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How a cola means more than refreshment in the countryside

A section of the Coca-Cola Agos Ram Pump sites at the edge of a rice field in the foothills of Mt. Kanlaon, the highest peak and an active volcano on Negros Island

MANILA, Philippines – While water is obviously vital and essential, we urbanites see it as a commodity and a basic one at that. But for villagers in the foothills of Mt. Kanlaon in the island of Negros, water is the promise of a better future for their children and communities.

Sitio Can-urong of Barangay Puso, Sitio Binalbagan of Barangay Masulog, and the village proper of Barangay Puso are located in the upland portions of La Castellana, Negros Occidental. The locals in these remote areas used to source potable water for everyday use from springs in ravines a few kilometers away from their homes, a problem local government units and non-government organizations have failed to address for many years, according to residents. In some areas, skeletons of past projects that have failed to bring water to the upland communities are still visible — some not viable, others never completed.

For the families in these communities, water flowing straight out of their taps is an almost unimaginable luxury. For most of them, the day starts before the break of dawn. Schoolchildren are roused early to help fetch water from lowland sources, in most cases a kilometer or two away, where they will also have to bathe.

In the village of Masulog, populated mainly by farmers, living necessities are as vague and uncertain as rain for their fields.

“Before, the absence of water, electricity, and paved roads were our biggest problems,” David Legaspi, one of the village leaders, said in the local dialect. “We sought the help of the municipal government, but all they gave us was a hose that worked only when water pressure was strong enough.  It could not ensure a reliable flow.  In a few months, the hose gave up. Our water tank is now home to a gecko instead of water.”

But lives changed when the Agos Ram Pump was installed and made operational in their villages. To many, it was a sign of a greener, cleaner future for their children.

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The Agos Ram Pump, which is a modified version of a 200-year-old technology, allows for water to be raised to elevated areas without the need for electricity. The technology relies on the force of the water to propel itself into reservoirs, which in turn channels water to common tap stands near the cluster of houses.

What is rarely realized is that once water flows conveniently and continuously for a community, the benefits go deeper than meeting basic needs.  Water buoys people’s spirits, lending them dignity and optimism.  When communities are relieved of the effort of mere survival, they gain time and energy for uplifting their own lives.  Something as simple as water allows people to be free to hope again. The pride and gratitude of the communities is palpable in the stories they tell.

“I always tell my children and their playmates that what we have now is something they should take care of and look after,” Legaspi said. “Also, it is a beautiful gift for future generations.”

Coca-Cola Philippines, together with its partner, Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation, Inc. (AIDFI), has been providing Agos Ram Pumps as a means of accessing water for various upland communities around the country. The guiding principle of this initiative is that the same amount of water that Coca-Cola Philippines uses in making its products should be returned to the ecosystem for the benefit of communities.

The Agos Ram Pump, a sustainable and efficient method of bringing water to upland communities, has been a program of Coca-Cola Philippines since 2011. Sitio Can-urong, Sitio Binalbagan and Barangay Puso in Negros are among the 129 Agos sites around the country empowered by Coca-Cola through its water-sustainability projects. There are 118 Agos Ram Pumps and 11 rainwater harvesting and gravity installations that continue to change the lives of the communities.

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