I’m convinced that the majority of people living in first-world societies take the ease of accessibility to water for granted. Oftentimes, I am one of them. A considerable chunk of my time in the Philippines was spent in Cavite. It’s one of the 82 provinces in the country (one of the eight symbolized in the sun rays of the flag of the Phillipines) and is located in Southern Luzon.Although Cavite isn’t as highlighted as destinations like Boracay and Palawan (which, side note, are both on my bucket list), I was happy to stay there because it allowed me to re-experience my family’s lifestyle. One of the aspects of life there that deserves attention is water.
Water does not run 24/7 at my grandparents’ house
The Philippines is a third-world country, but living in a place without a functioning shower put that knowledge into context for me. My family said that there is no water at all in other homes. So, we were lucky to have water coming through pipes in the house rather than having to go down to the river to collect some. In certain parts of Cavite, some of the challenges in implementing a 24/7 water system (according to relatives familiar with this issue) include: – Water sources, mainly rivers and springs, are located below ground level. So, a system would need to be designed to bring water up to where homes are. – Residents are against the construction necessary to bring water into homes, particularly that of digging the roads to install pipes. – Residents are also against the likelihood of water prices rising as a result of better infrastructure.
To bathe, water is collected into a big basin or bucket, as well as some smaller ones. We submerge a tabo (which is basically a dipper, shown in the image to the right) into the basin, fill it up, and pour it over the body to cleanse ourselves. Yes – bathing is a one-handed process in areas with limited access to water. As a result, I ended up doing all the scrubbing before rinsing, rather than scrubbing with a shower running simultaneously. Combined with the fact water only runs at certain hours, I became more conservative with how much I used. There was one instance when water in one of the basins was cloudy, so I was left to bathe with cleaner water in a smaller container not even half the size of the first one. I successfully managed to clean up with the amount of water in the smaller one! This experience made me think of how much water is wasted during my longer-than-necessary showers at home :/ I found that bathing this way is actually a better way to save water because you have to make whatever is available fit for you and for everyone else who’s going to take a bath.
It is a huge convenience to be able to flush a toilet and walk away knowing the bowl is going to be clean for the next person who comes in to take care of business. At my grandparents’ house, that is not the case. If I expelled waste into the bowl and wanted the facility to be clean, I had lift the lid off the tank and manually fill with the limited supply of water we collected into the bathing basins. (As a result, I hardly ever filled the tank up to the brink – it’s really not necessary. Half a tank to three-quarters works just fine, unless there’s a lot to send away.) Although this is not the first time I’ve done this, it’s been awhile so I was reminded of how much water is consumed by flushing toilets, and how nice it is to live in a place where water automatically fills up after a flush. The highlight of this situation was that we couldn’t afford to flush every time someone used the toilet because there was not always enough water. There came a few times when so much waste would go into the toilet before we could flush, that the stench would be so strong and breathing inside the room would be dreadful! Many times, we would hold our breaths for as long as we could, then run outside to gasp for air.
Tap water is not drinkable. I was told water at that house comes from a deep well and does undergo a filtering process. However, I got sick some years ago because I drank water that was not filtered enough for consumption. As a result, whenever I visit my grandparents, I always buy bottled water. It’s relatively cheap, ranging from P65 to P85 per liter. (That’s equivalent to $1.48 to $1.93 USD.) While this whole situation was undeniably an inconvenience, it was a welcome one that reminded me of how wonderful it is to be able to consume water straight out of the tap.