The last time I looked, the mountain of Leyte was showing itself in full magnificent glory, breathtakingly beautiful.
That was last January when I covered the swim of Atty. Ingemar Macarine a.ka. Pinoy Aquaman in Canigao Channel. Although, we stayed there for only thirty minutes in Barangay Guadalupe in Maasin City, the mountain of Leyte awed me.
And last week, I saw her again. The mountain transfixed me in awe as we arrived in Leyte for a facility familiarization tour and power transmission briefing by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP).
Mary Hope Arcenal receives a warm hug from Mayor Richard Gomez.
Courtesy: Ric Obedencio
Our group — Lito Responte (dyTR), Mike Ligalig (Bohol Tribune/Agence France-Presse), Angeline Valencia (Bohol Chronicle/PNA/Freeman), Ric Obedencio (Bohol News Today/Freeman), Andy Nalzaro (Bohol Balita Daily News), Fred Amora (Radyo Jagna), Frony Narisma (Bohol Tribune), Jessa Agua- Ylanan (DA 7 Bohol media liaison officer), Maryknoll Joan Porpor (Magic 92.7 FM), Ern Pahayahay (dyTR), Mary Hope “Dice” Arcenal (Bohol Light Company, Inc.), Rey Anthony Chiu (Philippine Information Agency –Bohol) and Janet Lim Villarojo (Effective Development Communication Unit)— was the latest batch to be invited by Betty Martinez, spokesperson of NGCP –Visayas who, we soon found out, was an energetic multi-tasker who could talk about power supply as fast as she could shuttle from one project/meeting to another.
We took an early trip to Cebu City. Travel time was two hours. At Cebu Pier, Maam Betty accosted us and made things easy for us to the next level of our sea travel. We took the 11 a.m. boat going to Ormoc City. The three-hour trip gave us the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of Leyte from a distance. It also gave us breathless feeling when we saw islands/islets.
At the Ormoc City port, we were reminded that Ormoc City is part of Leyte.
Leyte is divided into two provinces: Leyte and Southern Leyte.
Asked in jest if we had time to see Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez, the city’s main tourist attraction, Maam Betty (so casual and so unpretentious that’s why she’s so easy to love) said, “We will find time!” And she did find way to arrange our courtesy call to Mayor Gomez.
From the pier, the group proceeded first to the NGCP’s Leyte Area Control Center where the group had an NGCP Power 101 briefing.
It was an opportunity for us to know how the facilities operate and how power interruptions takes place.
We all know that the province of Bohol is fully dependent on Leyte for power. And our visit was timely after Bohol had experienced the 21-hour total power outage in December last year.
Ormoc City Mayor Richard “Goma” Gomez
warmly welcomes the members of the Bohol media and
NGCP personnel. Courtesy: Ric Obedencio
We learned that NGCP is a privately owned corporation in charge of operating, maintaining, and developing the country's state-owned power grid, an interconnected system that transmits gigawatts of power at thousands of volts from where it is made to where it is needed.
Its network of interconnected transmission towers and substations serves as the highway where electricity travels from various energy sources to the smaller thoroughfares of distribution utilities and electric cooperatives until it reaches the households.
NGCP's task is to ensure that the country's transmission assets are in optimal condition to convey safe, quality, and reliable electricity. NGCP does this through regular inspection and repair of lines and substations, clearing of Right-of-Way obstructions, and timely restoration during and after natural disasters.
Reliability of power is the company's utmost priority so it closely monitors the grid and immediately responds to any system disturbance. NGCP acts as System Operator that balances the supply and demand of power to maintain the quality of electricity that flows through the grid.
Bulk of the NGCP Ormoc Substation (Visayas Operations District 1) supply is primarily from geothermal power plants plus latest sources from solar.
Bohol has a declared maximum capacity supply of 90 megawatts from Leyte to Bohol via Ormoc-Maasin-Pitogo-Ubay submarine cable.
The actual power supply to Bohol ranges from 55-56mw, while the average supply at night is at 60mw.
The personnel of the NGCP told us that Bohol’s competitive edge as an investment destination is negatively affected until Bohol can find alternative power sources.
At 5 p.m., we hurriedly went to Ormoc City Hall. Goma is running the 110 barangays.
The people of Ormoc have seen the kind of work that Lucy and Goma have been doing. “Maayos at matino,” said a staff.
The mayor’s office staff said that Goma’s work ethic that he learned in showbiz in his work as a public servant is timeliness.
“Pag sinabing we start work at 8 o’clock, dapat before 8 o’clock ready na kami,” said another staff.
Members of the Bohol Media and personnel of the National Grid Corporation
of the Philippines and Energy Development Corporation at Tongonan Geothermal
Plant in Ormoc City. Courtesy: Ric Obedencio
Goma’s three priority projects are:
“No 1 is peace and order. No. 2 is tourism. No 3 is for Ormoc to be business-friendly,” said Goma.
“Ginagaya nga namin yung Bohol because you are one of the places na very successful ang tourism program ninyo,” Goma told members of the Bohol media.
He added, “Our thrust in Ormoc is to promote tourism, because we believe that ‘pag tourism, walang masyadong kalaban where you welcome people. You make them happy and at the same time, when people come sa isang lugar, you want them to spend money.”
What can tourists see in Ormoc?
“One of them is our Lake Danao, parang Taal Lake. It’s very beautiful.”
Other attractions in Ormoc City are the Lake Kasudsuran, Lake Janagdan, Punta dela Reina, Ormoc’s oldest bridge, and sugar cane and pineapple plantation.
“We are aiming Ormoc to be a tourist destination. Maybe we are not as beautiful as Bohol but we have some areas that we can be proud of like Lake Danao,” said Goma.
While Goma was talking to us, I’d noticed that the women attentively listened to him with sparkling eyes! Goma, afterall, is still a hunk who is making women — and other creatures besides — swoon.
Daghan na-dalaga og balik! Ha! Ha! Ha!
We were billeted at Ormoc Villa Hotel where we had a sumptuous dinner together with Ormoc-based media — Robert Dejon (PDI/GMA News), Lalaine Marcos-Jimenia, publisher of the Eastern Visayas Mail, Elvie Roa, et al.
The following day, we attended the briefing of Energy Development Corporation (EDC) facilitated by NGCP particularly on geothermal power plant.
The EDC personnel explained that since the Philippines is found in the Pacific Ring of Fire, the common heat source is magma, which transfers the heat from the earth’s core, where temperatures reach over 5,000 C.
The presence of water must be positive in a geothermal system. The water beneath the earth turns into that all-important steam used as geothermal energy.
They said that geothermal developers must take care of the forests because without trees, water will just run off to the rivers and seas and leave geothermal reservoirs empty.
From EDC Building, we went to visit the Tongonan Geothermal Reservation. We missed the visit to the Tongonan Hot Spring National Park. Maybe next time. The Tongonan Hot Spring National Park has a medicinal pool, a geyser that spurts hourly, and formations exuding sulphuric vapors. We were told that wild pigs, monkeys, deers and birds are also fund in the park.
Of course, we didn’t leave Ormoc City without buying pineapples and moron, and visiting the Saints Paul and Peter Parish Church where Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres and Mayor Goma tied the knot in 1998.
At past 1 p.m., we left Ormoc for Maasin City. We dropped by at the Albuera Town Hall and had photo ops with Mayor Rosa Meneses. The town rings a bell? We had a stop-over in BayBay City to see the Visayas State University (formerly Visayas State College of Agriculture). It has a total land area of 1, 479 hectares that extends from the shores of Camotes Sea to the top of Mt. Pangasugan.
The group arrived in Maasin City at around 5 p.m., and proceeded to the NGCP-Maasin Substation, where Bohol province gets its power supply via Pitogo island-Ubay.
The NGCP has upgraded the second line, or Line 2 to the Leyte-Bohol grid that supplies electricity to Bohol through submarine cables.
“Line 2 has been in place to ensure continuous power supply in the future,” said Engr. Giovanni Torralba.
Hitches in Leyte grid clutched the whole Bohol to another total power outage on Dec. 4, 2016 which lasted for 20 hours. And we got irked for that.
We stayed at Villa Romana Hotel. We capped the night with a sumptuous dinner together with Ormoc-based journalists- Jani Arnaiz (Inquirer), Monching Buyser and Frank Bandibas of dyDM-AM Maasin. Others went to the city to buy slippers, while others had a video-k session.
Unfortunately, we spent barely 24 hours in Maasin City and proceeded to Bato, Leyte for our trip back to Bohol.
So much to see, so little time!
From the boat going to Ubay, I took a fleeting glimpse of the mountain of Leyte glittering in the summer sun. It seemed to bid us goodbye, inviting us to visit again. Paging Maam Betty! Ha! Ha! Ha!
Thank you NGCP for the great experience. Thank you Maam Betty! Thank you Ms Michelle Visera! Thank you Ms Ma. Edna Legaspina!
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