To get to Sitio Badang, a small indigenous barrio perched on a remote mountainous area in Ilocos Sur, one has to take a jeepney through rough road, ride a raft across two rivers and then hike up to the mountain. The barrio is ultimately unreachable by electric power grids. Then along came four solar power generators and a group of kind-hearted souls, and life in this rural community has never been the same again.
The 45 families living in Sitio Badang are ube farmers who supply the main ingredient of Baguio’s famous Mountain Maid ube jam sold at The Good Shepherd convent. The sitio’s association with the Good Shepherd nuns and volunteers paved the way for Burt’s Bees, distributed in the Philippines by Stores Specialists Inc.’s Beauty Bar, to embark on a lighting mission in the area that sparked a new hope for the betterment of life in the community.
Through the Greater Good Program, Burt’s Bees, together with Advanced Telecommunications Inc. (Adtel) and Good Shepherd raised R120,000 to provide four solar-powered generators to light up the Sitio Badang Elementary School, Sitio Badang Daycare Center, the Church, and the barangay hall.
“We are very happy that the first chapter of this lighting program was completed before the end of 2012,” said Stores Specialists Inc. merchandise group manager Reena Rosario during the recent turning over ceremony of the solar-powered generators. “Our goal is to help alleviate the lives of our brother and sisters here in Sitio Badang. We wish that these solar generators would be the start of a more comfortable living situation for the community.”
Before the lighting mission, the residents of Sitio Badang would have to go seven kilometers down the mountain to the nearest town center to charge their cell phones. At night, all further activities are aided by kerosene lamps.
“Sometimes, we have to end our class as early three o’ clock because it would be already too dark to write or read,” shared 10-year-old, 4th grade student Christine Joy Kudan, in vernacular. “We got the generators a few days before Christmas last year and it was the first time that our community had a Christmas program at night.
Along with the lighting program, Adtel donated a television set, DVD player and a sound system for the schools to support the education of the children. “I got very emotional when I saw the reaction of my students watching TV for the first time,” said a tearful Elvira Wanget, a daycare teacher and Department of Social Welfare and Development volunteer. “It was overwhelming to see them experience for the first time basic necessities that children from other barrios normally experience.”
According to Reymond Batara, Adtel assistant vice-president for renewable energy division, the solar-charged batteries can supply power to the street lights for the whole night. But the community can also use the batteries for the televisions in the school and for charging their phones but they have to manage the power supply properly
“During summertime, it’s easy to store power because we have the abundance of sunlight. It would be more challenging during the rainy season. We have to educate the community in the proper use of the generators as well as maintenance – because technically, the generators are there for the lights,” Batara said.
The second phase of the Greater Good Program would entail lighting of the houses in Sitio Badang. Mai Estrella, associate product manager of Burt’s Bees explained that they would have to raise R400,000 for additional solar power generators to light up the homes and more streetlights.
“For every purchase of Burt’s Bees products, P10 goes to the Sitio Badang lighting mission fund. We’ve done this for the first phase of the project. The promo for the next phase will be longer since we need a bigger amount. We put gift cards in the Burt’s Bees purchases that says ‘I donated R10 in your name for the Sitio Badang project’ to drum up awareness for the project,” Estrella said.
Buying a new lip balm or ointment might be a simple purchase for anyone, but knowing that such a simple purchase actually helped provide a better life for a whole community is priceless.