Theo with Ati tribe

Monsoon showers, more spigots, & customer service

It has rained for five days. On and off, but enough already!

Actually, rainy season — known as habagat here on Panay Island and across the Philippines — is just beginning. Wild western winds bring frequent downpours any time day or night. Tonight it was raining sideways.

I’ve been soaking wet a few different times in past days. But after a sweaty mountain hike or bike ride, the warm rains are a relief… at least to me – a northerner. I’m half naked, while some local Filipinos are bundled up like winter; the Florida phenomenon.

The weather hasn’t stopped our work with the indigenous Ati tribe who live in the hills near us. Thankfully, in between raindrops, we finished the roof rebuild on the Ati community ‘shelter house’.

The structural support wood is new, the metal roof sheeting – mostly reused.

Now that the old concrete building is enclosed again, new window covers and doors are being fabricated. We’ll also spray and treat the newly redone wooden trusses to discourage termites.

The wet weather has delayed the planned concrete drainage improvement work for now. The current monsoon is forecast to continue another week. Undoubtedly, we’ll wrap up the entire shelter house fix-up job shortly after that.

The budget for the effort: about $500 for materials and $500 for Ati labor spent thus far. We’re ‘on budget’ at this point. Even some Ati kids helped out for a few pesos!

This project – like the others we have sponsored with the help of our overseas donors – is a way to get desperately needed dollars (pesos) into Ati family pockets while improving their surroundings and community.

Related: Water pump brings Ati fresh water; Electric service for Ati indigenous tribe; Ati eggs for sale; New bridge to upper Ati village

COVID has rocked the indigenous Ati’s already fragile economic security. Employment opportunities are very few. Hunger is a real threat. Any income is appreciated. We’re glad we can help.

At the same time, thanks to our foreign contributions, the community typhoon shelter house is being fortified.

The photos below were taken this week.

Ironically, while dodging the rain showers, I’ve also been tinkering with the Ati showers. The tribe now has two ‘stand-up’ options for bathing. In the past they’ve used a creek bed and maybe a bucket or cup.

One shower is up a creek!

I found a long piece of three-inch wide poly pipe and ran it upstream in an area of rapid elevation decline. The height/distance difference allows water to gush from the downstream end at a level of about six feet. Easy engineering. Instant lifestyle improvement.

The other shower was created near the old ‘gravity flow’ drinking water fill area, close to the tribe’s natural spring water supply. Now that our new electric water pump sends water up to the village above for drinking, the continuing gravity outflow is perfect for washing.

We created a relatively private shower area behind some jungle trees, and ran PVC pipe up to a modern shower head. An enjoyable convenience; especially with the teenage Ati women who can now more easily wash their long hair. The many empty packets of shampoo strewn about attest to the popularity.

I felt a little creepy hanging around the ‘ladies shower stall’ taking pictures. But the young guy in the creek shower was a willing model.

But improving personal care options for young Ati has only been part of my recent focus. Older folks are getting some help, too.

We’ve added two more drinking water spigots to the longest distribution pipe from the hilltop holding tank. Both are for elderly Ati couples who live in nipa huts very near the lengthy downhill water line.

Easy enough to install some PVC couplings and pipe and a faucet in order to save them short but steep hikes, with full plastic water containers, to/from the next nearest spigot.

Here’s photos of satisfied ‘new customers’, Mercedes and Fermin & RoseMarie – some of my favorite Ati folks living on the mountain.

Truthfully, the water pump and distribution system has been so welcome and well accepted that I’ve started getting ‘complaints’ if there is a problem or concern.

A few times an Ati tribe member has approached me – usually holding a water jug – and stated in broken English, “Sir Theo, no more water.” Suddenly, I’m like ‘the water department’… lolol!

Leaks and outages cause consternation among the Ati – just like any utility user. And indeed, the improvements mentioned above have necessitated shut down of the one line for repair on several occasions.

I usually try to beg off any further water questions (since I can’t understand the language) and jokingly refer the Ati to their community pump operator and ‘system manager’, Charlie. Then Charlie and I make sure we fix or address the situation.

In coming weeks and months we expect the current issues will dissipate. Of course, the whole system is new (barely a month old) and the ongoing additions and adjustments still require some ‘fine tuning’.

Moreover, I continue to take great satisfaction in watching tribe members, especially women and children, easily fill their drinking water containers at the various community faucets instead of having to hike to the distant spring fill site like before. Again, many thanks go out to our foreign backers!

As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.
Life is NOW!

Thanks for reading, “Monsoon showers, more spigots, & customer service.”


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