Written by Nazarino Auman, Volunteer Writer and Photographer, Operation Blessing Philippines
It takes an hour traveling by boat from the mainland Bantayan Island to one of its farthest islet, Lipayran, an island scorched by heat despite being surrounded by saltwater. Here, people are thirsty and desperate for water.
On this small island, an estimated 500 families live mostly by fishing and guso (seaweeds) farming.
The only source of water is bought from the main island or from the nearby islets and sold with additional charges to consumers. Rainwater is sold for Php 20 ($0.43) per 5 gallons, from its original price of Php 10 and Php 50 ($1.06) for every 5 gallons of purified water, in contrast from its original price of Php 20.
With the drought in the island caused by El Niño and the high salinity content of the water, agriculture is not advisable for a living. In order to survive, people depend mostly in sea packed with hard work, patience and unity, especially in prayer.
Meet Rev. Lorenz S. Rosos, a 42-year-old resident and a pastor in Lipayran Island. He usually leads the people in praying and hoping that someday, they will be blessed for a water supply that will help the people for their daily needs without crossing the sea. “Usahay kung walay choice, mo inom nalang mi ug tubig tayam aron lang maka luwas sa uhaw. resulta kay kolo-kolo lagi tiyan. [Sometimes if we don’t have a choice, we drink rainwater just to escape thirst. As a result, we get stomachache.]”
In April 26, 2016, Operation Blessing, backed by the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) head Mr. Baltazar Tribunalo Jr., brought the first-ever water desalination equipment on the island that converts saltwater into safe and drinkable water.
“Salamat kaayu sa Operation Blessing [We are so thankful to the Operation Blessing],” said a smiling Mrs. Geronima Villafuente, an 82-year-old pioneer of the island and Rev. Lorenz’s mother-in-law.
With the water desalinating equipment, people of Lipayran can now enjoy a safe drinkable water without paying a large amount. Sitting together with Mrs. Geronima is her 84-year-old husband Mr. Antolin Villafuente, he added: “Dugay nako dre, karon ra mi makatagam-tam ani na grasya. Salamat gayud [For how many years living in this island, this is the first time we experience this kind of blessing. Thank you so much.]”
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