Faces of Cebu People and Ideas

A brighter tomorrow with AboitizPower and Visayan Electric: How electricity transformed a student’s life in Naga City

By: - June 14, 2024

Every student dreams of achieving great things in the future. They aspire to make an impact in their chosen fields, whether through innovation, leadership, or service to their communities.

It is their determination that propels them forward, even when faced with difficult circumstances. Despite various challenges, there is often one primary obstacle that stands out as particularly tough.

For Neky Kanlom, the lack of access to electricity has been the most challenging part of all.

Neky’s life without electricity

Neky is a 14-year-old Grade 8 student. She lives with her family in a remote village in Barangay Bairan, Naga City in Cebu, where access to basic necessities, particularly electricity, is a daily struggle. Bairan is a quiet village located high up in the hills of Naga City. Getting there is quite an adventure, as it involves traveling on rocky and dusty roads far from the main highways.

A brighter tomorrow with AboitizPower and Visayan Electric: How electricity transformed a student's life in Naga City

The pale radiance of the kerosene lamp is the only aid 14-year-old Neky has for her studies, undeniably limiting her productivity.

In their small house with minimal resources, Neky relies on the rooster’s crow to know it’s time to wake up in the morning. At 4 a.m., she and her family rise to start their daily chores. The first thing they do is light their kerosene lamp, or “lamparilla,” as they begin their day in the dim glow of the lamp.

They always have to wake up early to finish all their work during the daytime because it is difficult to do anything at night without electricity. The absence of electric lights at Neky’s home means that once the sun sets, their small home is enveloped in darkness, making it nearly impossible to carry out any tasks.

“Lisod gyud kaayo ilihok-lihok sa balay kay wala’y suga. Sa lamparilla lang gyud mi magsalig pero lisod jud gihapon kay dili ka klaro,” she shared.

[Moving around the house is really difficult without light. While we only rely on the lamp, it’s still hard because you can’t see clearly.] 

Challenges of studying without light

With no access to electricity, their daily lives were not just affected, but also Neky’s education suffered. As a student, she wants to excel in all her subjects, but tackling 11 of them means burning the daytime oil because studying under the lamparilla’s dim glow just is not effective at night. However, there are days when the sun sets before Neky’s tasks are done, leaving her with unfinished business come evening. 

A brighter tomorrow with AboitizPower and Visayan Electric: How electricity transformed a student's life in Naga City

The insufficient light not only doubled the effort and time pressure for Neky’s work but also took a toll on her education.

With only one flickering kerosene lamp to rely on, she has to double down on her efforts. Staying up late is not an option when a trip to buy gas means traversing kilometers from their village.

Her favorite subjects were Filipino and Araling Panlipunan, however, the ongoing struggle with the lack of electricity greatly impacted Neky’s academic performance. Despite her efforts to excel in school, the challenges she faced at home took a toll on her grades. 

Instead of the marks she had hoped for, Neky consistently received sevens across her report card. This struggle left her feeling frustrated and disheartened, as she knew she had the potential to achieve more if only she had access to proper lighting and resources for studying.

“Dili ko katarong gyud og tuon. Mag study man ko inag buntag pero kana gani dili ka kapahuway kay mahurot imo hunahuna, kapoy kaayo kay dapat mag apas ka sa hayag,” Neky said.

[I really can’t focus when studying. I’ve tried doing it during the day, but it only makes it restless and tiring given that I have to depend on natural light.]

During class breaks, she would often utilize every minute to diligently study her assignments in advance. However, as the pressure of impending exams loomed closer, Neky grapples with the limitations of time. The brief moments between classes were simply not enough to cover all the material thoroughly. 

Day in and day out, Neky struggles with both keeping up her grades and pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher. As she faces these challenges, including the ongoing battle with the absence of electricity, her optimism and confidence in achieving her dreams diminish over time, leaving her feeling uncertain about her future aspirations.

A glimmer of hope: The Sitio Electrification Program

Despite the myriad challenges Neky faced on a daily basis, an unexpected turn of events brought a glimmer of hope that breathed new life into her dreams. In December 2023, after years of longing and waiting, a long-awaited blessing descended upon their village: electrification finally reached Barangay Bairan. 

A brighter tomorrow with AboitizPower and Visayan Electric: How electricity transformed a student's life in Naga City

Through Visayan Electric, an AboitizPower subsidiary and the country’s second largest electric utility, the unlit sitio of Barangay Bairan, Naga City in Cebu was fully energized last December 2023.

The Sitio Electrification Program or SEP is a national government project, which helps connect far-flung areas like Barangay Bairan to electrical grids of distribution utilities. It is one of the government’s priority programs for economic development and poverty reduction by aiming for 100 percent electrification of the Philippines. 

They were among the fortunate households to be electrified by the Aboitiz Power Corporation (AboitizPower) through their electric power distribution utility, Visayan Electric Company, Inc. Visayan Electric is the second largest electric utility in the Philippines. It serves the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, Talisay, Naga, and the municipalities of Liloan, Consolacion, Minglanilla, and San Fernando.

“Dako gyud kaayo ko pasalamat nila [AboitizPower and Visayan Electric] kay natagaan mi og kuryente diri sa balay. Nakatarong na ko og tuon unya naa nasad mi kalingawan kay naa nami tan awon TV,” Neky said.

[I am very thankful to [AboitizPower and Visayan Electric] because we now have electricity at home. I can study properly, and we also have entertainment because we can now watch TV.]

Since electricity entered their home, their daily routine underwent significant changes. The most notable relief came from no longer having to worry about unfinished tasks lingering into the evening due to poor visibility. With the glow of electric lights brightening their home, they could now extend their productive hours well into the night, tackling chores, homework, and other responsibilities with renewed energy and focus.

A brighter tomorrow with AboitizPower and Visayan Electric: How electricity transformed a student's life in Naga City

Her family no longer needed to race up their chores; when light came, lives changed for the better.

It now allowed them to enjoy their dinner at a more leisurely pace. No longer constrained by the fading daylight, they could postpone their evening meal beyond the early hours of 4 pm. 

Neky’s academic performance also experienced an improvement. Where once her grades stagnated by sevens, they now soared to impressive eights or nines. The introduction of electricity into her home proved to be a turnaround.


14-year-old Neky’s smile is a testimony of her liberation from the burdens brought by darkness.

With ample light flooding her study space, Neky was able to focus with clarity and concentration. She could immerse herself fully in her studies, no longer burdened by the constant worry of running out of gas for the lamparilla.

“Nalipay jud ko kay nakatarong na ko og tuon unya mas maka answer nakos ako modules kay pwede na buntag, pwede pod gabie,” she said.

[I am really happy because I can now study properly, and I can answer my modules in the morning or even at night.]

Kanlon Family

Neky and her family now reside in a house with electricity, making big dreams happen.

The 42-year-old Everly Kanlom, Neky’s mother, could not help but express her joy at the improvement in Neky’s grades. She recognized the positive impact of the arrival of electricity in their village and acknowledged that it could pave the way for her daughter to fulfill her dreams.

“Makalipay kay nakatarong na siya og eskwela… Dako na gyud og chance nga matupad niya iya [mga] damgo sa kinabuhi,” Neky’s mother said.

[I’m very happy since she can now focus on her studies and have a big chance of making her dreams a reality.]

Visayan Electric President and COO Raul C. Lucero said, “In Visayan Electric, we really aim to advance businesses and communities, and when we say communities, we mean all communities in our franchise area. It doesn’t matter whether the community is in the city or in a far flung area, we will be there, ready to take on obstacles just to provide our customers with the much needed electricity.”

The glow of light not only brightened the corners of Neky’s home but also illuminated her journey ahead with a new sense of hope and opportunities. True to what AboitizPower and Visayan Electric stand for – transforming energy for a better world – they have given Neky a transformative gift that goes beyond electricity; they have empowered her to dream and achieve great things for her future. 



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