Saturday, August 3, 2013

July 19th: Harnessing the Power of the Sun -- A Liter of Light (Isang Litrong Liwanag)

Guess what we did today? We actually handcrafted a device that can harness the power of the sun!

Using her contacts with Pepsi Cola - Philippines, this morning my mom arranged for us to visit the demonstration facility of Iliac Diaz - an eco-entrepreneur who runs "A Liter of Light Foundation" supported by Pepsico. Not only is Iliac a nice and "pogi" guy (he is related to the former Miss Philippines/Universe -- Gloria Diaz). He is also a brainiac, having graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University. But, instead of trying to get rich by working as an engineer for a multinational corporation, he does something more noble. His foundation brings cheap light into the homes of poor people. To date, they have installed over 15,000 solar "bulbs" in 20 Philippine cities, saving people millions of pesos in electric costs. Isn't that cool?

Iliac Diaz welcomes us inside the Liter of Light Foundation's demonstration facility.The place was chockful of
ingenious contraptions made from recycleable materials. The whole "building" itself is a great example of an easy-to-build
shelter from recycled plastic crates and steel frames. Inside were hydroponic systems for growing fish and vegetables,
foot-powered water pump, wall planters for growing vegetables in crowded neighborhoods, lamps made from
recycled plastic bottles, solar-powered water heaters, and many more.

We had just finished our performance at the DOT. While on bus, George, my seat mate, and I chowed down on some Jollibee Chickenjoy, since our next stop was just around the corner. Initially, I was wondering why our bus was stopping in front of Jose Rizal's (the Philippine's national hero) monument at the Luneta Park. A block away, however, we noticed an odd, colorful, lego-like block structure sitting in the middle of the park. It turned out, this was the Liter of Light's roving demonstration facility. As we entered the "lego block" we realized the whole building is actually made of plastic cases stacked to form the walls of the facility. Inside were a variety of interesting contraptions like a hydroponic system, wall planters made from recycled waste materials, solar-powered water heater, and more. Iliac even showed us how a foot-operated water pump works. My first impression was, Wow! This is like getting inside a big Willie Wonka science facility containing displays of different ingeniously recycled gadgets.     

Next, Iliac gave us a brief background on his pet project -- bringing free light to thousands of poor people's home using only common items like plastic soda bottle, a piece of corrugated iron, water, bleach and glue. I must admit that at this point, I was still not sure what he was talking about. Then Iliac brought us to the adjacent "building." The entrance to this facility was covered by a black tarp to prevent light from coming in...sort of the thing you see in Halloween horror rides. Surprise, surprise! The room was actually very brightly lit, not by 30 or so light bulbs, but by plastic bottles that glow like 50 watt light bulbs. It was an amazing sight! Now I realized what he was talking about. Forgive the pun, but what a bright idea.

Artisans At Work:

Well, our morning tour was not over yet. Next, Iliac and his assistant led us into an open air workshop where we gathered around a wooden table filled with an assortment of tools, metal sheets, glue gun, and other materials. Iliac told us that we were actually going to make one of those bottle of lights that will be installed in a poor family's house somewhere. So for an hour in Luneta Park, that's basically what we did. Although most of us have not tried our hands in using metal shears, hammers, punchers, and glue gun, everybody was excited and gladly accepted the challenge. Pretty soon we were all busy hammering holes on the corrugated iron sheets, cutting out the circular patterns, squeezing the plastic soda bottle into the hole and gluing the whole contraption together. Still in our blue or peach dresses and heels, Marisa, my partner, and I hammered away at a metal plate used to hold the bottle in place, sawing and shaving the bottle and the metal piece into a working masterpiece. We were definitely not in the right attire for handiwork like this, but just seeing ourselves try to act professional was genuinely an entertaining experience. We were so busy and so engrossed with our individual projects that the hour passed by without anybody noticing.

"It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." We were all so proud of what we have accomplished in our short visit to the Liter of Light facility. This is because, in our own little way, we know that our humble creation will actually be installed in some poor person's home and provide free light for the whole family to enjoy.

Sierra Jamir & Tom Jamir

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