With power, a buying spree for appliancesBy Jonas Cabiles Soltes |Inquirer Southern Luzon
LABO, Camarines Norte—The absence of electricity in Sitio Patag of Barangay Cabatuhan of this town had deprived residents of what other townsfolk only kilometers away considered as part of their daily lives: Televisions, refrigerators and computers.
So when power supply finally came to the village of 78 households on Nov. 16, the first thing that came to 47-year-old Mercedita Nemi’s mind is to sell the family’s two carabao to buy a TV set and refrigerator.
Her neighbors thought of the same thing. TV sets and refrigerators were on top of the list of things they wanted to buy.
Nemi said the village had been without electricity since the 1960s. People had to be home and stay indoors when darkness fell “for fear of people who did bad things at night.”
“I was very scared to go out,” Nemi said.
Patag is 12 km from the national highway but 45 km from the town proper of Labo and 70 km from Daet, the capital town of Camarines Norte.
Having no electricity also meant no additional source of income for the villagers.
“I long wanted to sell food but I cannot do it without a refrigerator,” said Nemi, who is now her family’s lone breadwinner after her husband had fallen ill.
Farmer Gregorio Corral, 50, a father of 13 children, works in the fields during the day. He had wanted to work on handicrafts at night to earn extra income but, without electricity, it had been impossible.
Sitio Patag is connected to the national highway by a 12-km dirt road that is muddy in the rainy season and dust-filled in the dry season.
The dirt road, which winds through cliffs and jungles, is difficult to negotiate even for contraptions called habal-habal, or motorcycles retrofitted to carry more people than they were designed for and which had become the main mode of transportation in the village.
Residents have become so used to the absence of progress in their village that they could not believe it when, in September, linemen from an electric cooperative arrived with steel posts and transformers.
“Electrification came to us as a surprise,” said Nemi.
She said in jest that, with electricity, villagers would soon be preoccupied with watching TV at night instead of producing babies.
Dante Balog, the village chief, said he hadn’t lost hope that progress would come to his community. It came with the help of the Camarines Norte Electric Cooperative, the National Electrification Administration and the provincial government.