It’s easy to get a mistaken impression about street lights in the Philippines. Outside of Metro Manila, street lights are scarce. In many places the street lights you see aren’t paid for and maintained by the local electric company.
They’re paid for by the businesses and the residents where the lights have been placed. Sure, there are a lot of street lights in the tourist and high traffic areas, but it isn’t that way in the provincial towns and cities. Even in Olongapo City, where I live, only certain thoroughfares are well-lit.
I live in a suburban barangay (an administrative subdivision) called “Santa Rita”. I (rather, my wife, Josie) bought two lots next to each other, one in 1987 or 1988 and one in 2005. After buying the first one, she paid to have a power pole put up and the electrical lines running to it. I thought the pole was replaced but it’s still being used for something other than electricity.
We live at the end of a road, at the top of a hill, on a road that didn’t have cement on it (it was a dirt road) until 2006. It was a coincidence that the street was being paved when me and Josie moved there in 2006. As far as I know, there are only two, weak street lights in the last 1000 meters of the street. That’s far too little light to ward off the bad guys that come out at night.
After our house was built, we put up two makeshift street lights of our own. One on a fence pole next to the creek and one on the opposite side of the property the house is on. They were simple, fluorescent tubes protected by pieces of corrugated tin roofing material.
After the last typhoon of 2011, I didn’t have the light next to the creek replaced because that particular spot had turned into a gathering place for young adults at night, the kind that like to drink a lot. Since that spot was close to the front of the house, the noise they’d make would keep me awake at night. Needless to say, that noise disappeared along with the light.
In April of 2011, while I was traveling to and from San Fernando in the Pampanga province, I saw solar LED street lights placed along a newly widened stretch of road.
Seeing something like that tells me that the electric companies in the Philippines really are trying to improve things, despite what residents say about them. Of course, those types of street lights are only being put up in new sections of road or to replace failing lights.
If I can find the proper LED lights to replace the fluorescent lights we use in the street, and within our compound, I’m not going to hesitate to use them. I don’t care if they’re solar or not because LED lights consume far less electricity and don’t burn out nearly as often.
Sometime earlier this year, while Josie and I were out-of-town (and I really don’t remember where we went), the electric company put a light at the top of the steel pole. I was told that someone (probably the purok leader) requested it.
Unlike the street lights in the USA, this one doesn’t automatically come on and go off. There’s a light switch near the meters on the pole that has to be flipped. Sometimes I do it but it’s usually someone else. It saves me a little every month because I no longer need to turn on the light below the front right eave of the house.
People are starting to gather in that spot again at night. If it starts bothering me, like it used to, I’m going to have to do something about it.
Originally published on February 21, 2014 – Certain information has been updated and corrected.