The Cauayan chronicles

TP Students Bring Light to Sitio Manalpaac
by Murugesh K Verlachamy

Twenty-three students and two lecturers set off for Cauayan City in the Philippines from 2–14 April on an Overseas Community Project (OCP). The aim of the trip? To help install solar-powered lights in homes and assist in the construction of a deep well in the village of Sitio Manalpaac.

The mammoth task, however, was not undertaken by Temasek Polytechnic alone but rather in collaboration with a team of 19 students from Isabela State University (ISU). This partnership between the two institutions extends back to 2017 where students from ISU and TP embarked on their first OCP and helped with the installation of 6 solar powered street lights, four water taps and the refurbishment of a daycare centre in Sitio Manalpaac.

Well construction under the blazing sun

Making an Impact on the Local Community

Under the guidance of Teresa Abelanes and Rafiq Khader, the accompanying lecturers from the School of Engineering, our students set about the gargantuan task of addressing the problems of an entire village. First up was the pressing concern of villagers not having an affordable and sustainable source of lighting in their homes.

With rising electricity costs to contend with, the teams from ISU and TP knew that sustainable energy was the only way to go and devised a strategy to install solar powered lights for the more than 70 homes in the village. Overcoming numerous teething issues, the students stuck it out in the trying conditions and met their target over a hugely impressive three days.

With lighting out of the way, our students had to resolve the issue of water.

“One of the lasting images from our OCP was an elderly man showing us the scars he had obtained from retrieving water from the sole tank serving the entire village,” shared Teresa. 

Spurred on by this haunting image, the team from TP braved the unrelenting heat and assisted local engineers with the construction of a deep well that provided villagers with a much needed alternative source of fresh water. The well, which provides villagers with water at zero cost, will also play a pivotal role in helping the community become self-subsistent. With the planned construction of greenhouses in the near future, the additional water from the well will go a long way in helping villagers grow cash crops to supplement their income. 

Whilst there were significant strides made in the improvement of the villagers’ lives, it was their happiness that left a lasting impression on the team from TP.

“The improvements to the water supply and lighting were one thing but it was the bright smiles and gratitude from the villagers that were most important to us,” said Teresa.

Embracing the culture with a boodle fight

Blossoming in the Philippines

The trip to Cauayan City has also proven to be a character building exercise for the 23 students who were involved.

“This experience has been a very rewarding one for me. Having been allocated a leadership role, I learnt how to manage people and the importance of having foresight when making decisions and not rushing into anything,” said Rebecca Ang, TP’s Leisure & Events Management student.

Biomedical Engineering student Qisti Razan Putra was also quick to laud the cultural aspects of the trip.

“Apart from developing my leadership and people skills, one other big takeaway for me was being exposed to different cultures,” said Putra.

“One of our dinners followed the local customs of a boodle fight where students from both ISU and TP not only prepared the dishes but also consumed it together side by side. It’s a memory that I will always cherish.”

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