Sam I Am Blog

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“Blackouts In Leyte” — The Electricity Editorial

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Blackouts

In

Leyte

by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

In the United States, when the lights go out, people shout, “Blackout.” In the Philippines, when the lights go out people shout, “Brownout.”

Perhaps, the term, “brownout” seems more politically correct or suggests that the power outage may not last as long as a “blackout.” Despite the political correctness of words, I like the term “blackout<” because when the lights go out – day or night – you are “in the dark.”

The major drawback to life on the island of Leyte, in the Republic of the Philippines is obviously “electricity.”

Frequency Of Blackouts – “Preposterous, Ridiculous,

Nonsense”

The frequency and the number of “blackouts” since December of 2011 until the day I started to write this article, August 8, 2012, brings the words, “preposterous”,“ridiculous”, and “nonsense” to mind. Sometimes the “blackouts” last several hours as in 12, 16 or a whole day. Sometimes the “blackouts” only last a few minutes. What is frustrating about the “blackouts” is the frequency. Hardly, a 24-hour period goes by that there is not at least one “blackout.”

Government Seeks Answers

A couple of months ago, the Philippine government announced that they had questions about the high electric bills that citizens on the island of Leyte had to pay. I haven’t seen anything in the newspapers recently on the situation.

The most frustrating factor of daily life in Leyte is the unreliability of electricity. The electricity is as unreliable as the political campaign promises of an American presidential candidate. I could appreciate the circumstances if I knew that electric company officials were working to solve the problem. But, I haven’t seen or heard anything in the news media to suggest that anyone is doing anything.

Rural Missouri Blackouts

As a boy in Missouri in the 1960s, I knew that come the winter months, there would be probably a couple of times during the winter, when we would be without electricity for two to three days. Snow and ice would collect on tree limbs and either the limbs or trees would fall on power lines and then the electric company would have to locate the tree and try to repair the line. By the 1980s, power outages in winter time in rural southwest Missouri had become one of those events that usually belonged “to the memories of childhood.”

Why The Blackouts ?

I don’t know why there are so many “Blackouts” in Leyte ?

I can theorize that the island infrastructure presents a challenge to maintaining a consistent and persistent supply of electricity. I have, no doubt, that weather situations like typhoons and monsoon rains bring havoc to power lines. I even imagine the number of household that rely on the electricity and the appliances and devices that they use are taking a toll on power consumption and supply. I am more than willing to give the power company the benefit of the doubt. I can understand and appreciate these limitations.

But. . .

On a sunny day, when it has not been raining and the power goes out – then, you wonder, “Why ?”

More than an annoyance or frustration, the “blackouts” are probably taking their toll in credibility. Leyte is a beautiful island, which should attract herds of foreign investors seeking to do business in the Philippines.

Profitable Population

This eastern visayas paradise – Leyte – offers a culturally diverse population. Chinese immigrants were among some of the first settlers to this island, so there is several Chinese businesses in Tacloban City.

Of course, the significant Spanish history and influence of the Philippines for more than 400 years is reflected in the Waray and Tagalog languages as well as cultural ideas and lifestyles.

The American presence at the beginning of the 20th Century, though World War II and until Mount Pinatubo brought the closure of Clark and Subic in the 1990s accounts for the wide use and understanding of English.

The Airport Of The West – Western World Ways

Thus, the Philippines in the Asia realm is “The Airport Of The West”, where people can land, stretch out, relax, rest and be ready to try and relate and communicate with a major section of the world that does not always understand, appreciate or have a way to communicate and relate to Western World Ways, in terms of ideas, or the English language.

People in the Philippines truly understand “The West.” The major reluctance of the use of English by Filipinos seems to be a “cultural shyness” in the use of English. Other English speaking citizens: Americans, Australians, British, Canadians and South Africans – are quick to “criticize” the use of English words and phrases.

Thus, the availability of a population that is accustomed to tourist, foreign business people and other languages should have foreign business investors beating down the door to offer employment to the population. Then, of course, “the lights go out.”

International Reporters and Photographers – Power Up !

If your editor sends you to cover breaking news in Leyte or another island of the Philippines. Before you dash to the airport, check your laptop battery and consider buying or packing another digital camera battery. Electricity is as reliable as an American politicians’ campaign promises – it isn’t !

In country, in Manila, Tacloban City, Tanauan and other large cities in the Philippines you can find the voltage regulators to handle the American 110 volts, but, if you get off a chopper, hop off a jeepney or a trike into the small villages and towns, the American laptop or American digital camera will have to use the power it has.

Remember, Canon and Nikon, are Japanese cameras that make American models to handle US voltage. Laptops bought in the US market are not designed to handle Asian 220 voltage. Know your gear, before you plug it into an Asian electric outlet. You might consider packing a small battery alarm clock and a small battery flashlight in with your camera gear to handle “blackouts.” Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.


Voltage Regulator

The voltage regulator in the photograph was purchased at Citi Hardware in Tacloban City. The 578 Emporium and the Gaisano stores in Tacloban City usually have the voltage regulators for sale. Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

The Big Hole In Your Wallet

My wife, Christy opened her, “CSW Cafe” in Tacloban City, near Leyte Normal University. Like any small businessman or businesswoman, she meets the daily challenges of business. Her cafe provides buffet style Filipino food in a bistro atmosphere Fortunately, in Tacloban City, the “blackouts” don’t seem to be as frequent as “out in the country” where we live.

But, when the power goes out – the air conditioning goes off and the tropical temperatures of the Philippines sends you looking for a shade tree or a cooler place to wait until the power comes back on.

Blackout” or “Brown out” – whatever you call the situation. The unstable state of electricity is more than frustrating or annoying – it comes down to “The Big Hole In Your Wallet.”

The Electricity Gamble

This morning, – “Blackout.” It lasted for five to ten minutes, while the kids got ready to go to school. Fortunately, the kids had already had their breakfast. Unreliable electricity is no doubt one reason, why people rely on small canisters of propane and a large hot plate appliance to cook meals, rather than an electric stove.

 

Camera
NIKON D100
Focal Length
58mm
Aperture
f/11
Exposure
1/30s
Camera
NIKON D100
Focal Length
58mm
Aperture
f/11
Exposure
1/30s

 

Gas Stove ?

The large appliance is a two burner hot plate. The line runs to a Recreational Vehicle-sized propane canister and is, essentially, a gas stove in Leyte. I have not seen any electric stoves and the frequency of “brownouts” and “blackouts” would explain why electric stoves, ovens and ranges are extremely rare, if at all. Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

The afternoon past without a “Blackout.” This evening – from now until midnight is still “a flip of the coin” because electricity in rural Leyte is “a minute to minute and hour to hour gamble.”

Without unreliable power, it makes it difficult for all businesses to do business. Unstable power means farmers and fishermen really have to rely on the daylight, in order, to be sure they can earn their day to day living.

Families in rural Leyte, seem to have adopted a “slot machine attitude toward electricity.” You realize some days are like pulling down the arm and watching the machine “hit”, “Three Across !” The dials click into place and you listen to the jingle and jangle of coins clanking into the tray.

Electricity Is A Slot Machine Gamble In Leyte

Pull the arm of any “One Arm Bandit” slot machine and watch the dials whirl. If the mechanical or computer programmed machine “hits” then you get a “payout” of tokens or coins.

 

Daily electricity in Leyte is like playing a slot machine. From second to second, minute to minute and hour to hour the dails whirl. Somedays in Leyte, the only “payout” of electricity is a persistent “blackout” that can last for minutes to several hours and there can be several “blackouts” on a given day.

 

And, like slot machines, it seems the electric bills can consume major portions of your wallet for an erratic payout of electricity over a month’s time. Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Other days, you pull the arm and the dials spin. Clunk ! Clunk ! Clunk !

Nothing on the three dials match and those are the days, when the electricity may be on and off again several times throughout the day or the electricity may be out for several hours during the day or night. You almost have to have – A Slot Machine Attitude – because from sunrise to midnight, you never know what the celestial spinning of the dials of the cosmic electric slot machine is going to “payout.”

In the 21st Century, it is ridiculous for any citizens to have to try to farm, do business or live like 12th Century peasants. The peasants had daylight and candlelight. They used the daylight to accomplish the majority of the day’s tasks.

Keep The Candles Handy

Thus, somewhere on planet Earth, in the 21st Century, someone should hold “The Secret” or the knowledge to help the power companies of Leyte to figure out “How To Keep The Lights On” and make “Blackouts” a historical footnote of the past. Until then, don’t forget to keep your candles and box of matches from the sari-sari store handy.

Keep The Candles Handy

Local sari-sari stores in provinces in the Philippines are numerous and usually have a ready supply of candles and small boxes of matches. Nikon D 100 Photo by Samuel E. Warren Jr.

Sam

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4 Responses

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      samwarren55

      August 14, 2012 at 10:20 PM


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