It’s difficult to imagine living without electricity, especially given today’s amazing technological developments. But there are actually still some rural areas in the country where the only sources of nighttime light are the moon, kerosene lamps and wood fires. Until recently, Sitio Badang in Ilocos Sur was one such area.
The 40-plus families living in this hilly part of Ilocos Sur near the border of La Union have made do with gas lamps and moonlight for the longest time. They did not, however, always live in the present area—they moved uphill from the plains so they could watch over their crops more diligently. Their main source of livelihood is growing ube (purple yam) for the Good Shepherd Convent in Baguio City. The sisters make and sell ube jam, among other things, under the label Mountain Maid.
The sitio was chosen to be the beneficiary of solar panels through the corporate social responsibility (CSR) program of Burt’s Bees, a US-based line of personal care products distributed locally at Beauty Bar by Stores Specialists Inc. (SSI).
The company philosophy at Burt’s Bees begins with a question—What is the greater good?—before branching out into three sections: humanitarian or social responsibility, environmental or sustainability, and natural or well-being. While they might seem like separate categories, they are actually related as they all aim for “the greater good.”
Reena Rosario, merchandise group manager for Beauty Bar, told Inquirer Lifestyle before the turnover rites at Sitio Badang recently that Burt’s Bees has a number of different CSR programs. “In Malaysia, the program that was initiated was to protect the orangutans in the country’s forests. Since Australia has a high incidence of depression among females, their program adopted a greeting—How are you doing today?—that attempted to engage women in some friendly chitchat.
“With the help of Advanced Telecoms (Adtel), which sourced the solar panels, we chose to give Sitio Badang the gift of light,” Rosario said.
SSI invited select members of the press for the simple ceremonies that took place in January. We were told that the ride would be bumpy, but we were unprepared for the three-hour-long trip over river stones as large as melons.
Once we got to the foot of the hill where Sitio Badang is located, we had to slowly cross two bamboo foot bridges. We were rewarded by a grateful community that tearfully thanked the organizers for their kindness and generosity.
P10 for every product sold
To raise money for the solar panels, P10 from every purchase of a Burt’s Bees product was funneled into the CSR program. Last December, key areas in Sitio Badang, namely, the church, school, barangay hall and child care center, were outfitted with solar panels. The second phase of the program, which Rosario said Burt’s Bees and SSI would still have to finalize, will involve the lighting of the residents’ homes and public areas.
Reymond Oliver S. Batara, assistant vice president, renewable energy division at Adtel, said, “More than just a light source, the solar panels will improve the residents’ education (through programs on the radio), communication (mobile phones) and provide entertainment (when they come back from the field).”
While many of us are just itching to get our hands on the latest smartphone, tablet or what-have-you, there are people like the young student of Sitio Badang who was moved to tears because she and her classmates were able to celebrate their first Christmas party held in the evening.