The pre-pilot program participants together with volunteers from Keep Hope AliveSitio Cabuyao made history after it became the first off-grid Mangyan village in Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro to get access to electricity right in the heart of the village.
The sitio marked the milestone through Sikat Solar Challenge Foundation Inc.’s “Liwanag sa Sitio 2020,” a prepilot program wherein a solarpowered nanogrid was installed in August.
“Naging mas masaya kami. Masarap pala kumain ng may ilaw, hindi na madilim. Kita na namin ang isa’t isa (“We are happier. It’s nicer to eat when there is lighting and it’s no longer dark. We can now see each other”),” said resident Balonbon David.
In partnership with a local electrician and local stakeholders, the nanogrid installation started on Aug. 25, 2020 and was completed on Aug. 31, 2020 as a pre-pilot test stage of the program.
Two light bulbs
The 1.2-kilowatt-hour nanogrid system involves powering two light bulbs each in 10 Mangyan households and electrifying a charging station for devices such as cellphones, flashlights and power banks.
Sikat stressed that for the project to succeed, Sitio Cabuyao, which is situated in a geographically isolated and disadvantaged area and about 10 kilometers away from the nearest concrete road, must take ownership and accountability for it. This is what the pre-pilot aims to test for three months.
The minimal fees collected from the nanogrid program serve as a fund which can be used for the members’ communal needs, including the repair of broken parts of the system, or to expand the system to include all the members of the indigenous community in Sitio Cabuyao. The residents agreed to acquire an additional solar panel to make their solar power supply stronger in the rainy days.
“Matagal na po namin itong pinangarap. Hindi po namin akalain na magkakatotoo na po ito. Maraming salamat po (“We have dreamed of this for so long. We never expected that it would come true. Thank you very much”),” said sitio leader Rudy Imnay, adding that it has always been his dream to have the community electrified.
Manage the system
Ultimately, if the pre-pilot test goes well with the community working together to manage the solar power system, the bigger goal is to scale up the program by powering 20 houses for the pilot for another three months and eventually providing power for the entire sitio.
Sa pre-pilot pa lang, malaking tulong na agad para sa mga kapatid nating Mangyan. Paano pa kaya kapag tuluyan nang magkailaw ang bawat tahanan sa Sitio Cabuyao? Hindi na kailangang mangapa sa dilim o bumaba ng bundok upang bumili lang ng gas para sa gasera (“The pre-pilot is already a big help to our Mangyan brothers and sisters, what more if lighting is accessible to each household in Sitio Cabuyao? They no longer need to live in darkness nor to go down the mountain just to buy gas for their oil lamps”),” said Paulo Bukid, spokespers of youth organization Keep Hope Alive (KHA).
Nakakataba rin ng puso na marinig mula sa kanila at makitang determinadosila na makipagtulungan para sa katugampayan ng proyektong ito (“It’s heartwarming to hear it from them and to see that they are determined to cooperate to ensure the success of the project”),” he added.
“Liwanag sa Sitio 2020” is a program of Sikat Solar Challenge Foundation Inc. in partnership with the community, local stakeholders headed by Elmer Ablaza, and KHA.
Signs at the charging station remind residents to pay before plugging in their gadgets