power and water

[OPINION] Crying out for water

Nathaniel Magpantay
[OPINION] Crying out for water

Graphic by Alyssa Arizabal

'We...spend approximately P2,720 just to have water for a month'

Imagine: You are struggling in the scorching summer heat, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. You crave for water. You want to drink a glass of it. You want to take a bath to keep yourself fresh and free from viruses. Then you remember that your home is only supplied with water once a month.

That’s what we’ve been experiencing for years now.

Back when I was still living with my father in another barangay, we had running water 24/7. But things changed when I moved into my mom’s house in Barangay Pinagkaisahan, Cuenca, Batangas. It took time for me to adjust, given that I didn’t used to limit how much water I would use for baths or washing dishes. It was also embarrassing to entertain visitors, given that our bathroom did not and still does not have running water.

The barangay officials here, and the local government of Cuenca, are completely aware of our situation. And every time the residents here voice their demands about the water supply, the barangay officials just hold community meetings and tell us the same thing again and again: the source does not have enough water to cater to our needs. 

However, we find this to be nonsense, since the same supplier provides water every day to almost all other places in Cuenca. But the issue would then be put on hold and forgotten, until residents make noise again. This is a never-ending cycle. We are also afraid of sowing conflict with people related to these officials.

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In September 2020, the barangay officials told us that there was an approved multi-million-peso project, courtesy of the local government, to build us our own source of water. But since then, we have not heard anything more about it.

It’s funny to think how we are always anticipating whether we’d be supplied with water that day, and at what time. There is no consistent schedule for it. We just keep our motor valves open, because water could come out of our faucets anytime, and we would need to act fast. This once-a-month supply lasts only for a few hours and usually happens late at night. This means that if you accidentally fall asleep when the water comes, you will probably wake up on the wrong side of the bed and have to wait for another month.

In our household, which has six people and one dog, we are lucky enough to own five drums, five water buckets, and 10 containers. Once filled, the water in them will last for five to seven days, depending on our daily consumption. We also pay P200 per month for every cubic meter of water. And for the following three weeks, we would have to pay P120 for 10 containers of water each day (P12/container) from the nearby barangay. We therefore spend approximately P2,720 just to have water for a month.

If we find this situation mentally and financially stressful, how much more those who have bigger families but own fewer containers?

And the amount of money we spend on water could have been allotted to buying nutritious food. We focus on water so much that we compromise the quality of food we eat every day.

Just like access to clothing, food, and shelter, access to water is important. It must not be this expensive. The residents of the nearby barangay barely spend much for their supply. Plus, during the pandemic and the dry season, water is essential to our health. Keeping clean can help us protect ourselves from COVID-19, and drinking water can easily help us avoid heat stroke and dehydration.

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I am certain that some local officials will talk to me once this gets published. There are two possibilities: they will be mad at me for putting them in a bad light, or they will solve this issue as soon as possible. Either way, I am not afraid. I do not regret voicing it out here. We have been so vocal about this even before. Our struggle is like an itch from an insect bite; the longer it stays, the more irritating it becomes. 

And I will not entertain a “Puro ka reklamo, may ambag ka ba?” response. We have a right to running water, and it is only those with power and authority who can provide us with it.

As long as these local officials still have running water inside their own houses, though, I fear that they will never, ever recognize and attend to this problem – a problem in the community they swore to govern and protect when they were still campaigning for their positions. – Rappler.com

Nathaniel Magpantay, 25, works as a communication instructor at First Asia Institute of Technology and Humanities in Tanauan City, Batangas. He finished his Master of Arts in Communication Arts at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. He believes that writing is one of the most effective ways to promote positive social change and amplify the voices of the unheard.