Alangalang, Leyte – The San Juanico Bridge is known as the “Bridge of Love” because it connects Samar and Leyte. However, residents of Barangay Cabadsan in this town also want to claim the title for their small bridge – a two-barrel box culvert.
For them, this structure, which was built through Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS), of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), is the true “bridge of love”, because it is a testament of their unity and hard work to make their community a safe place to live in.
The box culvert serves as a bridge for development and bayanihan in Barangay Cabadsan in Alangalang, Leyte
Love for community Before Kalahi-CIDSS became part of their lives, the people from the village proper and nearby sitio had nothing to do with each other – and they preferred it that way. While there was no open hostility between the two, there was an undercurrent of tension present, with one group believing that the other thought too highly of itself. Cristina Gatila, 43, a resident of the sitio described the former situation. “Dati snob ang mga tao (The people were snobs before),” she said with a cheeky grin. As a program that utilizes the community-driven development (CDD) strategy, Kalahi-CIDSS provides citizens from the poorest municipalities across the Philippines with trainings so they can gain knowledge and skills to access resources and implement projects that will help them address their community’s most pressing needs. As such, when Kalahi-CIDSS entered Brgy. Cabadsan, the residents had to learn to work with each other if they wanted to solve their problem.
The love for their families and for their village enabled the the community volunteers of Barangay Cabadsan in Alangalang, Leyte to work together to construct their box culvert through Kalahi-CIDSS
For many of the volunteers, the best part of working together is the fact that they actually got to know each other. Looking slyly at her companions, Vicky said with a grin, “Dati, hindi nila kami pinapansin. Ngayon, sabay-sabay na kami kumain (In the past, they ignored us. Now, we eat together).”
The construction of the box culvert truly connected the gap between those living in the proper and the sitios in Barangay Cabadsan in Alangalang, Leyte
Love for family Friendship was only one of the things that Vicky is thankful for with the construction of the bridge. As a mother, her biggest concern in the past was keeping her children safe from disease. She saw for herself how the other kids in the barangay became afflicted with schistosomiasis and other waterborne diseases because they were forced to cross the rushing waters to get to and from school. Describing the difference of their condition, she said, “Wala nang problema mga ang tao kahit umuulan. Kahit tumaas ang tubig okay lang (People no longer have any problems even if it rains. The situation is okay even if the water rises).” She added, “Bilang ina, wala na akong takot na magka-schistosomiasis ang mga anak ko. Diri na sila dali-dali magkasakit, kaya wala nang problema pang-schooling (As a mother, I no longer have fears that my children will have schistosomiasis. They will not get sick easily, so they will not have problems with schooling).” This is a particular concern for Vicky. Like the other 124 Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program beneficiaries in the barangay, her children need to comply with the school attendance requirement to remain part of the program. With the construction of the box culvert, going to their classes will no longer be challenging for them. Love for learning Vicky’s children are not the only ones who have gotten the chance to learn through Kalahi-CIDSS. She and the other volunteers were able to pick up lessons through their participation in the program. “Nakagamit ako ng akong utak, ng akong ulo (I was able to use my brain, my head),” Vicky declared proudly, describing how she was part of the team that prepared the proposal on their box culvert. She also shared that unlike before, she was no longer shy in facing people, because she learned to interact with them as a Kalahi-CIDSS volunteer. Marilyn is also thankful for the lessons she learned in the program. As an elementary graduate, she never expected that she would be put in a leadership position, a role she was given as the BSPMC chairperson. She recalled how nervous she was when she was made to sign her first check for their project, as the funds for its implementation are managed by volunteers. She shared, laughing,“Pinapirma ako ng tseke na malaki. Naisip ko, baka pa ako ma-preso! English pa ito! Baka sumabit ako! (I signed a check that bears a large amount. I thought, I might go to jail! This is in English! I might get into trouble!’).” Marilyn said that she asked the Kalahi-CIDSS area coordinator and community facilitator to teach her, something that she is proud of. Gemma Lebanete, 65, is another Kalahi-CIDSS volunteer in the barangay who is proud of what she accomplished. She said, beaming,“Kaming mga lagas gumawa rin dito (We, the old people, also worked on this).” Their appreciation for the box culvert is such that they took the initiative to plant shrubs and flowers along. “For tourism,” Gemma said with a twinkle in her eye. The community is also discussing the allocation of a P5,000 budget for the operations and maintenance of their box culvert, which will be mainly used for clearing of any debris that may block the waterways, as well as repainting it. The volunteers’ participation in Kalahi-CIDSS also enabled them to learn about proper management of resources. Describing the program as “financially efficient”, Herminohildo said that a culvert worth P1.2 million was constructed previously. However, instead of improving their living condition, it only made it worse, as the infrastructure was not constructed properly restricting the water flow. As a result, the upper portion of the barangay became prone to flooding. In contrast, their Kalahi-CIDSS project, which costs P1.67 million, addressed their needs properly while being environmentally compliant. Furthermore, the community’s efficient utilization allowed them to construct a canal connecting to the culvert to further reduce the risk of flooding. Even with this, they still managed to save P144,000 from their allocated funds. The experience also taught them about ensuring quality in the construction of infrastructure projects. The care they put into the construction of the box culvert protected them when Typhoon Yolanda hit the country. Herminohildo said, “Kung wala iyong box culvert, madaming patay. Tataas ang baha at hindi makakarating dito ang relief goods (A lot of people here would have died if the box culvert was not there. There would have been flooding, and the relief goods would not have reached us).” Significantly, the box culvert, which the residents built as a community, was able to withstand the impact of the strongest typhoon to hit the country. Vicky Sayson, one of the volunteers, attributes the durability of the culvert to the fact that they were the ones who built it. She said, “Baka bumagsak pa iyong tulay kung contractor [ang] gumawa. Kumbaga, hilaw siya (It might have collapsed if a contractor had built it. It would have been sub-standard).” Cristina agreed with Vicky’s sentiments, saying, “Mas matibay iyong sa amin (Ours is sturdier).” Transformation The lessons from Kalahi-CIDSS, as well as the box culvert itself, have brought transformation to Brgy. Cabadsan. Gemma shared that she now has dreams for their barangay, one of which involves conducting Zumba classes for senior citizens at the plaza. She said that she would not have dared to think of that prior to the construction of the box culvert, but because access is now much easier, she can now think of other recreational activities for the residents. She said, “Naisip lang namin ito nu’ng naayos na iyong daan kasi nagawa na iyong culvert (We are now able to think of this because the road is now better with the construction of the culvert).” Through Kalahi-CIDSS, the residents of Brgy. Cabadsan are able to put their love for their families and their community into practice. It is in their participation that they grew to love the program as well. Vicky said, “Ang daming project na ang dumating, ito lang ang talagang nagustuhan namin (A lot of projects have been implemented here, but this is the one that we truly appreciated).” With a wide grin, Marilyn declared, “The best ang Kalahi-CIDSS (Kalahi-CIDSS is the best).” ###