Clean Water Benefits Iraya Villagers
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Camarines Sur  | January 2010 | “Dati uro aldaw agko ni ilang didi…” 

“Previously there was one getting sick here almost every day,” said Lucia, a 52-year-old grandmother of three. This is almost a universal answer that one gets if asked of any Iraya resident. Even the Municipal Mayor observed that there were far too many indigents from Iraya asking for medical assistance compared to the other villages in the town.

The village of Iraya is one of 38 villages in the municipality of Buhi in the province of Camarines Sur south of Manila, Philippines. For many years the people of Iraya didn’t have consistent access to good clean drinking water. They have several good water sources, but these are inconveniently far from the residential area and are seldom utilized for domestic use. Open springs, open dug wells and shallow artesian wells are the main sources of water for most of Iraya’s residents. None of these give consistently good water. All it takes is a little rain and the water source becomes contaminated. Water quality tests show that the water in all the main sources is almost always positive for fecal coliforms.

Having diarrhea has become part of a child’s life for Iraya residents. They have learned to accept it as a normal event, especially after some rain. And so is the concept of a child potentially dying of dehydration.

The limited and inadequate resources of the local government made it virtually impossible to have a water project that will answer the community’s need. The answer to their problem came in 1997 when they met members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during a measles elimination activity. They were informed that the Church could provide funding for a water project. All it took was a simple letter from the local health workers and a water project was on the way. The first letter was sent on December 2007. Clean drinking water was flowing from tapstands of a level 2 water system in Iraya by December 2008.

“Nguwan taun-taun na ako na da narurungog na nagkaka-ilang... It has been quite some time since I have heard of someone getting sick (of diarrhea in Iraya),” said Lucia. Even the Mayor is smiling on the fact that the constant flow of indigent families from Iraya approaching him for medical assistance has all but stopped. Access to clean drinking water for adults and children made disease prevention easier.

Judith, a 37-year-old mother of six, observed that the convenience of washing clothes near the tapstands takes much of the burden from the mothers’ chores so that they can attend to other things like cooking for the family sooner. They no longer need to wait for their children or husbands to fetch water for their domestic use. Though Judith’s and some 19 other families are not reached by the water system, she recognizes the many benefits of the water system. She hopes that the caretaker of the water system can extend the pipes to their neighborhood soon.

Victor, the barangay captain, said that the people quickly felt the great convenience of having flowing water near them that they miss it pretty quick when it is shut down for repair or maintenance and/or upgrading reasons. Some families had their own household taps connected to the water system and quite a few of them now take a bath with a shower inside their own bathrooms.

Imelda, a member of a local tribe of indigenous people and an employee of the National Commission on Indigenous People, still goes home every weekend to her ancestral home. Her parents now have 10 pigs, 8 more than they used to have. She said that her parents decided to take care of more pigs in their backyard to better augment the family income because it is now so much easier for them to clean the pens that they can afford to take care of more without bothering their neighbors with the smell from a dirty pen.

“I feel good about it. We no longer need to walk muddy trails to get to a drinking water source,” said Natividad, the chieftain of Imelda’s tribe. “I felt so sorry for the children fetching water for the family. It was hard for them and was dangerous for those who needed to take a boat ride to the water source. Well, they no longer have to do that now. And that makes me extremely happy and thankful to all those who helped us to have this water system,” she added.