Koronadal City— Like any usual daily activity, 60 year-old farmer David Canbanban used to wake up early in the morning and visit his farm in the nearby village of Tablao, a remote community in the soutwestern part of Kiamba town, Sarangani province.
Before the sun would have set, he rushed back home with his farm tools and animals by crossing the Pangi River.
The river which is one of the biggest in province, had manifested no sign of danger that Tuesday afternoon.
However, while crossing in the slow-flowing stream, the water swelled up, putting his life in danger.
Unfortunately, Cabanban did not escape from the strong current of water that eventually took his life.
The plight of Cabanban reflects the struggles of villagers in the community. The river that serves as blessing to farmers, is also the same river that they are taking risk just to visit their farms and for their other livelihood activities.
Today, change has come for Tablao. Crossing the Pangi River from the village of Tablao is no longer life-threatening. Thanks to the newly-built hanging bridge for the villagers.
“This bridge means life to us because it literally saves the lives of villagers here,” Mylene Damgasen, a volunteer for the project. “We are always praying that no more another Cabanban case to happen,” she added.
Apart from farmers, high school students have a fair share of struggles just to get formal education.
Before everntually reaching to school, they cross the river barefoot, risking their lives in the process.
“Our students will have to take their shoes, pants and skirts while keeping their learning materials away from water,” a teary-eyed Damgasen said.
In the past, when it rains, teacher here would released school children from Tablao, much earlier to make sure that the children could crossed the Pangi River before it swells, Damgasen added.
The long –awaited hanging bridge was realized though the collaborative efforts of the local government unit, the barangay and Department of Social Welfare and Development through Kalahi-CIDSS.
Amounting to P3.58 million, the 60-meter hanging bridge project in Tablao is now considered as the longest in town, that is believed to stir development in the village.
“Transportation cost of our agricultural products to market is now much lower with this project,” Damgasen said who also served as the chairperson of sub-project committee volunteering for the program.
Constructed through a ‘bayanihan’ system, Tablao residents worked together to make sure that the project will be completed as to save more lives of people. The community has contributed in-kind counterpart through labor and other local resources.
“Villagers have contributed here their time and skills for this project,” Damgasen said. “Basically, this is the product of our tears and sweat,” Damgasen said.
Kalahi-CIDSS, which stands for kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-A Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services, is a community-driven development program aiming to empower local communities, improve governance and reduce poverty.
The program emplys a strategy in which communities and their local government units are trained to choose, design and implement sub-projects that address their most pressing need.
“When you have the project that is according to the need of the local communities, expect greater sense of ownership and participation,” Kiamba town mayor Raul Martinez said.
The project has changed the landscape of how people look at development in local communities according to Martinez.
“People have come to realize that development is not a sole responsibility of local officials. Peoples participation, transparency and accountability are key in development process,” Martinez said.
This happens according to Martinez if people embrace that they are actors rather than audience in development, communities can build a project that is of best of quality because at the end they will be the one to utilize it.
“The Tablao hanging bridge project is an example of fruitful collaboration of various stakeholders, especially the community,” Martinez said. “After all, this means saving more lives,” he added.
Martinez said that he hopes that with the project, Cabanban will be the last to sacrifice his life for the welfare of the family because of the lack of infrastructure project before. (Hilbert T. Estacion, regional social marketing officer)