I heard my niece, Stephanie, calling out for me from the bathroom of my mother’s house. She is 15, and it is her first visit to the Philippines…
Stephanie found the journey to the Philippines unbelievably long. For her, it began in the U.S. state of Virginia — then to California, to first attend the wedding of my younger sister.
Several days after the wedding, we are headed from San Francisco, California to Manila — the largest city in the Philippines.
After a long layover in Manila, we take another hour-long, plane ride to the island of Cebu, then head to the pier for a 2 hour “Supercat” ride — a catamaran style ferryboat service that shuttles people from one island to the next. At the pier, we are picked up and all load into a van headed for my mother’s home.
But it is another 45 minute drive from the pier to our mother’s home…and by this time, we had been traveling for 24 hours. While in the van, a travel weary Stephanie asked…”so what is next after the van ride?”
I told her that after we arrive, we would have to ride atop a water buffalo (a “kalabao” or carabao) with our luggage, and head up to the mountains. “The van cannot travel on those unstable roads” I tell her.
She shakes her head in disbelief…”A water bufallo???”. I smile at her and tell her I am just joking…the van is the last leg of the trip, and soon, we would finally be at my mother’s home.
The following day, she wakes up and wants to take a shower. It is hot, humid, and she is looking forward to a shower, especially after the long journey. She is calling me from the bathroom because she has turned the water faucet handles and no water is coming out.
I knock on the bathroom door and ask her what she needs.”Is there a trick to the faucets?” she asked. She opens the door, and I explain to her that there is no water pressure in the morning…and most likely, there will be no water available until the evening. “How am I suppose to take a shower, then…and why is there a big garbage can size container of water in the shower?”
I tell her…”well Steph, that container of water is your shower”.
I point to the “tabo” floating on top of the big container of water in front of her, and pick it up. “You see this thing Steph, it is called a tabo. You dip it in the water, then pour the water over your head and body to rinse. Then you soap up, shampoo, then do the same with a final rinse”.
I tell her it’s a “tropical shower”, and add…”or…you can wait until this evening to take a shower, when the water pressure is back up”. Her jaw drops…then she responds “Really?” I answer back “Yes, Steph…really.”
I giggle as I close the bathroom door and imagine the culture shock she must be experiencing. Having grown up in the Philippines, and accustomed to preparing for water being unavailable from the tap, I find the situation amusing. And then I think, well, all in all, it is good for her because there is so much we take for granted living in the United States.
While living in the province (“prubinsya” or away from the city) when my sisters and I were young, we experienced having to “fetch” water away from home. A few times when the water wells dried up, we had to walk up the road to a natural spring site to get fresh water.
To this day, we all remember fondly our time in the province and once in a while still utter…”okay…mag-igib na tayo nang tubig” — translated to “let us go and fetch some water now”. Then we laugh about it, because of how absurd it sounds, with all 3 of us now living in the states.
Can you imagine having to “fetch” water? Picture our little tribe of kids walking on the gravel roadside with our balde (buckets), and metal containers, headed to the natural spring source. We fill our containers and carefully walk back — trying not to spill what we fetched.
I remember our older sister scolding us every few steps because of the water spilling out from our heavy containers. She tells the group to be careful because we would all have to come back AGAIN if we keep letting water spill out.
We do our best, but I’m pretty sure we lost half of the water by the time we got back to our Nanay Lucing and Tatay Kerpo’s place (our Aunt and Uncle’s house).
This post in support of Unless…Earth-Friendly Friday Challenge for World Water Day – Water is a precious resource; let us count the ways.
Although my take for this challenge is a little humorous, I do hope the post will make us appreciate how we take water for granted here in the U.S. There are still many places around the world where clean water is hard to find — or does not even come out of a faucet.
Water is everything to all of us on this planet.
Without water, we cease to exist. It’s as simple as that…
This post is also dedicated to my niece, Stephanie, who celebrated her birthday this week. Happy Birthday, Stephanie! We are still trying to convince her to come and visit the Philippines again…
My mother had a water tower installed several years after Stephanie’s visit. It is filled up every night, so that throughout the day, there is water available for cooking, washing dishes, gardening, washing clothes, or even….for taking showers.
Ready to visit again, Stephanie?