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  • The ULF Team

#IdeasPositiveRun6: A breath of fresh air



Barangay Mayondon is a small town in Los Ba?os, with even smaller streets. Day in and day out, a fleet of 300 or so trikes ply the routes, shuttling residents to and from their daily activities. It’s a lucrative enough business that brings food to many family tables, but at what cost?

Barangay Mayondon is a small town in Los Ba?os, with even smaller streets. The meandering narrow lanes support an active industry–transportation by tricycle, the best way to get around. Day in and day out, a fleet of 300 or so trikes ply the routes, shuttling residents to and from their daily activities. It’s a lucrative enough business that brings food to many family tables, but at what cost?

Long after the tricycles zip by, clouds of exhaust fumes hang heavy in the air. Tests have shown significant air pollution in the area, and at least 49 asthma exacerbations have been reported, among other respiratory ailments. Choked up over the health issues, the chemical engineers of Team Mapusok – Enrico Miguel Pagatpatan, Abigael Rubiano, Remwin Lorenz Guevarra, Fryxell Keith Gaya, Ranzel Ricko Barcel and mentor Engr. Shelah G. Ramirez – decided to help the residents breathe easier.

The solution proposed by the team is an unlikely one: the lowly tahong shell. The idea came from a high school research paper done some years ago by one of the team members. It revealed that the mollusk has a capacity to absorb carbon and catch other pollutants. The group lost no time in collecting the shells discarded by nearby restaurants, and breathing new life into them as low-cost but effective exhaust filters.

Today, about 65 filters have been deployed and installed in tricycles, which now have a cleaner, white emission. But it’s still a struggle to convince more drivers to join the project. There is a natural aversion to new technology, plus some perceived misgivings. “Mas humihina ata ang takbo pag nakalagay ang filter (The filter weakens our trikes),” or “Nahihirapan ang sasakyan ko pag pa-akyat (The tricycle has a harder time climbing steep roads),” the drivers claim–an issue that the team is working to dispel. And they have the women on their side.

Team Mapusok organized a Women’s Brigade, comprised of the drivers’ wives and other concerned women in the community. Their natural involvement in the wellbeing of their loved ones is proving to be an effective way to get the message through: Brgy. Mayondon needs clean air for its residents, and they must act now! They are learning about the benefits of clean air, and in turn, they are educating their community. They also learned how to make the filters, which can absorb dangerous fumes for up to 30 days. Their knowledge and skills will ensure the sustainability of the project.

Environmental issues have long been tied to health issues, and projects like this tackle both. Despite the challenges, Team Mapusok is pushing on, driven by their belief that science can solve man’s most pressing issues, and that engineering students–despite and because of their youth–can already help transform a community, one tahong filter at a time.

Team Mapusok is a National Finalist of Ideas Positive Run 6. This article is part of the #IdeasPositiveRun6 series, which documents the transformation of 13 communities through the innovative ideas of 13 youth teams. Follow their story as they build a healthier Philippines, one community at a time.

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