Unless…Water is a Precious Resource (an Earth-Friendly Friday Challenge) From the U.S. to the Philippines, a remembrance and how we take water for granted

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…

Rice Fields and Coconut Trees

Rice Fields and Coconut Trees — Verdant Philippines — drive from the pier to home. I can’t imagine not liking the color green, especially if you grew up in 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.

Sunset from above ground webAfter 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?”

water buffallo kalabaw or carabao late 1800s

water buffallo (kalabaw or carabao) Photo from late 1800s.

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”.


A Filipino “Tabo”

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.

Filipina with water jar

Photo of a young Filipina with a clay water jug, late 1800’s. My sisters and I fetched water during the early 1970s, and thankfully, the containers we had for our water were much lighter than the one from this photo…

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.

Please check out these photos from the International Business Times for World Water Day (found via JustAnotherNatureEnthusiast.org) and you will think twice about ever wasting water again.

Water is everything to all of us on this planet. 

Without water, we cease to exist.  It’s as simple as that…


Photo taken during the time of Stephanie’s visit, of a group of us swimming at a natural river “pool”. My daughter is at the front, both arms up — she was 13 then (and now I am a grandmother to her 2 boys). Behind her is my mother, and from left, my older sister, our cousin Donah, my cousin Ate Violeta, and her daughter.

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…


Stephanie’s Baby Photo

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?

Happy Birthday

From left, my younger sister, older sister (celebrating her birthday) and her daughter —- my niece — Stephanie.

18 thoughts on “Unless…Water is a Precious Resource (an Earth-Friendly Friday Challenge) From the U.S. to the Philippines, a remembrance and how we take water for granted

  1. I’m still debating on whether or not I will ever revisit. Running water from faucets is a huge plus. The hotel in Cebu was lovely with all that A/C ::sigh:: LOL

    Thank you for this. I love you!

    • Oh…did I forget to mention there IS air conditioning in the rooms now, haha. I promise, we will have much more fun for your next visit, and we will be mindful of you know…suntan lotions, this time too!

      I love you too, Stephanie <3

      • A/C is very exciting! The whole thing was definitely a culture shock and I truly had a string of bad luck while there. It was just an awful experience for me, but hey, it makes for a good story 😉

        • Your next visit will be much different, I promise. Besides, it was not all bad…your mom reminded me of the cute little boy who ran after the vehicle we were in — after you — who we dubbed your little
          “boyfriend”. He ran after that multi-cab vehicle for a long time, haha.

  2. Lola Jane-
    I LOVE this story! And… to see Stephanie’s reaction is so heartwarming <3
    I agree with you; we, in the United States, do take so much for granted. Your charming story is a superb way to allow us to see how precious water is. Perhaps if we all had to "work" for even a day's worth of water- the value of conserving it would be more heartfelt and meaningful.

    Thank you for your wonderful post.


    • Happy to share the story for the Earth-Friendly Friday challenges, and to dedicate it to my niece, Stephanie for her birthday. So glad you enjoyed the post, Jane.

      Travel does makes us appreciate the things we take for granted here in the beautiful and prosperous USA…and for me, traveling with my sisters and family members bring me the most joy, especially traveling back to the Philippines.

  3. Pingback: UNLESS…Earth-friendly Friday: World Water Day- Water is a precious resource; let us count the ways | Just Another Nature Enthusiast

  4. I love how you connected your personal story to World Water Day! What an incredible journey to get to your mom’s house. I totally believed that the water buffalo was the last part of getting to where you needed to go. In fact, I was kind of excited that this was part of your story, haha!!

    • I’ve actually ridden on a water buffalo — and fell off of one — while living in the province, so I thought it would be funny to tell Stephanie that it would be part of the trek too…haha.

      When I worked in San Francisco, my friend Jim loved to hear about this and the gesture and movement of riding a carabao from my office chair, just so he can crack up. “Do that carabao riding thing” he would say…and it looks like I am doing a rhythmic chair dance. My daughter called Jim “your friend who sounds like Winnie-the-pooh”. For a laugh, I am willing to do my carabao dance 🙂 (tips are welcome too!)

      Because of the time difference, and all the other connections…by the time we arrive at my mother’s home in the Philippines, it is actually 2 days after one leaves California. So strange, but then you get the day “back” when you go back to the states.

      • Well, now you realize that if we ever meet each other, I’m going to say, “Do the Carabao!!” and then beg you to teach me how to do it. Because I like to dance and I need some new moves. And I bet I would like to ride the real thing, too!

        • I better start practicing “the Carabao” it could start a whole new trend after you’ve mastered it and once I post your dance on YouTube. It is very s..l..o..w though, so maybe it won’t catch on.

          Also, if you visit the Philippines, we will find a friendly carabao for you to ride. The one I fell off of ran downhill and would not listen to my commands of “Huwat! Huwat!” (In the dialect spoken there, it means STOP! — maybe I had the inflection wrong…or he was ready for his mud bath.)

          • hahahaha!!! But in all seriousness, I am kind of a spastic dancer so you’ll have to slow down the actual footage to make it look right. Maybe it will be the next “Zumba” craze. Okay, I’ll huwat now.

Now that you are here, I would love to know what you think...comments are always appreciated.