(P W F P)

Dr. Bob AlojipanBy Dr. Bob Alojipan (April 1996)

How the Pandan Waterworks Friendship Project or PWFP came into being:

1991 – Mayor Arthur Dionela asked Dr. Bob Alojipan, President of PAGTATAP – Manila, if his organization could help in the construction of a water supply for the town of Pandan, Antique.

Mr. Maragtas V. Amante, together with Mayor Dionela, told Dr. Alojipan that a Japanese NGO (non-governmental organization) was willing to help Pandan in the construction of a water supply provided that it was done through an NGO-to-NGO cooperation. Being an active association of Pandananons in Metro Manila, PAGTATAP was the best NGO to handle the proposal. PAGTATAP – Manila then held several meetings to study the project which was subsequently approved by the body.

March 10, 1992 – Rev. Kimihiko Murakami, the Executive Director of the Japan-Asia Friendship Society (JAFS) together with Eduardo Cunanan – a JAFS Filipino representative, and Dr. Alojipan, Mr. Maragtas Amante and Mr. Angel Cosmilla representing PAGTATAP, went to Pandan to confer with the officers of the local government and to consult about the aid which the JAFS wanted to give to the town.

The meeting was held at the town hall and was presided by Mayor Arthur Dionela. It was attended by the Sangguniang Bayan members; Fr. Boy Rendon and Engr. Sonny Alojipan who represented the PAGTATAP members in Pandan; Dr. Alojipan, Maragtas Amante and Angel Cosmilla who represented PAGTATAP – Manila; and Rev. Murakami and Mr. Cunanan who represented the JAFS. Mr. Cunanan gave pertinent information about the JAFS and its related activities. He showed pictures about the JAFS including several of their projects in other parts of Asia.

A recent project of the JAFS in the Philippines was done in Negros where they helped one baranggay raise livestock. Rev. Murakami told the group that the JAFS could probably offer to either build artesian wells in several depressed barrios of Pandan, or they could help in the construction of a water system that could benefit the town. Dr. Bob Alojipan told the body that he would rather have a permanent and continuous system of water delivery rather than a temporary and intermittent system like the proposed artesian wells. He asked Rev. Murakami directly if the JAFS can help Pandan in the construction of a water system similar to that existing in the cities and other towns. The system would have a water reservoir with pipes connected to each and every household in Pandan to provide a 24-hour water supply. Rev. Murakami replied that he cannot in his own capacity promise or declare that they can give that kind of help to Pandan and that he still had to consult the JAFS in Osaka, Japan. One member of the Sangguniang Bayan mentioned that artesian wells were already existing around the town and that some were not being used by the people because of the bad taste, odor and yellowish color of the water produced.

After the meeting, Rev. Murakami together with the Mayor, some officers of the local government, ang PAGTATAP representatives inspected the artesian wells around the town. The yellowish, smelly water that came out of the artesian wells was personally witnessed by Rev. Murakami. He took pictures of the water including those of the existing pipes from the old water system.

After the inspection, Rev. Murakami went to the house of Dr. Bob Alojipan where he was introduced to the doctor’s mother, Mrs. Teodora Alojipan. It was an unexpected encounter that changed the course of history from there on.

As a victim of World War II, Mrs. Alojipan berated Rev. Murakami with words that only the guilty could swallow. She reminded Rev. Murakami of how the Japanese soldiers killed innocent civilians in Pandan including one of her helpers who was bayoneted to death by the invaders. She raged about how they burned a lot of homes including that of her father. The Japanese gave them all their difficulties and hardship. They had to move on from one place to another, oftentimes climbing mountains after mountains even in the middle of the night in order to avoid the Japanese atrocities.

Through gestures and soft words, Rev. Murakami asked for forgiveness in behalf of his countrymen. Mrs. Alojipan, however, did not stop castigating him until she had poured out everything that she felt against the Japanese. In the end she told the Reverend, “I will forgive you if you give us water.” Late that night, Rev. Murakami told Dr. Alojipan, “I will tell the JAFS about the things your mother said to me. What she told me has motivated me to try my best to give you a permanent sanitary water supply.”

April 1992 – Engr. Alfonso Alojipan informed Dr. Bob Alojipan about the plan of using the underground river in the town plaza as the possible source of water supply for the town proper. The water tank would be built behind the town’s Health Clinic and the old pipes around the town from the old water system would be replaced. The total cost of the project would be about P5 million out of which the JAFS would shoulder P4 million and PAGTATAP would take care of the balance of P1 million. Construction would be finished in 2 years. This information was relayed to the JAFS in Osaka.

September 1992 – Two (2) Japanese engineers and two (2) ladies from the JAFS conducted an ocular inspection in Pandan. They were accompanied by Mr. Ed Cunanan, Mr. Maragtas Amante, Mr. Ed Rodillon, Mr. Angel Cosmilla, Mrs. Nettie Quemado, and Mrs. Carmen Alonsagay. The Japanese were brought to the old reservoir site in San Andres and were shown some existing pipes from the reservoir to the households of Pandan. The possible water source in the town plaza was also shown to them. Since they had no idea about the alledged underground river in the plaza, the Japanese suggested to dig it, have it video-taped and send them a copy to show how big the source is.

October 1992 – Digging at the town plaza was done. With complete video coverage, 2 water pumps were shown pumping out the water from the ground. For the whole day that the pumps were working, the water source in the plaza showed no change in its water level. There was a huge water deposit underneath the grounds of the town plaza.

February-March 1993 – Delegations from Osaka, Japan consisting of businessmen, engineers, water experts and newsmen came to Pandan to test the potability of the water source (the underground spring in the town plaza). Their findings however, were disappointing. The water source is very near a marshland. The sea is just a kilometer away which is somewhat higher than the water source. In 5 to 10 years the possibility of the sea water seeping into the water source is very high particularly after so much usage of the spring water. This will make the project shortlived and therefore a waste of money and human resources.

The water experts headed by Tomita decided to look for another source of water. They were brought to the old reservoir site which they claimed to be incapable of supplying water to the town. Then they were showed the Malumpati Spring which they chose to be the best source of water that can supply a population of 20,000 or maybe even more.

But because of the distance from the town, the estimated cost of the whole project ballooned to P20 million. The project was now called the Pandan Waterworks Friendship Project (PFWP). It was then decided that it is necessary for Pandan to send one engineer to Osaka to be trained in the construction of the possible waterworks project. Mayor Arthur Dionela picked Danny Paguntalan, an underboard at the time, to be sent to Osaka for 3 months. All his expenses including his board and lodging wre shouldered by the JAFS.

November 1993 – Mayor Arthur Dionela, Mr. Maragtas Amante and Dr. Bob Alojipan were requested by the JAFS to go to Osaka to see the Osaka Water Department and its on-going project in the mountains of Osaka where Danny Paguntalan was undergoing his training. The purpose of the trip was to meet the potential donors of the project, managers and owners of big time Japanese companies and to help the JAFS explain to the Japanese people why they should help Pandan, Antique build a sanitary water supply. Interviewed by Rotarians, Jaycees and students, Mayor Dionela and Dr. Alojipan took time in exlaining the health problems in Pandan caused by the un-sanitary water supply of the town. In front of the TV cameras, they zeroed in on the Japanese atrocities during World War II and on the sufferings and deaths brought by the Japanese invaders to the people of Pandan. Mayor Dionela brought documents of the death of his relatives, his uncles and aunties who were beheaded by Japanese soldiers and Dr. Alojipan mentioned about his grandmother whose neck was slashed by the Japanese but survived to tell her story. With Maragtas Amante as interpreter, they told stories about the famous Pandan Bay as the site where American submarines would deliver their supplies and ammunitions to the guerillas of Panay. They talked about the dogfights between the American and Japanese airplanes and several bloody encounters between the two opposing forces in Pandan. All of these inflicted hardships, pain and agony to each inhabitant of Pandan during the war. This is probably the reason why Mrs. Teodora Alojipan got so mad when she saw Rev. Murakami in Pandan. That was the first time she saw a Japanese again after 50 years. Her blood boiled for revenge. Her heart was hungry for justice. With these information being dished out to the Japanese people through several TV stations all over Japan, the JAFS got donations they wanted; perhaps more than enough to spend for the Pandan Waterworks Friendship Project.

On the last day of their stay in Osaka, the Memorandum of Agreement which was drafted by Maragtas Amante was finally signed. It included three parties: The JAFS represented by its president Mr. Katsumi Yokoi, The Pandan Municipal Government by Mayor Arthur Dionela and PAGTATAP represented by its president Dr. Alojipan. The total cost of the project was trimmed down to P15 million of which JAFS would provide P11 million and PAGTATAP’s counterpart would be P4 million.

PAGTATAP’s responsibility was focused on two things:

To raise the 25% counterpart fund which was about P4 million, and
To supervise the administrative aspect of the project to see to it that the construction was done with utmost honesty and sincerity and in accordance with the rules and regulations of the land.
The local government’s responsibility was to provide adequate accommodation to the Japanese who will work in the project, to help PAGTATAP in its 25% obligation and to encourage the people to help as volunteers in the project.

APRIL 1994 – The JAFS, headed by no less than their president and chairman Mr. Katsumi Yokoi, came to Pandan for the groundbreaking rites. A time capsule and a marker were laid on the ground of Malumpati’s springs. All the officers of the JAFS were there together with the officers of PAGTATAP and the local government unit. They buried into the ground the agreement that became the beginning of a very friendly relationship between the people of Pandan and the Japanese people.

The financial obligation of PAGTATAP remained to be a big problem for the whole year of 1994 and it was the thing that was given a lot of interest by the Japanese negotiators. Where will PAGTATAP get the P4 million?

PAGTATAP opened a bank account in Land Bank, Kalibo, Aklan Branch, which served as its repository for donations and other savings. One week after, the JAFS deposited P200,000 to the PAGTATAP bank account and they demanded that they would like to see the P4 million counterpart of PAGTATAP before the start of the project. Dr. Alojipan protested stating that PAGTATAP could not raise that amount in so short a time. Besides, PAGTATAP had yet to ask for contributions from congressmen and senators. Moreover, the solicitations could be in kind in the form of materials like iron and PVC pipes and not necessarily in cash.

Tomita, considered to be the best water specialist in Japan, was assigned by the JAFS to the project. He was the one who called the shots in the PWFP. He was also their negotiator and was such a clever one. He was tough, strict and wanted things done correctly all the time. He was the one who insisted that PAGTATAP should put up its own counterpart fund before anything was constructed. One time, PAGTATAP invited Tomita to its fund-raising project in Manila where he witnessed how hard the PAGTATAP members tried to raise money for the project. There he realized how difficult it was for a small group like PAGTATAP to raise even P50,000.

While the negotiators were having a hard time on the table, the construction of teh project went on. It was in this early phase of the construction where Filipino ingenuity was recognized by the Japanese. Filipino and Japanese talent often clashed in giving solutions to the difficulties encountered in the construction. More often than not, however, the local solution was the one that worked wonders. Every problem in the construction was solved with whatever available materials the mountains could offer in the absence of electricity and other sophisticated equipment. Even so, the water bridge and the pump house were built with world-class quality.

Trying its best to put up the P4 million counterpart, PAGTATAP asked for the help of Mr. Marcial Ezecuiel, a banker and the husband of Ms. Gigi Bautista Ezequiel, to negotiate for a loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). PAGTATAP, being an unknown entity with no track record in construction industry, cannot borrow money from any bank without a guarantor. The JAFS offered the Bank of Tokyo to be PAGTATAP’s guarantor. When ADB conducted an investigation about the town of Pandan, they considered it as a Class V town. ADB lends money only to Classes I, II and III towns. Therefore Pandan did not qualify.

Nevertheless, PAGTATAP was able to save some amount for the project through fund-raising activities and the contributions of their friends here and abroad, particularly PAGTATAP – USA from the West Coast and Kasimanwa USA from the East Coast. PAGTATAP also asked several senators to help obtain financial support from foreign embassies. PAGTATAP approached Land Bank, Manila for help and with and, with the aid of Mr. Angel Cosmilla and Mrs. Hevelyn Alonsagay Ebardo, connections were established with the bank. The bank was very helpful at the beginning but as negotiations progressed, Land Bank imposed a lot of requirements which PAGTATAP simply was not able to comply. One of these requirements was for PAGTATAP to get a Board Resolution from the Bank of Tokyo to the effect that they would act as guarantor to the P4 million loan of PAGTATAP. It was a funny and sarcastic requirement. For the Bank of Tokyo to gather its Board of Directors just to pass a resolution guaranteeing an unknown group like PAGTATAP was a thing that the Bank of Tokyo would not even think of. PAGTATAP asked the JAFS to help them then in this problem but all its efforts came to naught. It was a very frustrating year.

Meanwhile, Sally Perez, an active PAGTATAP member asked for help from Senators Agapito Aquino and Alberto Romulo. Senator Aquino donated P1 million which was coursed through the Bureau of Public Highways (BPH). The BPH in turn bought the pipes needed for the construction. Ironically, for reasons unknown when the delivered pipes were inventoried the value fell short of the P1 million expected. Senator Alberto Romulo also donated P2.5 million which he coursed through the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), a government unit that takes care of all government financed water projects in the country. It was Atty. Santiago Polido, another PAGTATAP member who facilitated the release of this amount from LWUA. The agency then gave it to the local government of Pandan and the Pandan Water District (PWD) increased the available loan amount to P4.5 million. Being a loan, the PWD must later on pay this amount with interest. This financial obligation will be later on passed on to the consumers. The JAFS just could not understand this . This thorn persisted all throughout the negotiations and even the present administration questioned it. PAGTATAP, however, offered a solution. PAGTATAP will do some fund-raising activities to pay for this loan. Maybe in the next 2 to 3 years, PAGTATAP could ask another senator to donate his or her Countryside Development Fund to cover up this P4.5 million loan.

Short of condemning this P4.5 million loan, there were benefits derived from this seemingly erroneous contract. During the early negotiations in 1992 between the JAFS, PAGTATAP and the Pandan Local Government it was repeatedly said by the JAFS that they wanted the local government to contribute some amount to the project. The JAFS wanted this project to be a real popular effort by the very people who will benefit from the project. Thus, when the P15 million estimate was presented, the amount was fixed to be used only in the construction of the water bridge, the pump house, the water tank, the primary pipes and the secondary pipes. The primary pipes are the big ones connecting the pump house to the water tank. These are also the pipes that will carry water from Malumpati to the town proper. The secondary pipes are the ones connecting the main pipe to the side of the streets where the houses are. The connection from the street to the houses of the consumers are considered tertiary level and tertiary pipes (the small ones) are to be used. These tertiary pipes were not included in the P15 million project. It was agreed then that the consumers will have to shoulder the expenses of these connecting pipes including the water meters. The JAFS would like this to be the participation of the people of Pandan. In this way, the consumers will really take care of the project, protect it from harm and maintain it. The consumers’ attitude is usually different when everything is provided for free and the JAFS knew this from the very start. They had several experiences of this sort in other countries. Without financial contribution from the consumers they could easily become indifferent or without concern regarding the care and maintainance of the project since they did not put in their money anyway.

How to collect the money from the consumers to pay for the tertiary pipes and the water meters was a big question with no clear answer. A person cannot be expected to pay for something that is not yet in existence. The P4.5 millon was the solution. This amount will be used for the purchase of the tertiary pipes and the water meters. When the water from the project flows, the consumers will pay for this loan every month in small amounts. It will be considered as teh consumers’ financial participation in the Waterworks Project. Truly, the PWFP is the project of the people for the people. It seems unbelievable but it is possible. Other towns will imitate Pandan for this kind of collective effort. Pandan will be famous all over the world for this kind of momentous endeavor.

But it didn’t happen that way. Politics came in and some mud was thrown to the beauty of the project.

1995 – It was during this time that Iwata (the JAFS main man in Pandan) and Dr. Alojipan considered calling off the project temporarily. With the change of local administration in the middle of 1995, the usual cooperative attitude of the local government was put in hold. They wanted to investigate the PWFP to find out what it was all about. Being new leaders, it was understandable for them to study the whole thing before they could act upon a project as big as the PWFP. After several months of investigation, strangely, the new local government administrators decided to cut off its P100,000 annual contribution to the project. It was a major blow to the project. PAGTATAP members were demoralized and so were the JAFS. In September 1995, PAGTATAP officers came to Pandan to talk to the new officials of the local government. In two sessions with the Sangguniang Bayan, PAGTATAP explained to them what the PWFP was all about. Not for anyting else it would be embarassing to stop the project when our foreign counterpart had already sacrificed both limb and soul to support the project. PAGTATAP asked for the continuation of the P100,000 annual contribution from the local government and to continue providing accommodation and security for the Japanese volunteers. PAGTATAP as an NGO was supposed to be apolitical. We were building one of the basic necessities in life of the townspeople, a water system. Water is needed by everybody even by the dead. We have the Japanese helping us and yet we just stopped working in the middle. What happened?

The thought persisted that Osaka and Pandan have come to the point of true friendship and abandoning the project will turn the rare friendship into dust. The relationship between Osaka and Pandan had developed into something so great that even the Osaka youth and the youth of Pandan were so much involved with it. They were the ones who spearheaded the activities in the project. Nowhere else in the Philippines had this kind of loyalty and friendship evolved so fast between the two different cultures. For those who have endured World War II, they considered this relationship as one that was created by the sincerity of the Japanese people to make amends for their faults, a relationship that was nurtured by the desire of the Japanese people to help the people of Pandan and as a friendship kindled by the willingness of the people of Pandan to forgive and forget the wounds of the past.

Despite all the difficulties, the construction went on slowly. Mr. Hisao Tanaka, the JAFS project manager in the construction site, put out his own personal money just to sustain the construction. On their part, the PWD through loans from the LWUA, laid down the secondary pipes around the town. Other materials needed for the construction were purchased using the money obtained from the P4.5 million loan.

Other diggings though the help of Japanese volunteers were likewise continued. Work campers composed of Japanese volunteers came to Pandan to help in the construction of the project. The PAGTATAP Youth of Pandan was given the task of helping the Japanese volunteers, accommodating them and generally showing them our world-renowned “hospitality”. Because of the success of this initial cooperation, the JAFS went more delegations of work campers. In groups of thirty, these Japanese volunteers would come about three times a year. By February 1996 the water tank was 90% completed. This water tank was supposed to contain 200,000 cubic meters of water. Pandan needs only 80,000 cubic meters for its consumption. The Malumpati water tank can therefore supply water to the towns of Sebaste and Libertad, if they want it.

The water pump arrived all the way from Japan. It was a one-ton engine that would be used to pump water to the water tank. With this pump it would only take 5 hours to fill the 200,000 cubic meter water tank. How the water pump was put inside the pump house from across the river was a feat in itself. It was really a wonder how the workers were able to transport this one-ton engine through the mountains and across the river. Several stories were told about this event and each can make one proud to be only a Pandananon but also a Filipino.

Little did the people know that PAGTATAP – Manila got the biggest problem in getting this one-ton engine released from the Bureau of Customs. Through the concerted effort of PAGTATAP members, this engine was transported without a hitch from the port of Manila to the port of Iloilo, and then onward to the town of Pandan.

February 1996 – Through the persuasive lobbying by PAGTATAP headed by Mr. Angel Cosmilla, Mr. Francisco Fugen, Mrs. Wilfreda Solis, Ms. Gigi Ezequiel, and Dr. Bob Alojipan, PAGTATAP was able to get P1.3 million donation from Congressman Exequiel Javier for the PWFP.

March 1996 – The first drop of water from the PWFP was inaugurated in Sto. Rosario. Congressman Exequiel Javier, incumbent Mayor Antero Rectra, Engr. Alfonso Alojipan, Dr. Bob Alojipan, Sr. Sato from the Tokyo Rotary Club, and Mr. Hisao Tanaka of the JAFS, together with about 15 Japanese from other organizations in Japan, formally opened the faucet that carried the water from the Malumpati reservoir to Baranggay Sto. Rosario. It was the climax of the project. Everything appeared to be going on smoothly from then on, or so it seemed. And history then made will tell the rest for generations to come.

– oOo –

Editors Note: Certain portions of the the above write-up were re-phrased to project a softer line pending consensus from a selected group to study the final text to be featured for this section. Revisions may be observed in this section until this note disappears from this part.