Feature: After decades, light conquers darkness in Mindanao Muslim village
LUTAYAN, Sultan Kudarat (25 October) -- After several decades, lights conquer over darkness and residents of Barangay Sisiman in this remote town would no longer use their extra money for motorcycle fair to take them to the nearest store selling kerosene.
Instead, they will spend it for their food and other important needs.
KALAHI-CIDSS, a government anti-poverty program, has put up an electrification project in this previous conflict affected village, providing about round the clock electricity that has literally lit up the lives of the people.
Sisiman, home to over 200 Muslims, some of them former combatants of the Moro National Liberation Front, once the largest Muslim rebel organization that signed a final peace agreement with government, is one of villages in Central Mindanao region that have benefited from KALAHI-CIDSS, a project funded by the World Bank.
The P9.5 billion project seeks to reduce poverty in the towns of Malungon, Sarangani; Arakan, Magpet, Libungan, President Roxas, North Cotabato; T'boli and Lake Sebu, South Cotabato; and Lutayan and Columbio, Sultan Kudarat.
Claiming their village was the centre of fighting between government security forces and Muslim rebels in the 90s, Randy Pantawan, a resident here, said that people were happy of the change brought about by the project.
According to him, the life of people in this farming community was changed.
"Now, we don't have to travel going to the town proper just to procure candles and kerosene for our lamps. We have electricity and we thank the government for it," Pantawan said.
"This development is a significant departure from the past when most of us had always gone to the town proper to buy candles and kerosene," he added.
Pantawan recalled from time to time fighting between soldiers and rebels before, they though the peace and order situation here will not change.
Now in his 50s, he recounts how they were nearly wiped out when fighting between government security forces and the country's largest Muslim rebels before, the Moro National Liberation Front, erupted in Mindanao.
A father to five children, Pantawan, clad in white t-shirt and old faded long pants, said that the fighting forced them as well their neighbours to transfer to safer grounds.
But now, according to him, several new things happened; especially they were among the beneficiaries nationwide of KALAHI-CIDSS.
"It is good that peace has come at last to our place. We love this place and we will work together for peace and strive to develop the land through the help of KALAHI-CIDSS project to us," Pantawan says.
For Ramil Kusingan, a Muslim student who volunteered himself for the project shared the same experience with Pantawan, citing that a series of trainings over new techniques about carpentry, masonry and plumbing help his neighbours get jobs.
"I though nothing will happen to our community. In fact, some of residents here have abandoned their respective houses and moved to the lakeside of the village at the height of the fighting. But now, they returned," Kusingan said.
"We learned things that we don't know before. One of those if how to make project proposals, letters, and canvassing that I never done before. We will treasure in our hearts what we learned," he added.
Amazed by the development in their community, Kusingan said admitted the electrification project has help improve their lifestyle.
"Because of the project, majority of us in the Barangay had a chance of going into small business because of the electricity. Like now, some of us are selling "ice, softdrinks and cold waters," he said.
"In the past, we desired for electericity. Now, we even cant believe that our dream come to pass. And we are now recieving electric bills," he added.
Also, it has reduced the prevalence of early vision problems among the children because they no longer have to endure reading with minimum lighting.
Moreover, kid's children's id's parents are able to devote what used to be travel time for buying kerosene to livelihood.
The project has also paved the way for economic activities, mobile and vehicle battery charging, computer games and mini music bar.
Gemma Rivera, KALAHI-CIDSS project manager, said the people in the community are united in pursuing their goal of uplifting the lifestyle of their neighbors, citing local officials, who have indifferences among their rival in previous polls, are helping hand-in-hand in the project implementation.
She said the project ease the burden of the people in this town who waited for development for many years.
Citing the good thing in the project, Rivera said up to single centavo you would know where and how the money was spent and there is No room for corruption.
Apart from electrification, KALAHI-CIDSS also provided residents road rehabilitation, a solar dyer and warehouse, water system, school building, and health centers sub-projects in this town. (KALAHI-CIDSS/PIA 12) [top]