"This is the story of a remote village in Zambales province."
Like any typical 12-year-old in his town, Jaderick Castillo grew up idolizing NBA stars, dreaming of watching them play. But that’s as far as he can get then—dream.
For Jaderick, along with the rest of the 1,000 denizens of a remote village in San Marcelino in Zambales, grew up in the dark, almost literally as their town had been neglected for generations, with virtually no house in their community having the luxury of experiencing how electricity would work for them.
Until last June 7, when a Chinese-funded solar project lit up the mountain village of Baliwet. Electricity supply finally arrived in this remote village.
With the event coinciding with Dragon Boat Festival, the Chinese staff working for the State Grid Corporation of China brought children who live in Baliwet dozens of zongzi, the sticky rice dumplings served during the annual Festival and they tasted traditional Chinese food for the first time.
It was a brand new experience for the children and the whole village as reported by Xinhua to have electricity, produced by solar stations donated by Chinese company SGCC.
The solar project not only brightens up the remote village, but also offers a ray of hope to the poor villagers who have no access to electricity for decades and depended solely on kerosene gas lamps and batteries to power their TV sets and flashlights.
Due to its remoteness, no local power company is willing to invest in Baliwet. Villagers had to travel several kilometers to town to charge their mobile phones.
As part of the closer ties between China and the Philippines, SGCC signed in Baliwet a memorandum of agreement in January with the Philippine National Electrification Administration and the Zambales II Electric Cooperative for the solar project.
Under the deal, SGCC’s “Brighten Up” project would install a solar panel system for Zameco II, capable of delivering power to over 1,000 residents including two schools with 108 students in the village. The project, which will be officially finished at the end of June, is hoped to lift the villagers out of poverty and lead them to a bright future.
According to Liu Ming, the deputy chief representative of SGCC Philippine Office, the “Brighten Up” project is the first charitable project independently launched by a Chinese-funded enterprise in the Philippines.
“The power supply project uses solar micro-grid to provide centralized power with a power generation capacity of 76kW and a battery storage capacity of 390 kWh. It basically meets the day-to-day needs of the villagers,” Liu says.
Liu said the “Brighten Up” project “is one that evolves as it does not stop at simply installing the power supply.”
“It provides long-term operation, maintenance and interactive exchanges, enabling everyone to continue to build relationships that strengthen the human spirit.”
Elanie Cawagas, a teacher at the Baliwet Elementary School, lauded the project, saying the whole village and even the residents of nearby villagers are benefiting from the project particularly teachers and students.
She said villagers used to grope in the dark but now the villagers are enjoying the fruit of the Chinese-funded project.
She said it was difficult for the teachers to make use of the video presentation in teaching due to lack of electricity. “We are forced to stop the presentation when the computer battery is drained, and then wait for the next day when the battery is fully charged. That’s why we can’t maximize teaching time.”
Moreover, she said the students have a hard time focusing on the lesson because of the stifling heat inside the classrooms. “We don’t have electric wall fans to cool down the heat because there is no electricity to make the fans run,” she added.
The installation of solar power has a tremendous impact on the village and its people. “Now, our pupils are more motivated in the teaching-learning process. They are more cooperative in all school class activities because they can study their lessons at night,” she added.
Speaking of recreational activities, Cawagas said the villagers can now watch television and listen to the radio. And because the village is well lighted, she said villagers can do activities even at night.
“We are grateful for those who made this possible, especially our Chinese friends for bringing light into our village,” Cawagas said.
The project also provided job opportunities for the villagers.
With Baliwet having its own power now, Jaderick can now watch his favorite basketball stars play, including the NBA finals showdown.