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A local leader helps end his community’s many years of struggle for water

After toiling kilometers just to fetch water, now hope springs eternal for the people of Barangay San Pedro in Mulanay Quezon all thanks to the leadership of one man and the help of San Miguel.

“There are just two things that people will remember you for – the bad things and the good. I chose the latter.” - Arnel Ricamra

It took 14 years before Arnel Ricamara and the residents of Barangay San Pedro in Mulanay, Quezon to finally enjoy the benefits of a potable water system installed near their homes. 

For the longest time, it had been a backbreaking, daily struggle for their community.  

“We needed to walk two kilometers to fetch water from the river or through a spring because our deep wells did not have enough water supply. Those among us who had a carabao would use sleds to save themselves time and hardship. By the time we would arrive home, so much water would have spilled. And then every summer, our deep wells would dry up and we would line up to fetch water from the one remaining deep well. Some would opt to buy drinking water from the nearest town,” says Ricamara, Barangay councilor and president of the Magsasakang Sinusulong ang Organikong Pagsasaka (MASINOP).

ENDING THE LONG WAIT

Ricamara looked for ways to ease their situation. He sought help from the authorities in the province, went through the tedious process of holding exploratory talks with local organizations, research groups, NGOs, and business establishments who could provide assistance. 

A conversation with a municipal officer over a bottle of lambanog, led to a solution – a potable water system for their community. 

“It all started during my conversation with Sir Pupot Pereda, Municipal Project Coordinator of Mulanay, over a bottle of Lambanog. We continuously worked with him in sharing our story to those interested to help. After a few weeks, he connected us to Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) who, in turn, brought San Miguel Corporation on board,” Ricamara shares.

ENGAGING THE PEOPLE

Around 300 households are now benefitting from a steady supply of potable water coming from the seven tap stands installed in strategic locations around the barangay. Another was installed at San Pedro Elementary School.

To ensure its sustainability, PBSP tapped MASINOP to construct and help maintain the facility. Armed with training and experience in working for a water system, Ricamara volunteered to train his members.

“I shared my knowledge and helped train them in water system management. Since we are the beneficiaries of this gift of San Miguel to San Pedro, we are taking care of the water system as a sign of our gratitude for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We will forever be thankful to San Miguel and PBSP for giving us this water system,” Ricamara said.

MAKING IT SUSTAINABLE 

Led by Ricamara, the members of MASINOP agreed to set aside a portion of their earnings from farming and fishing to support the initial maintenance needs of the project. 

They also plan to put up a vegetable garden to maximize the benefits of the water system and provide additional source of income for them. Part of sales from the produce will also be used to pay for expenses for the maintenance and improvement of the garden.

Ricamara is happy to play a major role in the realization of this dream that was made possible through the support of the people and various groups who worked together for this project.

“Money should never be an issue. We will not ask for money from the residents for its maintenance. That’s what we all agreed on. Even if I don’t get paid, as long as there is water for the community, I will do my best to lead MASINOP in maintaining and improving the water system. I only have one principle in life and that is to do good. Someday, we will all die and somebody will take our place. But when we leave this world, people will ask what you have done when you were still alive. There are just two things that people will remember you for – the bad things and the good. I chose the latter,” shares Ricamara.

This article originally appeared in the recent newsletter of Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP).

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