Benjamin Smith

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


The people of Bohol speak Visayas, and although my Visayan vocab is all of twelve words, one I have heard an awful lot today is tubig. In English, it means water – and because today was our first day of surveying it was basically all we talked about. One thing I noticed didn’t change from house to house; every time we asked people what their biggest concern is, and every time the answer was tubig.

To be honest, I was slightly nervous about the prospect of surveying. Walking through the heat and humidity all day was a bit daunting, and the night before we weren’t even quite sure if we would have all the interpreters we needed to communicate with the villagers. However, when we arrived at the town hall the villagers that came to help us outnumbered our own team, and I felt silly for even doubting them.  In our group we actually had more interpreters than team members; we had to distract some of them during the interviews just to keep the crowd small!

As the day went on I just started enjoying myself more and more, the people were so kind and so grateful that we were coming to their community to help bring them water that I really didn’t even want to stop. Granted I could do without the sweat, sunscreen, and bug spray, but being reminded of why we are doing this project was really inspiring.

I shouldn’t pick favorites, but the most memorable house was one far off the beaten path, home to a 73 year old woman, her daughter, and her grandson. When we arrived I saw matchbox cars on the ground, and her grandson was running around pretending to be Spiderman. It was almost surreal – here was a kid who had grown up on the other side of the world, in conditions that couldn’t have been more different to the ones I grew up in, and he was doing the same exact thing I did as a kid. Some things are just universal I guess.

We wound up talking to this boy’s grandmother for a long time, and found out that she uses a well by the river, and when high tide comes the water gets very salty. She knew drinking it would make her sick, but she had no means to get anything else – and although she herself had diabetes and a kidney problem, she would spend her income on bottled water for her grandson, and drink the salty water herself.  

Often families would ask us when the project would be done, and we struggled to answer because it could be any number of years, and of course we would like to help them now. Despite the bad news, the people understood that this is a slow process, and more than one family said they would pray that we would return soon to help them. As we left one home, we said “we will be back” – to which the homeowner replied “you sound like General Macarthur”. While I quite fancy myself with the corncob pipe, I don’t think our return to the Philippines will be quite so impactful (but I’ll take the compliment).

This morning we are off to the Island’s development office and university to meet with officials and ask questions concerning groundwater, drilling, and water quality. Fortunately that means we get to be inside all day, so I won’t have to drink 7 Nalgene bottles to stay hydrated! Peace, love and EWB,