Manila Water Foundation Inaugurates Pilot Community Toilet Project

Present during the inauguration and turnover of the community toilet facility are (from L-R) Barangay Councilor Guillermo Tanate, MWF President Ferdz dela Cruz, Barangay Councilor Leonardo Lazano, Brgy. Sto Domingo Captain Janice Tacsagon, Cainta Mayor Keith Nieto, San Buena Homeowners’ Association President, Edwin Pafin, MWF Program Manager Arvee Galman and MWC Pasig Business Zone Manager Ryan Eje.

Manila Water Foundation recently inaugurated and formally turned over its very first community toilet project to the 800 families of San Buena Compound in Cainta, Rizal who have lived without access to a proper toilet facility for more than 30 years.

Ever since they can remember, the residents of San Buena Compound have had no proper toilet and sanitation facility available, prompting them to resort to open defecation, meaning they have used the streets, nearby bodies of water, and their own backyard as toilets.   Thus, Manila Water Foundation saw it fitting to provide a community toilet for the 3,500 individuals in the compound to hopefully shatter old practices, reshape personal lives, and create sensible toilet habits.

Fe Escame, a resident of San Buena Compound since the ‘70s, shows the state of the previous toilet project in their area.  She says that toilets are not usable anymore since there is no available water system.

Fe Escame, a resident of San Buena Compound since the 1970s and a mother of five, is used to seeing neighbors urinate and defecate in the open.  Even her 11 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren find it nothing out of the ordinary.  They are also guilty of the said practice.“Nasanay na kami. Syempre tao lang din naman, kapag kailangan mo magbawas, kailangan ilabas,” (We’re used to it.  It’s a human thing, when you need to go, you just do it.”) she nonchalantly stated.

Ferdz dela Cruz, President of Manila Water Foundation, chats with the residents of San Buena Compound, Cainta, Rizal.

Open defecation, together with its health and social implications, are just some of the issues that Manila Water Foundation aims to address in line with its vision to uplift the lives of Base of the Pyramid (BOP) communities. “This 8-cubicle community toilet project does not only address the sanitation aspect, which is such an important human activity that should be done properly.  Aside from responding to the health concerns, such as waterborne diseases, we will see how it changes the whole person and the whole community, how they engage with each other and the way they see themselves, whether it’s behavior, sense of dignity or attitude,” said Manila Water Foundation President Ferdinand M. dela Cruz.

In partnership with the Local Government of Cainta and Manila Water Pasig Business Area, a design for a community toilet complete with a water source system and a septic tank in place was constructed using the standards set by the Sanitation Code of the Philippines and Manila Water Company. This is a huge improvement from the first two toilet projects in the area, which quickly folded due to the absence of water supply and a septic tank.

Fe Escame is satisfied with the community toilet project and grateful to Manila Water Foundation for choosing San Buena as the project’s first recipient.

Fe and her neighbors feel that this project of the Manila Water Foundation is really different and will most likely succeed as she quipped, “Importante ang tubig para magamit siya nang tuloy tuloy at saka para malinis siya dahil pwede naming ma-flush ‘yan.” (“Water is very important in maintaining the facility.  It keeps it clean, as we are able flush the toilet after every use.”)

Cainta Mayor Keith Nieto, who has extended his full support for this project from day one has pledged for the maintenance of the facility, payment of the water consumption, and cooperation of San Buena compound’s homeowner’s association.

Cainta Mayor Keith Nieto reminds San Buena residents to use water wisely and maintain the facility’s cleanliness.

“The 8-cubicle toilet project of the Manila Water Foundation in San Buena is remarkable because toilets are necessary. It is as basic as human survival.  We all need comfort rooms and it will benefit a lot of people living here.  And I will make sure, on behalf of the people in Cainta, that this will last and we will maintain it well. I have already employed two people whose main task is just to handle the cleanliness and sanitation of the facility.  I just hope that everyone will cooperate and understand the importance of this pilot project so that at the end of the day, if there will be more people or NGOs that will be willing to help us out, they will see that here in San Buena, when they were given the chance to have this blessing, they kept it, protected it, secured it and they valued it,” Mayor Nieto eagerly remarked.

The facility is open to San Buena residents from 5am to 12 midnight, on a first-come-first-served basis and is to be used for bathing and toilet purposes only. This early, Fe could already feel the benefits and comfort of having an available toilet in their community. “Kapag naglalakad ako ngayon, wala na akong duming naapakan kasi yung mga tao may lugar nang mapupuntahan kung kailangan nilang magbawas.  At kapag naliligo ako mas maginhawa.  Sa loob ng banyo, tinatanggal ko ang damit ko kapag naliligo.  Pakiramdam ko malinis na malinis ako ngayon.  At mas makakasiguro kami na ang mga bata dito, kasama ang mga apo ko, ay maiiwas sa sakit. Tignan mo sila ngayon, hindi na mukhang madudungis,” (“I get to walk around and I don’t step on feces anymore because people now have somewhere to go to when they need to defecate.  And now I am able to take a bath without any clothing.  It feels better and I feel so clean. We are also assured that the kids in the compound, including my grandchildren, are less susceptible to diseases. Look at the kids around us, they don’t look grimy.”) she shared with a smile.