There’s a spot in Boracay’s White Beach from where one can see the picturesque mountains of Northern Aklan. Perched on the foothills of these mountains are wind turbines courtesy of the Nabas Wind Farm which provide a source of renewable energy to the Visayas Grid. This includes the over 90 households in the far-flung barangay of Pawa in Nabas, Aklan.
Brgy. Pawa is located up in the highlands, five kilometers away from the national road. Before the mid 2010s, one needed to hike a steep trail to get there, or ride a habal-habal that had to pass thru a narrow dirt road. Suffice it to say, the village was hardly accessible to government and medical services. Water was scarce. The nearest spring was more than a kilometer away from residential areas.
Since there was no electricity, community folk were literally living in the dark. Children studied their lessons with a gas lamp or gasera come evening. Since the place is isolated, the neighborhood used to be a hideout for insurgents, especially in the 70s and the 80s. People in the village get by thru slash-and-burn farming or kaingin and bariw-weaving.
Things only started to look up for Brgy. Pawa in 2015. It was when PetroWind Energy Inc. (PWEI), thru the advice of the Department of Energy, identified the location as an ideal spot to harness renewable energy from the wind.
Among the areas in the town of Nabas, wind is strongest in Brgy. Pawa. “Parang palaging may bagyong parating. Sobrang lakas ng hangin, malakas ang tunog,” describes Yrel Ventura, CSR and Environment Manager of PetroGreen Energy Corporation, the renewable energy arm of Filipino-owned PetroEnergy Resources Corporation (PERC). “Kung naka-cap ka, kailangan mong hawakan kasi liliparin. Maginaw at foggy.”
It takes a village
But before building the wind farm, PWEI first had to address the basic needs of the community. This led to the creation in 2014 of the Pawa Agri-Ecotourism and Livelihood Development Association (PAELDA) whose vision was to be a main driver of change and development in the community. It was organized by the village folk, with the assistance of PWEI.
The PWEI ran a road project between 2014 to 2015, and installed water impounding dams, tanks and pipes so water from the spring could reach the homes of the residents.
For the community development to be holistic and sustainable, several health, education, and livelihood projects were organized. An adopt-a-school program provided the learning needs of children and helped in the physical development of the school. A nutrition program for malnourished kids was also organized, and the barangay was provided an ambulance.
To improve the community’s knowledge on making handicrafts and to help diversify their products, speakers and trainers from schools like UP Los Baños and the Aklan State University were brought in.
Through the efforts of PWEI, the assistance of LGUs and other groups, and the cooperation of the whole community, Brgy. Pawa has slowly transformed into a vibrant area, observes Ventura. Now, every home and street in Brgy. Pawa is lighted. Residents are now able to enjoy the benefits and comfort of having electricity in their homes. “Parang nabuhay ang pride ng mga taga doon,” Ventura says.
“Malaking tulong sa mga batang nag-aaral na ngayon ay may ilaw na sila sa gabi,” he adds. When PWEI started its CSR project, the school in the area only offered kindergarten up to Grade 2. Now it’s up to Grade 4. “Dati may isang teacher lang, ngayon may tatlong teachers na. They have 44 students now.”
Bariw-weaving has turned out to be a sustainable source of livelihood for the village folk, and has inspired the younger generation to also learn this age-old tradition. “Mas madami ang kanilang output, so lumaki na din ang kanilang income,” mentions Ventura. Paved roads allowed them to transport and distribute their goods to lowland markets.
“Malaking pasasalamat namin sa PetroWind dahil sa pagbabago na dala nila tulad ng maayos na daan na malaking tulong sa pag-transport ng mga produkto namin,” says PAELDA Chairman and Barangay Councilor James Balyguat.
Families are now able to watch TV and even have occasional videoke sessions. WiFI is likewise available, thanks to an entrepreneurial resident who offers internet access for a minimal fee of P5 per hour.
Opportunities for ecotourism now beckon in Brgy. Pawa as a modern view deck now stands to give guests a majestic view of its rich foliage and nearby Boracay. “We are confident that Bgy. Pawa can sustain its growth as a community given the wealth of potential that this location has in terms of eco-tourism, livelihood, and further employment when Nabas 2 starts construction,” says Ventura.