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Teacher, inventor, hero

Teacher-inventor William Moraca speaks at the inauguration ceremony of his power-generating windmill at Sitio Klolang.

MANILA, Philippines - The task of a public elementary school teacher is difficult enough without having to work within a community that has no running water or electricity.

That is what 41-year-old William Moraca had to contend with when he was assigned to teach at Sitio Datal Salvan Elementary School and Sitio Klolang Primary School in General Santos City.

Sitios Datal Salvan and Klolang are two villages that are among the dozens of underdeveloped highland communities perched around rolling hills surrounding the dormant Mt. Parker volcano. These villages overlooking Saranggani Bay have been home to B’laan and T’boli tribesmen for generations.

By and large, education in these communities is not a priority as girls as young as 13, deprived of the opportunities to seek higher education in the lowlands, end up getting married and having a family of their own.

“Dahil walang libangan at kawalang pag-asa makapag-aral sa kolehiyo o kahit man lang high school, maagang nagsisipag-asawa ang mga kabataan dito... Kaya hayan, mas marami na ang mga bata kesa sa mga matatanda (Because there is nothing else to do here and people have no hopes of going to college or even finishing high school, they get married at a young age. So now there are more children here than elders),” mused Moraca.

Children gather around the sitio’s first-ever cable television.

For the longest time, he explained, village folk in this community had never tasted even just simple amenities like electricity.

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While there are ongoing government developmental and infrastructure projects, these are mainly confined to the lowlands, and the indigenous people are often overlooked.

Most of the children from the two communities have not been to the city, an hour and a half away on a bumpy and circuitous ride from their villages aboard a single motorcycle locally known as habal-habal, for a P60 fare per head, per ride.

Seeing that the communities lacked the basic necessity of running water, Moraca used his talents and skills as a frustrated engineer to come up with a magnetic force water system that he later installed late last year at Sitio Datal Salvan with the help of Army troops from the Joint Task Force Gen San (JTFGS) under Col. Joselito Kakilala.

With the success of his first invention, he immediately followed this up with his power-generating windmill, again with the active support of the JTFGS troops who provided and hauled all the materials needed for his electrification project. Installed at the rooftop of the Sitio Klolang Primary School, it now provides renewable energy to hilltop residents of the sitio.

Since last October, Moraca’s inventions have been fully operational, the water system drawing fresh stream water coming from a river down to Sitio Datal Salvan, benefitting more than a thousand tribesmen.

LET THERE BE LIGHT: Moraca’s electricity-generating windmill is installed on the rooftop of Sitio Klolang Primary School.

His power-generating windmill, likewise, has brought light to all 45 houses in Sitio Klolang nestled at the top of a hill, benefitting some 300 residents.

Maliit pa lang ako, mahilig na talaga akong gumawa ng kung anu-ano (Even as a child I liked to make things),” Moraca said, adding that he had dreamt of becoming an engineer but this did not materialize because of financial constraints.

His parents died when he was only three years old, leaving 12 siblings to fend for themselves, doing menial jobs for neighbors just to survive.

Moraca said he was only able to go to elementary up to high school because of the support of a teacher-neighbor, Leonor Peñalosa, whom he now considers his second mother.

“I worked at Mrs. Peñalosa’s house as a gardener and dish washer, feeding the dog and doing other house-related chores since I was three years old. In return she fed and later helped me through elementary and high school, where I graduated with honors,” Moraca said.

Moraca then applied for a janitorial job at the Southern Island Colleges where he was admitted as a working student.

“I was inspired by what my second mother had done to help me… so I took up a course in elementary education, forgetting my ambition to be an engineer,” Moraca said.

Aside from being a working student, Moraca earned extra money to support his brothers and sisters as a part-time announcer at the city carnival.

A T’boli woman performs a tribal dance to celebrate the windmill installation.

After graduating, Moraca took the teachers’ board exams and passed. However, because of financial difficulties, instead of applying for a teaching job, he opted to look for a better paying job and ended up working for two foreign insurance firms.

“Malakas ang insurance business noon, kaya doon ako nag-concentrate dahil nagkaroon na ako ng pamilya at marami pang mga kapatid na umaasa sa akin (The insurance business was booming then, so that’s what I concentrated on since I already had a family to support and some of my siblings were still depending on me),” said Moraca, now a father of three grown kids. He is married to a DepEd employee whom he met during his college days.

Four years ago, however, Moraca left the insurance business to go into teaching.

His first assignment was in a far-flung community in South Cotabato. He was later reassigned to teach at Sitio Datal Salvan and Sitio Klolang in General Santos City.

His transfer to these highland communities opened his eyes to the pressing need not only of educating his pupils but the entire community as well.

“Inside the classroom I saw hardships and difficulties in the eyes and faces of my pupils, the same hardships and challenges I was once faced with. I must do something more,” Moraca said.

Never completely losing his interest in engineering, he started to use his skills to find ways to lessen the burden of his pupils and their parents. Since then, life in the two villages has changed for the better.

With his magnetic force water invention delivering fresh water to Datal Salvan, children have started to observe proper hygiene – taking a bath daily and brushing their teeth.

“Before, mahirap maligo araw-araw dahil sa mataas at malayo ang community sa ilog. Ngayon iba na (It used to be hard to bathe everyday because the community is far from the river. Now it’s different),” Kakilala said.

Col. Joselito Kakilala is surrounded by T’boli children at the inauguration.

Sitio Klolang, (the name is a T’boli word for “freedom”), on the other hand, had been without electricity for the longest time. But after the official launching last October of Moraca’s power-generating windmill, the kids of the village can now study their lessons at home because each house is lighted. Before, when dusk sets in, the entire village goes to sleep.

“Indeed if there is light, there is life,” said Moraca’s co-teacher at Sitio Klolang Primary School, Analyn Candeda. She and two other teacher-colleagues Jackqueline Relacion and Geraldine Yasay, agreed that never before has this sleepy village come to life like this.

Thanks to Moraca’s windmill, the community is not only enjoying free electricity, but also cable television – for the first time ever in the whole village.

The cable-connected television now occupies a place in the village clearing. Aside from airing popular shows, it also regularly beams educational programs aimed at developing the learning skills of the village’s children. Residents from nearby villages also troop regularly to the place just to watch.

“In our own little way, we are hoping to reverse the villagers’ outlook in life. Sad to say, no one has ever obtained a college degree here,” Moraca said, adding, “Kahit na mga taga-General Santos sila, ni hindi pa nga nila nakikita ng personal si Manny Pacquiao (Even if they are from General Santos, they haven’t seen Manny Pacquiao in person).” Pacquiao hails from General Santos City.

But with cable television, Sitio Klolang residents finally saw the Filipino boxing icon in action during his November 2011 bout with Mexican brawler Juan Miguel Marquez in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“His innovative mind has not only enhanced the learning environment of the pupils but also greatly improved the quality of life of the people in the two villages. Through his inventions, he was able to draw the attention of the city government towards the underdeveloped inner communities in the area,” Kakilala said on Moraca.

Being Moraca’s partner as a force and financial provider, Kakilala is himself planning to install a power-generating windmill at his JTFGS headquarters to save on his camp’s monthly electricity bills.

Always finding new ways to help the community and provide livelihood, Moraca is hoping to transform Mt. Parker’s yet unexplored caves and hot springs into an eco-tourism attraction, a venture that will potentially benefit the tribesmen and their children. City government officials led by Mayor Darlyn Antonino, through Moraca’s initiative, have visited the site to inspect the area and determine the viability of a tourism plan.

Recently promoted to teacher supervisor, Moraca has succeeded in serving his communities in many different ways. For this, he is now looked up to as a local hero by B’laan and T’boli tribesmen, not because he belongs to the breed of highland warriors, but for an equally noble contribution to the community – his useful solutions as an inventor and his caring guidance as a teacher.

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