By Atty. Ma. Pelita B. Dotado Viliran
In the early ‘70’s, at our mountain village of Jaybanga, Lobo, Batangas, with neither electricity nor paved roads but merely horse trails, having a refrigerator was a rare privilege, a luxury found only in our home. The singular individual who believed transporting it to the summit was possible, my father, braved the inconvenience of hauling it atop men’s shoulders through wilderness, mountain range hikes, and river crossings, blazing the trail, as there was none.
My father was a teacher-farmer. His thirst after a hard day’s toil in the coconut farm, or from hiking back from school drove him to have a ref on the mountain top.
Planning its transport was challenging. He charted the journey from Dagatan, the last barrio reachable by truck, through Taysan and Rosario municipalities, including Ahasan (place of snakes) in Tilaga. He hand picked the village’s strongest men (some still alive today),ordered the implementation, then bought his dream fridge — a kerosene-powered Electrolux.
Traveling with his team on foot and directing their ascent, he split them into groups of four, carrying the ref by turns. Moving in harmony and precision, lest they fall off cliffs, the ref bump on rocks, or get submerged into the river, the trek took almost a day. Accomplishing their mission, the fridge reached the ridge, scratch free.
As the fridge was being primed, waiting villagers expecting to drink, suspended their excitement and returned the next day for what would be their first glass of chilled water from the ref.
My father welcomed everyone who wanted refrigerated water. People coming for a cold drink became a common sight. “Higher landers” — ours being in midlands in the range — stopped overfor a thirst quencher. Those on horseback dropped by for refreshment, without dismounting. My mother made sure the pitchers were filled to refresh the passersby.
This may sound like an incredible tale, but those in doubt are welcome to see its remnants in our ancestral house in Barangay Jaybanga (now a tourist destination for its rice terraces, horseback riding, and Mt. Naguiling hikes).
My father was a great dad who treated me like a princess. But his greatness can be replicated by equally awesome fathers. However, this story is his alone. A dreamer and trailblazer who achieved what to others might seem an easy goal but so complex in execution, he was a simple man who found joy and blessedness in a glass of cold drink.
Yet, what gave him greater delight was sharing what only he could to countless others at the time when refrigerated water was a rarity in our place — quenching their thirst and touching their lives, one glass of chilled water at a time.