In the worst of times, women built the electric grid

I am posting the personal stories of women in the electric domain. These are narratives I consider illuminating, hence the i describe the women as iluminadas, a spanish name my cousins and classmates were baptized with.

first story  is that of HEIDI CRUZ PEREZ, first woman  to lead the development of electric cooperatives  as part of the task force implementing the electrification campaign in the 1970s.


When I left the NEA in 1979, I was chief of the then Cooperative Organization and Development Division.  Under my supervision were 24 all- male Coop Development Officers ( CDO ) and 3 female clerks.

Initially, I was a desk-bound administrative assistant to the NRECA, an all- American team of advisors. Until my transfer to the office across the potted wall, the terms “military encounter” and “skirmish” were alien to me.  It was not long before I found out what these were from experience.

But first, my aborted plane trip to Capiz or Roxas City enroute to PANELCO which was a disaster.  Since I was new at the job, a senior CDO was to accompany me during the flight.   I was the last passenger to enter the plane because I waited anxiously for my escort who was no-show.  At the last minute I went up the plane only to announce to the crew at the doorway that I was not boarding, so may I please get my luggage back? To their horror, I insisted.  But they obligingly retrieved it and as I dragged my luggage down the ramp, across the tarmac and back to the terminal, an air marshal escorted me, his long firearm slung on his shoulder.  That was in full view of the puzzled pre-departure passengers who perhaps thought I was a security risk who was ejected from the plane.  Under Martial Law, many bizarre things happened.

Fast forward to Basilan. Our composite team bound for Lamitan from Isabela was ordered to stay put by the mayor because of encounter between government troops and rebels along the same route that we were taking.  At the first all clear-signal, we proceeded.   But our return trip from Lamitan to Isabela met the same fate for the same reason: skirmish along the route.  So we practically dodged the bullets.  Thanks to the derring-do of a female team leader!

My encountered memories include the day I drove without official authorization the big-size Chevrolet Suburban of the USAID from Bolinao, Pangasinan to Manila.  The NRECA advisor who drove it was a heart patient.  On the trip back he requested me to drive instead, because he developed chest pains during the drive from Manila.  No one among the 12 passengers objected and we arrived home in one piece.

There was also the “blitzkrieg” of the coop election in Camarinas Sur I where right after the lighting election in our hands, the mayor demanded another election tailored to make the local government bet  ( a loser) win a seat as director.  He “ detained” us at the Linden Hotel where he aired his protest.  The case was elevated to Malacanan which naturally upheld us.  What was doubly memorable for me was that “ blitzkrieg” earned me a promotion because it was my idea to use the strategy.  It paid to read World War II military exploits.

Then my night flight from Iloilo which climaxed my stay at the NEA.  Bad weather and poor visibility in Manila and environs forced our plane to circle the airport many times.  Some flights were already diverted to Clark Airbase.  After what seemed like eternity we touched down but the taxiing place came to an abrupt stop in the middle of the runway.  A shuttle bus ferried the passengers to the terminal.  Drenched from the bus transfer in the rain, I asked why our plane did not reach the disembarkation area.  The airport information officer simply said that the plane had run out of the fuel.  Believe you me!

My swan song was the organization of the NOCECO more than 30 years ago.  The mayor of Kabankalan ( venue of the event) and the newly-elected president of the brand-new coop were sworn political enemies.  How to get the feuding vital personalities together for the formal registration and loan signing ceremonies was a headache for me, the project leader, because the provincial VIP’s were arriving and both had transmitted negative signals to me.  So I called on Mayor Sola to inform him that Mr. Daclan, the president, wanted to invite him to the important coop event but was anxious that the invitation would be declined.  Then I proceeded to Mr. Daclan to assure him that Mayor Sola was willing to attend the ceremony and in fact was only waiting for the formal invitation.  The “shuttle diplomacy” was one big fat ruse but it led a win-win situation.  All the VIP’s were together at NOCECO’s “coming out party”.

Explore posts in the same categories: History, social sector


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6 Comments on “In the worst of times, women built the electric grid”

  1. heidi Says:

    Sorry , it’s just I myself and me. I never knew this was on blog until a friend told me so. Well. I was mildly aghast for the simple reason that these all-in-a-day’s-work anecdotes were for the consumption of NEA people who alone would appreciate the events and their settings.
    If I had any substantial contribution to the serious business of rural electrification like many of my colleagues, they are now lost in memory. Like my ill-feelings, they are written on flowing water never to been seen or heard again. With these recollections on your blog, they are publicly recorded. Years from now I can say to you, thanks for the memories!

  2. Althea Says:

    Hello, you blog is very insightful. I really enjoy reading it, especially your sequel in electricity. 🙂 I am doing a paper on electrical consumption and how it affects Mother Earth. Thanks for the story, it is nice to hear the history behind MERALCO and NPC. 🙂

    May I ask a question? I hope you don’t mind. Did Sir Rio mention how many powerplants does MERALCO and NPC operate? Exactly how many are coal burning plants and facilities that use renewable energy?

    Thank you so much for the help and insights. Do you mind if I quoted some of your words in my paper? 🙂

    • Thank you. The answer to your query needs updating and you will have to write NEA ( National Electrification Administration) for the information on powerplants. I wrote the book in 2009 so that people will know women contributed to the light of the modern world and the Philippines. Yes you can quote me and cite the source or person I interviewed.

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