THE Rotary Club of Pag-asa Davao took time out to bring over water filters to a village of Obo-Manobo residents in sitio Kibalang in barangay Marilog and bring over some goods for the Matigsalug students boarding at Balay Pasilungan in barangay Datu Salumay, both in Marilog District, last June 2. RC Pagasa was with its partners Seeds of Dignity Ministries, BioSand Filter Philippiens (BSF Philippines), and Global Impact to celebrate the day with the tribal folk.

Led by RC Pagasa and Seeds of Dignity president Peter Cowles, Rodelio Dalisay, BSF’s Darrel and and Shannon Nelson with the BSF staff who serve the communities, the gathering capped the installation of biosand filters in 220 households in Kibalang.

Aside from these, RC Pag-asa and BSF had installed filters in 36 households in Salaysay, 36 in Marahan, two in the agricultural high school, two in Datu Salumay Elementary School, and one in Kibalang Elementary School.

The program was participated in by the residents of the Obo-Manobo village led by Datu Leo Bandehan. “This is our third year and we’re pushing around 900 filters in the Marilog area,” Cowles said. The filters ensure that residents have access to clean, potable water and have contributed to reduced cases of gastro-intestinal and other water-borne diseases in the area.

“Katong wala pa niabot ang BSF, sige mi adto sa Buda. Sukad niabot, wala na nagsakit akong anak (Before BSF, we would often go to Buda where the German hospital is. But since we had the biosand filter, my child no longer got sick),” Merlyn Baga, a resident of Kibalang, said.

Cowles recalled that in his ministry work four years ago, he happened to drink “bad water” that downed him with dysentery. He considers himself lucky because the hospital was accessible for him. The same is not true for hinterland residents who have to walk far just to get drinking water, which most of the time gets contaminated.

“We’re not just celebrating over a container. We’re celebrating that we will no longer get sick, we’re celebrating that the children will not die. We’re celebrating life,” Cowles said just before the group broke out in a dance to end the program.

The group also delivered story books from their partners in Missouri, USA, to the chapel in Kibalang where the pastor maintains a children’s library. Next stop was the Balay Pasilungan, a boarding facility built by the city for students from hinterland areas who need to go to school along the national highway in Marilog.

The children would come over Sunday afternoon for their schooling and then trek back home as far as seven kilometers or more every Friday afternoon. The dormitory houses more than 40 children. When they first arrived at Balay Pasilungan behind the barangay hall in Datu Salumay, there were no bunk beds, the windows did not keep out the cold, and it was very dark. The boarding facility is not yet in perfect condition, but windows have already been fitted with thick plastic to keep out the cold, and bunk beds have been put in.

The kitchen is being fixed and there is now a vegetable garden behind, which RC Pagasa, thru Dalisay’s expertise intends to expand to provide fresh organically grown vegetables for the children. They will also be bringing over simple mattresses and beddings soon.

“A lot still needs to be done, but a big improvement can be seen from the work done in the past four months,” Cowles said in his invitation letter.