Sharing lights and Inspiring lives in the Islands of Palawan

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

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Palawan province is known to be one of the best tourist destination here in the Philippines. From beaches to caves, falls to forest, and sand to rivers, Palawan is the perfect spot.

Different activities are also offered in Palawan; underground subterranean river tour, firefly watching, scuba diving, Island hopping and many more. Yup, just like what others say, Palawan is a paradise!

Behind the alluring sights of Palawan are the people living and preserving its beauty. Simple yet fulfilling, that’s how the people of Palawan live everyday. With all the breathtaking views that surrounds them, I guess their life is almost faultless. Almost.

It may look perfect but did you know that there are still people in Palawan who have no electricity at all. Some of them use Gasera lamps for them to be able to see during nighttime while others experience complete darkness.

July 2016, the Liter of Light team took off and went to the Paradise of Palawan, not to relax but to share lights and knowledge to the locals in Palawan.

First stop, Sibaltan. Sibaltan is one of the oldest barangays of El Nido. It is located in the municipality’s eastern coast. Archaeological excavations reveal that a 500-1,500 year old trading community once lived there. (www.facebook.com/sibaltanpalawan)

As we arrived at our first destination, the Sibaltan kids welcomed us with a traditional dance. Dancing with all smiles, we really felt that they’re glad we’ve arrived.

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After the welcoming performance by the Sibaltan kids, the team went to Balay Cuyonon Museum to have a glimpse of Sibaltan’s history. The Balay Cuyonon Museum is a replica of the Cuyonon’s house (Cuyonon are the elite ethnic group found at the northern and central Palawan originating from the Cuyo Island). Inside, you can see house utensils that were handmade; lamps, cooking utensils, and hunting gears. As we entered the museum, we can already tell how the Cuyonon lived their lives before. Peaceful and satisfying.

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While El Nido is famous for its lagoons and turquoise waters, Sibaltan, just to its north, boasts some of the most skilled weaving craftsmen who use traditional techniques to create intricate designs for leather goods.

In 2000, the Sibaltan women weavers started as a small group. Through the Department of Social Welfare and Development, they underwent training to supply a single buri bag design for giveaways in El Nido’s resorts.

By 2008, Macrina “Nay Macring” Gacasa became president of the Sibaltan Women Weavers Association Inc. (SWWAI), which by then had 57 members and were weaving buri-pandan bags, wallets, baskets or bayongs, slippers, and mats for the local market. (source: digitaledition.philstar.com)

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We spent two days at Sibaltan and teach the Sibaltan Women Weavers Association Inc. on how to assemble the solar lamps. SWWAI members gathered around as the team explained how to use the solar lamps and what should they do in case there’s a problem. Now, they have another source of livelihood – maybe even a new inspiration for their next leather design! Yey!

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After training the Sibaltan Women Weavers Association Inc., our team went to the Sibaltan National High School to share the gift of light to their students.

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While the school has a generator to power the classrooms during the day, many of the students walk home in the darkness… but that was before. Now, powered by community-built solar lights, 80 students’ paths are now brighter. Thanks to our sponsors, donors, volunteers and to all the people behind this project, we’re not just lighting up their community, we’re also lighting up their lives. The possibilities are endless. Build light. Share light. Give light.

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No amount of words could ever describe the joy of these children while we’re handling them the lights. For them, it may look like we’re just giving lights but for us, we’re giving them a new beginning and a brighter future.

The next morning, we travelled to our next destination. We head further north to Linapacan, home to the clearest blue waters of the Philippines. Linapacan is an island municipality in the province of Palawan. It is situated south of the famous Calamian Group and located between Coron to the north.

Last October 2013, the beautiful island is listed as one of the “35 Clearest Waters in the World to Swim in Before You Die” by American news site Daily News Dig and it emerged at the top spot.(www.vigattintourism.com)

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Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the townspeople. Fisherfolk came to the pier, we even had a few young onlookers pitch in. After bringing down the equipments from the boat, the team gathered the townspeople and showed them how to build their own solar street lights. We also gave solar lamps to the kids of Linapacan so they can now study every night with lights. Yey! Study well kids! ;)

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Few hours later…

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Tada! Fisherfolk marched on the pier with their own solar streetlights! Their reaction is so priceless, I can’t even think of a word to describe it. Feeling fulfilled, we thought of staying there for more hours but the sun is already kissing the sea so it means that we need to say goodbye. I felt a little pinch in my heart as we leave Linapacan but we need to go to other communities and give more lights. Hoping to come back and share more stories with these good-hearted townsfolk. Until we meet again!

 

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