Wenceslao: A Helpmate experience

Bong O. Wenceslao
·3 min read

CALL this a bad gift for Christmas.

Helpmate is a water utility firm that not only sells water to the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) but also services water to some areas in the south. Like the MCWD, Helpmate has also been affected by the pandemic. I paid my monthly bills a few times before the pandemic at the firm’s main office along Natalio Bacalso Ave. Then the lockdowns were imposed.

Before this, we learned to no longer rely on the monthly water bills regularly given to us. When I started paying at the main office, I found out how the payments were not reflected in the billing, resulting in the constantly escalating monthly bills. There apparently was disorganization somewhere in their organization.

This worsened for us during the lockdowns. Somewhere within those months, our water consumption as reflected in the bills jumped from P300-plus to around P3,000-plus or thereabouts. We checked for leakings and didn’t find one, except for that one instance wherein our neighbor had a leaking pipe repaired thinking the pipe was hers when it was actually ours. Besides, where would the water go after several months of leaking out?

A jump in consumption from P300-plus to P3,000-plus is quite a stretch considering that we are only four in the family and use mineral water for drinking. Water is only extensively used when our helper washes clothes. During the lockdown, we shifted to paying online. Now we are made to pay an P11,000 bill.

I finally got a chance to go to the Helpmate head office the other day to raise my questions. The woman at the counter opened her computer, took a cursory look at my records, then nonchalantly told me there was nothing wrong with it. That angered me enough to raise my voice to tell her to listen first to my complaint before putting me off. There was an air of nonchalance there as she blurted out the usual rationalization: a leaking line. When I refused to budge, she finally relented and promised to send their lineman to check my connection. Who will pay the excessive bill and how was not tackled. I left feeling empty.

I rarely go out of my house now. When I do, it is usually for something important. When I went to the water firm’s head office, it was for the hope that my water billing woes would be settled. When Helpmate started servicing water in our place, the artesian wells were no longer given importance. The only two artesian wells in our neighborhood are no longer serviceable. One has been abandoned, the other is in a state of disrepair. If Helpmate cuts its service to my house, where would we go?

I don’t know about the other water firm, a cooperative, that laid down pipes in our place months ago. But I understand the plan was to have the firm service instead the subdivisions being constructed on the hills near us. Would the cooperative be a savior, if ever? Or would the family go water-less at a time when water is flooding the streets and turning rough roads muddy?