By Lottie Salarda
Just days after the Solar Scholar workshop, Sir Uro and I scheduled a trip to the island town of San Vicente in Northern Samar to assess the power situation of their Rural Health Unit, headed by Dr. Nenilyn Francisco. From Tacloban, it takes a minimum of 6 hours to reach the place, requiring several transfers. From Tacloban City we rode a van to Catbalogan City for an hour, then one more hour travel to Calbayog City and an hour and a half trip from Calbayog to San Isidro port.
We got lost at first, because we took the ride from Calbayog to Catarman. We realized shortly that it was not the proper route. We took a jeepney instead; from Catarman to Allen it took an hour and half, and then a half an hour tricycle ride to San Isidro. It was quite a long trip.
From San Isidro port we had to rush to catch the only boat bound for San Vicente, which usually departs by 2:00 PM. We were lucky to be on time. The boat left at exactly the designated hour, a lot of dust still on our faces while the craft separated from the dock. It takes two hours by sea to get to San Vicente.
The island was already enveloped in darkness when we arrived. Locals milled about at the island’s port, many to welcome relatives. Immediately after we got off from the boat, we went to the Municipal Building to meet one of our solar scholars, Jetrud ,who brought us to the Rural Health Unit, where we assessed the power needs of the facility.
Sir Uro climbed the roof while I began to take pictures of different areas of the place.
This is where we met Dr. Francisco and shared to her our purpose. Her response was positive and she encouraged us to pursue plans to solarize the health center.
At first, we had planned to sleep in an abandoned building in the port area, which would keep at bay the cold of the night. But that was only our back up plan when we will not be able to have someone who can accommodate us for one night. Luckily, Doc Nenilyn offered her vacant bedrooms in their house for us to rest. They accommodated us very well.
After the brief exchange, we were taken by Alvin, another of our Solar Scholars, to the mother who had given birth to a baby girl the day after the Tacloban solar training workshop.
It was late in the afternoon when Marivic Naga experienced the pain of labor. Everyone knew she was about to give birth. The room was dark, stuffy and uncomfortable for laboring moms.
Understanding the medical situation, Alvin immediately operated the San Vicente TekPak, plugging in the electric fan and turning on a LED bulb to light up the delivery area.
Where they would have had to risk serious complications before, without the benefit of lighting and ventilation, Marivic and other laboring moms had delivered healthy babies that afternoon in comfort and better safety. I cannot forget the fact that even without renewable energy interventions, San Vicente has managed to maintain the sterling record of zero maternal deaths since 1976, all thanks to selfless citizens and officers from the town’s health sector.
When I saw the cute little face of baby Kathryn, Marivic’s infant, all my fears disappeared. Riding a small boat on rough waters across islands, and going to different remote locations in the region were nothing compared to the smiles from Kathryn. All the work of the RE-Charge team was worth it.
We thank our San Vicente Solar Scholars for giving us the opportunity to make modest contributions to the development of their town and people. San Vicente is a source of inspiration. We’ll be back for sure.