Powerless islanders enjoy the glimmer of solar lights at night

AYOKE, GENERAL ISLANDS, Cantilan, Surigao del Sur (MindaNews/2 September) – Residents here are finally enjoying the perks of electrical power by enjoying the comforts of a lighted kitchen, soothing music over the radio and watching “sine-sine” every weekends.

Thanks to the technology of solar power, residents in Ayoke, in the northernmost tip of Isla Heneral in this rustic and simple Cantilan town in Surigao del Sur are now updated of the “outside world”.

Through the support of a foreign financial aid coursed through the Department of Agrarian Reform, 78 households in Ayoke Island are now using fluorescent lights instead of the “lampara” or kerosene lamps.

Ayoke island is one of the three big islands in the municipality of Cantilan. The place is idyllic and people live simple lives. It is scarcely populated with only 800 people or 98 households.

Ayoke is about 30 to 40 minutes away by a motorized banca from the town proper.

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Majority of the island dwellers enjoy playing Bingo, a favorite recreational game, that lasts up to the wee hours of dawn.

Children can now read books and work their assignments at night and even work on their household chores at night.

Because of the use of electricity, fisherfolks narrated how their financial woes changed.

According to Carlos E. Consigna, they actually saved money from using electricity instead of the “lamparahan” since each household had to spend P10 a day for the kerosene.

With the use of the solar energy, each household only pays a monthly fee of P120, a huge difference from their monthly consumption of P300 from using the “lampara”.

When the technology started in 2007, the recipients were paying P220 per month or about P7 per night. But their organization decided to cut this down to P120 last year.

Consigna said the monthly amortization is used in maintaining the solar panels which he said could last up to 25 years.

“Changing the fluorescent, battery or the power storage, or any other technical problems that require financial matter, will be charged from the organization’s bank account,” Consigna said in Surigaonon.

He said their group, the Nagkahugpong Managatay Para sa Kalabuan Nan Ayoke (NAGMAKA-AYO), now has a total savings of over P200,000.

Their growing savings were due to the organization’s wise spending and regular monthly consultations with members.

Some residents who were disdainful of the project are now blaming themselves for not believing in its success, according to fisherman Tortillano S. Guarte, who is also a recipient of the project.

On Saturdays and Sundays, local folks gather at the school to watch movies.


The organization also conducts income generating activities for the benefit of the school children. Adults in the community, especially the parents of school children, are required to shell out P1 or P2.50 for the “sine-sine” at the school campus.

Ofelia G. Pacana, one of the teachers, said this greatly improved the learning process of the pupils because of the images and voices that the students can now associate directly from the screen instead of imagining objects, movements and other events.

Further, their classrooms are now well lighted, which further enhances the pupils’ interest in coming to school.

Eight-year-old Charlo Consigna, Carlos’s son, is a Grade 3 pupil of the Ayoke Elementary School. Since their household is now using solar power, he told MindaNews that he now loves to work on his assignment and read books before he goes to sleep.

His father said Charlo’s reading ability has greatly improved as well.

The child is a consistent honor pupil in his class and lands in the top 5 in overall rankings.

“Thanks for the solar energy, we can live life happily,” Charlo said.

Today, only two dozen fisherfolks of the island are using kerosene lamps. But they are dreaming of having the same at their respective homes soon.

Gliceto “Butch” Dagondon, director of Green Mindanao, Inc., said if the 7,000 islands in the country will use solar power, it will greatly help in saving the environment and the planet from harmful energy sources such as coal-fired power plants.

“If we care enough, the Filipino people should patronize solar energy as power source because in the long run we actually spend less and the environment gets better,” Dagondon said.

“Otherwise, we will all face the wrath of nature because of the ill-effects of climate change,” he said.

But for the Ayoke residents, the bright light that they now enjoy is a step to a much better and fresher environment for them.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Filipinos can readily learn from their experience. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)