Text written by Mary Carmelle C. Jumawan (DSWD Caraga SLP Information Officer)
Photos taken by Simel Adam Amplayo (DSWD Caraga SLP M&E Officer)

Who would expect to see a trace of technological innovation in a very isolated place?

A group of Manobos in an isolated place called Sitio Bantolinao in Sibagat, Agusan del Sur claims that positive change can happen.

DSC_0009 (1)In January 2012, 25 partner-beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilya Pamilyang Pilipino Program in Bantolinao received Php10,000 each through the Sustainable Livelihood Program’s (SLP’s) Self-Employment Assistance-Kaunlaran (SEA-K). Eager to gain a stable income, the group agreed to fuse their grants and ventured into General Merchandise.

Evelyn “Inday” Inocente, SKA chairman and a Pantawid Pamilya parent leader, shares her extreme happiness after receiving the grants. “Dako kaayo among  pasalamat sa tabang gikan sa SLP tungod niini naay maayong kabag-ohan sa among kinabuhi (We are very grateful for SLP’s grant. It brought change to our lives),” says Inday.

“Agig pagbalik sa tabang sa gobyerno, naningkamot kami na naay panginabuhi na matukod alang sa kaayuhan sa tanan (In return to the government’s help, we did our best to create a livelihood for the welfare of everyone),” she adds.

Situated in a far-flung area, access to basic commodities and other supplies has never been easy in Sitio Bantolinao. Thus, putting up a general merchandise is seen practical and feasible. Through the SEA-K fund, financial assistance and logistic support from the municipal local government unit (MLGU), and the initiatives of the members, the efficient implementation of the project has been carried out. Because of the project, the community members no longer have to pass a 15-km treacherous route and spend over a thousand pesos for transportation just to purchase goods in the municipality proper.

DSC_0060 (2)With a positive profit and a vision to bring more change, the association has expanded its operations by entering into a joint project with the Sibagat SEA-K Federation on Abaca Production and establishing a very remarkable project called Bantolinao SEA-K Electric Power project.

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Through its partner Socio-Economic Uplift Literacy Anthropological and Development Services (SULADS) and with the help of the Municipal Local Government Unit (MLGU), the association has bought a mini-hydroelectric power generator which is now installed at the Bantolinao Falls.

Fifty-two (52) households of the sitio have since been provided with electric power 24/7.

“Dako ang kabag-uhan ug tabang ang nahatag sa kuryente sa amoa (The electricity brought a huge change and help to us),” Evelyn shares.

Because of the power from the mini-hydro, the association has been able to install lighting facilities to the store and the abaca processing area making it possible to operate during gloomy days and during the night.DSC_0060 (1)

This trace of innovation has emancipated the tribe from the shadow of ignorance through exposure to radio and television.

Children can now easily study and make their assignments at night. They have acquired more learnings through the educational shows they have watched on TV.

“Mas maganahan nako mag-study kay naa nay suga sa balay (I am more eager to study because we already have light at home),” one of the daughters in Bantolinao shares with a sweet smile on her face.

To ensure the sustainability of the power supply, the Bantolinao waterfalls and the power generator are maintained by the community members – both male and female.

Furthermore, the association has also ventured into micro-lending, offering loans that have aided both the members and the non-members especially during emergencies.

With their present economic status, they have gained confidence in dealing with people out of their context and even go to different places without fear of intimidation.

“Tungod sa tabang sa SLP ug sa among pagpaningkamot makaingon dyud ko na kaya ang kabag-uhan (With SLP’s help and our hard work, I can say that we can make a change),” Evelyn concludes.

The huge success of the association has brought hope, shed light, and caused empowerment to the Manobos in Sitio Bantolinao.