Believed to be descendants of the original settlers of the Philippines, the Mamanwas are known to be upland dwellers, skilled in ways of life in the mountain, and have a striking physical resemblance to the Negritos. They are most commonly living in Mindanao and parts of Southern Leyte. However, small groups scatter in other areas of Leyte and Samar. Last November 11, we were fortunate to meet them in Kilometer 16, Tinabanan, Marabut, Western Samar.
The current settlers of Sitio Kilometer 16 are already second generation of the Mamanwas that first moved to Samar. A community of sixteen households, they have seen the wrath of Yolanda in upland Tinabanan, destroying their vegetation.
A grueling rough road ride up to the sixteen kilometer mark, the community has never before been reached by grid electricity. They go to bed early inside their ICRC shelters, their nights would be lit up only by the moon and the stars, and almost near silence save for the sound of the crickets.
“Magka ada na kami suga”, (we will soon have lights) blurted out by the mother who lived across PKKK’s newly built community center in Kilometer 16, as we got down the truck with our solar equipment, our backs hurting from more than an hour of bumpy ride. They had the mix of Samarnon Waray and Surigaonon Bisaya which made communication much easier.
PKKK or the Pambansang Koalisyon ng mga Kababaihan sa Kanayunan has just finished building their community center that would serve as an office, a health center, an evacuation center, a charging station, and eventually a daycare center. RE-Charge visited the center to install a 400-Watt Photovoltaic System to support the operations of the facility.
For the first time, the Mamanwa community in Kilometer 16 has experienced actual light bulbs and AC outlets for their low power appliances. We watch them explore this new source of electricity and we knew that we have just made a difference, no matter how small.