Esperanza in spanish means hope. So is the name of a remote town in the province of Masbate, Philippines. But hope seems to be the last thing many of the local villagers believe in.
A broken basketball, recycled as bailer, gradually rose from a deep well. Rhoda Jane Ponay and her brother Judil clenched their teeth as they pulled the rope out of the 20 feet deep hole. Judil poured the water on recycled one liter Coke bottles, which Rhoda Jane held still.
“Kung mapuno ang bola, mabigat. Kung si Kuya lang mag-isa, baka mahirapan siya. Kaya dalawa na lang kami magtutulungan,” Rhoda Jane told me in a tone that speaks of wisdom beyond her age. (Once filled with water, the basketball is heavy. If my brother pulls it alone, it will be very hard for him. That’s why we have to help each other.)
After filling up four bottles of water, Judil masterfully tied them on a bamboo stick, then carried them on his shoulder.
The deep well is the only source of water in Brgy. Tunga, Esperanza, Masbate. More than 200 households depend on that deep well, which does not even provide potable water.
Ronald, Rhoda Jane’s father, had to walk more than 5 kilometers to fetch potable water from a deep well in another barangay. Ronald rendezvoused with his children, then, together, they walked another 2 kilometers to reach home.
This is the everyday morning routine of their family.
You can also READ: Child Labor: A little Sakada’s struggle for Education
Esperanza is one of the 445 “waterless” municipalities in the Philippines, according to the Philippine National Household Targeting System (NHTS). The National Anti-Poverty Commission defines “waterless areas” as those municipalities outside Metro Manila or barangays inside Metro Manila wherein less than 50 percent of the total household population are connected to any water supply system.
In a press conference in March 2013, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said that 20 percent of the Philippine population do not have access to water. This is equivalent to around 20 million Filipinos. Rhoda Jane’s struggle for water is not an isolated case.
Hell during dry spell
“Yung nga po ang kinakatakutan namin dito pag dumarating ang kuwaresma [referring to March and April]. Nawawalan ng tubig ang balon. Paano na lang kami,” Ronald frustratingly shared. (That’s what we always fear, the arrival of summer. Deep wells run out of water. How will we be able to survive?)
Three days before publication, I made a phone call to a local teacher to reach Ronald’s family. Ronald said his family was fetching water from another barangay’s deep well, which was more than 6 km away from their home. The nearest deep well was dry since early March.
He also added that they have witnessed several conflicts among residents caused by the lack of water.
Faith in ‘Esperanza’
However difficult their situation is, Rhoda Jane remained positive. When I asked about what she prays for every night, she said, “Iniisip ko po na sana magkaroon na kami ng gripo para doon na kami mag-igib ng tubig.” “I wish for our community to finally have better access to water, so we can easily fetch water for our families.”
Rhoda Jane continues to have faith in Esperanza.
Reel Outtakes’ Notes:
These are outtakes of a report I did for 24 Oras in November 2014. Watch the report here: