By Alexander Villafania
VICTORIA, ORIENTAL MINDORO – Spread across the Halcon mountain range, the Mangyans have lived outside the realm of civilization subsisting on root crops and rice.
Because of their geographical distance, they have little to no experience with the benefits of civilization, such as electricity and running water. Most of them still live in huts with thatched roofs and their only light at night are kerosene lamps.
Knowing that the Mangyans are among the poorest, the group One Million Lights (OML), with the support of Energizer Philippines, chose to give the Mangyans around Oriental Mindoro 1,400 units of solar lamps to replace the kerosene lamps.
Leading OML Philippines are Mark Lozano and Tricia Peralta, two teenage students from PAREF Southridge School.
Accompanied by several other student volunteers and representatives from the US group of OML, Lozano and Peralta trouped last April 16 to 18 to several remote locations where Mangyans live like Victoria, Bagong Silang, Naujan, and Villa Cerveza.
Some of these places are only accessible by dirt road and there are rivers to be crossed. Nevertheless, Lozano said that providing light to such places is the main goal of the group.
“There’s too little being done to help alleviate the situation of these people and we hope that OML will be able to provide them some modern-day benefits that would lead them to better opportunities as a people,” Lozano said.
The Mangyans are also the first tribal group that the OML Philippines has assisted. Previously, Lozano and his volunteers have also provided LED lamps to survivors of Typhoon Sendong late last year.
The solar lamps are actually rechargeable LED lamps that are plugged to two small solar panels. These panels must be placed in unobstructed places to allow maximum exposure to sunlight.
These LED lamps, manufactured by Energizer, can be charged for five hours and will light up for at least eight hours.
The lamps themselves are not for sale and only the OML project is allowed to distribute them. The Philippines is one of the four country-recipients of the project aside from Argentina, Kenya, and Ethiopia.
Energizer Philippines Brand Manager Joan Mendoza said that the OML activity is also within the scope of the company’s theme of “Spreading positivenergy”. She noted that many Filipinos remain poor and are unable to move forward economically, and thus are in need of constant assistance.
“We hope that this activity will be reflected by other organizations. The Mangyans are just one of the many who can be helped. There are others who also need as much assistance.”