Power progress for Ati tribe in Malay, Philippines

The power poles are upright!

Once again, I’m thrilled to report progress on the electrification project we are sponsoring with the local Ati tribe here in Malay, Aklan, Panay, Philippines.

Maybe it’s because the process has been so methodically slow, or that I keep wishing for action, or I’m afraid that COVID or weather or some other uncontrollable circumstance will delay things further, or that I have little else to do as we wait out the global pandemic; whatever the case, whenever there is positive change, I get exuberant.

Ati background

For those who may be unaware, the Ati are an indigenous people whose origins in the Philippines can be traced back over 20,000 years.

Sadly, today, they are a marginalized group — similar in some ways to Native Americans in North America.

Here in Malay — where we have paused our global wandering during the pandemic — there are hundreds of Ati living just a few minutes away from our temporary seaside apartment.

Due to economic hardship caused by the coronavirus lockdowns and the halt to most tourism, we have been helping the Ati and others.

With matching contributions from overseas supporters, we have variously supplied food and medical care and employment on community projects. We rebuilt a typhoon-destroyed hen house business. We’ve improved drinking water access. And we’ve wired some hilltop Ati homes for new electric service.

Now we’re waiting for the power company (AKELCO) to finalize the engineering, utilize the new poles, add a transformer, install the meters, and complete the individual connections.

Over last few weeks I’ve been keeping a close eye on the situation — hoping for activity. AKELCO did deliver the four, big, steel power poles needed to support the ‘main line’.

But it was the Ati who actually carried the massive posts up the rugged hillside footpaths to where they are needed. And it is the Ati who have now ‘planted’ the poles.

Earlier this week, when my wife, Ellen, accompanied me up ‘Ati mountain’ for the first time in months, the poles were still laying on the ground. But now, at week’s end, they are in place. Especially impressive since the Ati are also currently busy harvesting rice; long days of hot, hard work.

Great job, Ati tribe!

It is another step forward. Followed by excitement. Then more waiting.

Waiting: The hardest part

Naturally, AKELCO has all kinds of other demands and responsibilities as well. And in fact, the service is actually a cooperative– the Aklan Electric Cooperative Inc. That means the outfit is run by and for their members/customers/rate payers – soon to include the new Ati households.

To be fair, AKELCO seems to be a pretty small operation – similar to some of the most rural electric companies that might be found in developed countries. At our apartment, there are frequent outages – both planned and otherwise. Obviously, they are continually working to maintain and improve service for everyone. Indeed, my several interactions with AKELCO personnel have all been friendly and professional.

For the moment, I will continue to take satisfaction in seeing the new steel poles ready and waiting for duty. I know the affected Ati remain eager and thankful for all the efforts that will bring power to their small homes for the first time.

My gut says AKELCO never thought the lowly Ati would get this far; buying and hanging heavy cable, prepping the houses, following through on the extensive paperwork and bureaucratic procedures, paying the various fees — but here we are. Waiting for connection.

Hopefully, AKELCO can soon allocate the man-hours and final resources needed to complete the Ati hookups. Of course, I’ll be keenly observing and reporting on further progress or lack thereof.

As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.

Life is NOW!

Thanks for reading, “Power progress for Ati tribe in Malay, Philippines.”

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Power progress for Ati tribe in Malay, Philippines

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