powered torches helped the fisherfolk light, find, and signal the two. The torches were easier to spot that kerosene lamps from a distance.

“We’re so grateful for the solar lights that we’ve been given,” Buddy told the team post-search operation in Bicol. “With it, my boat was bright enough to find the lost boys.”

Why is something as simple as light still unavailable to million of Filipinos in the 21st century? The Department of Energy aims to fully electrify the Philippines by 2030 but faces difficulty power to remote communities. For now, despite the pandemic’s challenges, One Million Lights PH strives to provide light to those who need it.

One Million Lights PH strives for a brighter future for Filipinos everywhere. The organization has distributions lined up, through the youth-led campaign of Kids for the Future, socially-inclined business, and private donors. Lights will be mobilized to off-grid, low-income communities in Camarines Sur, La Union, Rizal, Mindoro and Palawan for the rest of the year.

Photo Credit: Don Razon

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