Our TMP Mother's Day project for 2019 was to build a comfort room for the mother of Editor Gwen .
When she first began working for TMP, Editor Gwen lived a modern life in the Philippine capital, Manila. Circumstances over the past few years have caused her to return to "the province" – back to her family's roots in Mindanao, the large southern island of the Philippines. (When Filipinos say "the province," it essentially means "the countryside.")
The old ways and the new ways mix uncomfortably in Mindanao. In the old days, a family built their home wherever there was a suitable patch of ground. They do the same today, but in modern terms they are "squatters" because they do not own the land.
In the case of Editor Gwen , her mother owns a two-story home in Cotabato province (the home was a wedding present when one of her daughters married), and a one-room home in Lanao del Sur province. She doesn't own the land. In fact, the land owner in Cotabato may have the entire squatter settlement demolished this year.
Life in Cotabato is relatively modern – there's a strip mall, there's electricity and running water. However, it is also in a Muslim part of the Philippines where there have been bombings, a major prison break-out by captured insurgents, and some of the local politicians want to expel those who are not seen as sufficiently religious. The situation has been especially turbulent following the recent elections.
Life in Lanao del Sur is somewhat safer for Editor Gwen , which is ironic considering the province was the site of a prolonged siege by government forces last year after insurgents seized a major city there. In the village where the family lives, electricity is newly available. (Previously, everything electrical had to be charged from a solar device.) Water comes from private wells (or in the family's case, from a neighbor's well).
Sanitation is the main issue in the village. Traditionally, everyone "does their business" in the local river, which is a ten-minute walk from the home.
When a person goes to the river, it's customary to bring some of the children to act as "look outs" so that you can cover up if someone comes along. Kids always enjoy playing in the river.
Obviously, the journey becomes hazardous at night.
The alternative is to build what Filipinos call a comfort room – an outhouse. So that was the TMP project for Mother's Day 2019, to benefit the mother of Editor Gwen and her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The Materials Arrive
Editor Gwen helps unload the transport. The materials include cement 'hollow blocks', bags of cement, wooden poles, plywood, and wire.
Ducks are optional.
Young men (relatives) are hired to begin excavating the hole in the ground.
It is the Muslim season of Ramadan, which means that the workers are fasting during the day. They must take frequent breaks as they work.
On the second day, other relatives take over the work. These older men have more experience, and are needed now that the shaft is getting deep. Due to their strenuous work, they have permission not to fast as they work.
Building With Hollow Blocks
On the fifth day, the shaft is complete, and now the workers begin to build the walls with the hollow blocks.
Cement is mixed and poured into the hollow blocks.
Work continues on the sixth day.
When the structure is finished, wooden braces are put into place while the cement hardens.
On day seven, the cement floor is added. This covers the shaft below, and will be the floor of the comfort room.
The Upper Room
On day eight, once the cement floor has dried, construction begins on the lower wall of the comfort room itself.
The lower wall needs to be water-resistant, as the comfort room will also be the bathing room for the family (using a cup and bucket).
On day nine, the wooden upper structure and roof are quickly added.
The outer wall is finished, and a vent pipe is installed.
Editor Gwen writes:
Thank you so much for letting us have our own comfort room in the province. This is really important for us for everyday, as it's hard to go to the river at night, so having our own CR beside our home is a big help and we are more comfortable now. And it's a wish came true for me, as it was started after Mother's Day and finished in time for my birthday! I am so happy and so is my family.