Thursday, July 28, 2005

A days work

As soon as I wake up in the morning at my host family's house in Miag-ao I take a nice cold shower, out of a bucket of course (it sure wakes you up fast, I assure you that). After that I eat my pomahow (breakfast, and its also the word for snack, so there are lots of pomahows each day for the Philippinos). It is also sitting there waiting for me as soon as I go to the kitchen, neatly prepared by the maid of my host family. Yea this peace corps stuff is rough, let me tell you. In all honosty the having a maid/cook and laundry women has been one of the most difficult things for me to deal with each day. It is difficult to explain but I assure you it isn't comfortable to have these luxurys when A.) you have never had them before in yourlife, and B). When many days I go to very rural villages and see the disporportion of wealth in this country, and I feel I'm taking part in the unfair side of it. Other volunteers have this issue as well in the philippines, others do not. It all depends on your site placement. It is part of Philippino hospitality to give you the best of what is around. This hospitality is great to a point, but it can be overwelming at times. With all that said I do enjoy my host family, and they are a great assist to getting to know the community. My host dad is the head of the population commision in Region VI of the Philippines, and was once a professor at the University near by. My host mom sells "load" for phones, it is their form of top up for cell phones without contracts. There are always people from all age groups and sectors of the
population stopping by to pick up load. So yes, through them I get to know a large part of the community. With that said, I can not wait till Sept. That is when I am moving to my own accomidation. No more coming home and being berated with "Kaon Ka, Ano Gusto Mo?" (You eat, what do you want?). I will be able to cook my own food, what I want and when. Just be able to enjoy privacy. I have found a nippa house about 5k from the banwa (town). It is a two room hut with a poored concrete floor (nice and sturdy for the coming typhoons) It has two outdoor coverings. Either can be used for a kitchen, and the other for just sitting around, perhaps a hammock will be hung there? It has a CR (Comfort Room aka Bathroom) outside as well, along with a waterpump very close by for water. I assure you I am much more comfortable with these accomidations. The great thing is it is about 100 meters, perhaps less, to the ocean. It isn't ocean view, but it is ocean access. I'm happy about this. The reason I'm not building my own anymore, like i mentioned on a previous blogg is the PC is changing there policy, making it much more difficult to do. My officemate had this house, his family just moved out, into a larger, newer house and it was available.

Well I just went back and re-read all that and I realized I went off on a bit more of a tangent than I originally had planned. Lets start over, I wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, than head to work. On Mondays I get to work about 7:30 for the flag Cerimony. (These are held every Monday, at every Gov. office in the country that I am aware of. The employees sing the national anythom, and the municipality song. They than listen to a guest speaker, and the mayor, as well as take oaths to serve to the best of there ability.) The other days I go to the office between 8 and 9. Most days that I head to rural brgy's (villages) we leave around 9 a.m. Tangent again, sorry, ......ANYWAYS....when I go to work, the building below is the one I go to. Its a LONG walk from my host family's. Mabey 50 feet. If you look at the picture imagine a house to the left of the building, as close as can be there without being in the picture, that is my house. (I'll get a picture up next time of my host fams for all of you.) Anyways on with my day..............

Image hosted by

On the days that I head to the mountains, the fun and interesting days i'll add, I ride in any assortment of vehicals. Trucks like the one above in front of the Municipal building, Large all wheel drivedump trucks (the only ones that are capable of making some trips), L300's (a type of large passanger minivan), trikes, and sometimes a VW Beatle of one of my co-workers. The roads quickly become roads only by a loose, very loose definition. Up until about 2 weeks ago, the most commonly used road to one area we have been heading to often has been the dried up riverbed. Now that the rain has come, it is a very sketchy road. The picture below is of it, and I think this day was one of the last days that anyone passed on it. We got stuck 2 or 3 times that day. Fun. I passed that way today actually, in a very large dump and we had to turn around. After the past 4 days of continuis rain, that small stream you see below has become a full fledged river.

Image hosted by

So thats the roads......well at least the rural roads in the mountains, particually valleys. Don't want you to think they are all like that. As a matter of fact, the hut I will be renting is very close to the national highway. It is like a county road back home. Thats about the tops on the island of Panay. I can't comment on the rest of the philippines yet. Anyways when we head to some of the brgys (thats an abriviation by the way, for Barangay) there are no roads to take us there, that is when we hike. This is my faviorte part of any visit or trip. Some hikes are short, perhaps 20 minutes, some are a couple hours. There is one Brgy we havn't went to yet at the very top of one of the mountains in the municipality, i guess it is a 3 plus hour hike, i'm stoked for that. The picture below is of my office mates, and the brgy captian of the particular brgy we were heading to that particular day. (Obviously I took the picture) The 3rd man from the left is my supervisor, the 4th and 6th are my counterparts. They are great. I have been able to do a lot already for the short time I have been in Miagao and this is due almost entirely to my supervisor giving me the freedom to do as I please and the complete support of my two counterparts. I have already learned a tremendous amount from all three of them.

Image hosted by

Once we get to the Brgys we set up, if they have electricity we bring a projector and screen to give a powerpoint presentation. Sometimes this fails even if they do have electricity due to brownouts. But it isn't to much hassle to bring the equipment, and the municipality does have it, so it would be waste to not use it to our advantage. The picture below is of a General Assembly meeting for the Seconday Growth Markets were working on. It is basically giving the members of the brgy and overview of what the program is and how it will beinifit them. I speak as well, normally on youth organization, solid waste managment, and livelihood technologies (the second and third I have learned what I know almost entirely while I have been here in the Philippines, and still have a tremendous amount to learn. Good thing i have a 3 week training on the two coming up in Sept). I speak in Illong-ish (Illonggo and english). My Illonggo isn't near good enough to give any type of presentation, mostly it is still English, but i try. The local's first language is Kinara-ay, but I'm not even close to knowing as much Kinara-ay as Illonggo (and I'm finding my illonggo isn't much either, no matter how much I try), and they can all understand Illonggo, and english as well, if i speak slow enough, pernunciate, and use basic words. Afterwards we are always invited to Panyaga (lunch). Almost always in the mountains this consistis of rice and chicken, once in a while a local veg.

Image hosted by

The next picture is of a training on solid waste managment we gave to the high school we have been working with. This is one of 5 classrooms they have, and they all resemble this one. I didn't do to much presenting in this lecture. Jerome, my one counterpart, is an enviromental engineer. He has been the source of a large portion of my new found knowledge on solid waste mangment. He has been giving solid waste managment lectures for the past year to vendors and store owners in the town proper of Miag-ao. I let him take control of this one.
Image hosted by

The man in the below picture to the left is the Mayor of Miag-ao. He is a retired General in the Military. He has been great to me as well, he has supported the S.W.M. program fully thus far, with funding, with infastructure support for the project, as well as always apporving my requests for transportation. That is a lot more that can be said for the Mayors of other municipalitys that I have heard of. This particular day we were visitying the construction site of a new high school in another section of the mountains. It is the next school I hope to implement the S.W.M. program.
Image hosted by

The last picture I have is of what I have found to be an interesting fact of life in any brgy in the Philippines thus far. No matter HOW remote you go, they always have basketball courts, that is the passion for this game over here. I asked how the concrete is brought, it driven as far as it can, than carried. To get to this court you see below, it would have had to have been carried about 5 or 6k, up very steep paths. I keep telling them to get interested in soccer, its a lot easier to find a place to play. They are not interested.

Image hosted by

Well this may be the longest blog I have written yet. To end the theme off, a day's work, the trips back from these sites have always proved more interesting than the trip there. This is because the rains come in the afternoons. I have been drenched, particularly when I have been riding in the back of the dump truck, been stuck a good handfull of times, had to find new "routes" home due to land slides over upper mountain roads, and of course the ever possible flat tire. Always an adventure. My evenings at site consist of various activities. I was really ill for 3 weeks so during that time I just laid around and read a lot. Outside of those three weeks I have found myself playing a lot of Basketball (imagine that here?), drinking a couple beers (you must be thinking...not Lloyd.), mountain biking (at least the last two weeks since I bought my bike, yeah it rocks), and yes I even found some Korens and a couple Philippinos at the University to play soccer. Today....hmmm.....its 5:30 now, and raining. Thus I think today will be a beer day. As my counterparts say, "5:Thirsty"

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Random Pics

Well I have been bad about pics, but what you going to do. These
are from my random weekends i've taken away from site. The First is the sunset in Boracay on the 4th of July. The house I stayed in there was amazing, perched atop a large hill overlooking White Beach. You can't see them to well in this pic but if you look close at the top you can see little black dots. Those little black dots
are actually huge bats, and I mean HUGE. Wing spans of upwards of 1 1/2 meters. They are called flying foxes. At sunset everday they fly from where they sleep, in Boracay, to the next island to eat, Panay, in the province of Aklan. There "migration" is amazing to watch, it takes upwards of an hour and it is continues "flock" (of lack of a better term) of bats moving the entire time.
Image hosted by

The following two pictures are of the Fiesta at Sigma that I attended at the end of June. I really enjoyed returning to visit my original host family. I am already looking fwd to my next visit. The fiest was really a lot of fun, and as I stated on my previous blog, i don't think i have ever eaten that much in my entire life. The first pic is of a boat in the native boat competition. Out of the 21 Brgys in Sigma, 20 built native boats for a competition. They were floated down the river, through the middle of Sigma to be judged. A lot of originality when into many of the boats that i couldn't capture on film, like fireworks and explosives, as well as small props, and lots of Tanduay! (the local rum)
Image hosted by

The next pic is also from the Sigma fiesta, in addition to the boat competition, there was also a Nippa Hut building competition. All 21 brgy's plus local coops and organizations built nippas for the competition. They all brought there small nipas to the Sigma square for display. The nippas ended up encircling the plaza and it was quite the site.
Image hosted by

Well I do have more pics to put up on here, I have them upload to the internet but havn't had time to write about them or post them. They will come soon. I will add that in the past 3 days here I have seen at LOT of rain. The monsoon rains are in full effect currently, it hasn't stopped for 3 days, and I'm talking about some hard downpoors. On my journys to the mountains I have been stuck in the river (which is commonly used as a road when water isn't in it, a problem due to overlogging) after we drove to a rural brgy, it than poored down rain and made the trip back "interesting" to say the least. With the getting stuck numours times and me getting quite muddy in the process. Yesterday as a matter of fact I was at a ground breaking cerimony for a secondary growth market and the blessing of a new high school (everything here must be blessed before it is opened). Of course it rained almost the entire day, on the way back from the mountains the truck i was riding in got a flat, more fun changing that in mountains in the pooring rain. Anyways the next group of pics will be of meetings and what not from work, as well as a pic of the office I work at. I assure you it isn't what you think!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Sako gid ko

(I'm really busy!) Well I was told that the first 3 months at site would be a more laid back, relaxed time.. Up to this point i have not found that. Mind you some of what i'm busy with has been my own deliberate doing.. I am the one who took a long weekend to go back to my original host family and enjoy their fiesta. I am also the one who made the choice to go to Boracay for the 4th of July. Besides those two adventures I have been really busy with work however. It is a differant kind of busy however. Some days, when i have no meetings to go to or barungys to visit, I find myself with not much work to do, it is mostly planning work, (but in the next week i see this changing drastically). Those are the days that I try to walk around the town and meet as many people as I can. At times this gets to be more difficult that one would think and i find myself instead finding a quite place by myself and escaping into a novel. I have never read more in my entire life than i have been reading since i have been in the Philippines. Now may be the point where you say, "how can he be that busy if he has time to sit and read that much?" Well if i didn't take the time to escape and read, i think i would go insane. It is my normal time, I can zone out, not have to process what people are saying in another language, try to translate what i want to say in another language, not worry about my actions and if they are somehow being offensive in a way i didn't know, and relms of other things......Those are the days i don't have meetings however. Up to this point at least 2 or 3 days a week i find myself in the back of a truck, going up the mountain to villages to meet with village officials, or school officials. The sites are beutiful, and stunning, and when i get there that is when i really realize how much i love what i'm doing. Many times i feel underqualified or unprepared (even though i know i prepared as much as I could have), people look at me for anwsers that I have no clue what the solution to is. It gets overwelming, but I try to take my step back and take it one thing at a time. The past month at site (first month i will add) I have been working with a H.S. in the mountains to try and implament Solid Waste Mang. into there curriculum, as well as full implamentation at school. Through this i'm trying to get the funding to have a truck from the municipality come up once a month (depending on volume), to pick up the segragated recycled materials, as well as locate a residual waste dump for the H.S. (currently anywhere is there dump, that or burn). Also we are orginizing the construction of a composte pit. Going into the school the S.W.M was the project i was most exceited about working on, yet i quickly found out the children are very excited about reforestation and tree planting. So in conjuction with the S.W.M. I'm working on organizing a vol. ecology club, it is already well underway to being organized, and in 2 weeks it will be holding its first reforestation day, 500 seedlings in a selected watershed area near the H.S. In addition to working at Bacolod H.S, i'm currently working with the Municipal planning and Development Office on the satalite growth markets. Which, as i have mentioned before on my blogg, is the setting up of Satalite Farmers markets away from the town proper. To cut down on transperation costs, as well as to create livelhoods, incorporate S.W.M. and a number of other things that are key to the Municipality. Enough blabbing about office talk.

So before i mentioned i went to my first host fams for their fiesta. It was a blast, the most interesting fiesta i've been to yet in the Philippines, mind you the really big ones are in Jan and Feb. They had a parade, with floats all made of local products, mostly nippa and bamboo, some were pulled by caribo, some where even built around trikes and drove in. After the parade was an amazing local dance production with bamboo insturments, I wish i could tape the whole thing for you all to see, it was brillant. My camera was out of batteries on this day, which was a huge bummer, but i did get new ones for the next day, which was a parade again, but this time in the river. All bamboo boats and rafts, 21 in all, and once again just brillant to watch. The last day of fiesta was the eating day.....oh man i have never ate more in my entire life. I think i had 3 lunches and 2 dinners, each with its own whole roasted pig. Everyone host there own lunch or dinner, and if you are invited you best go, and at least eat a little somthing. It was intense to say the least, i thought i was going to pop, good thing later i had plenty of ol' Sam Mig's to help the digestive process!! To see more pics of this i suggest checking out the pics labeled Sigma Fiesta on Karen's photobucket I'll try to get some of my own up but she is much more motiviated than i when it comes to the taking of, and posting of pictures. You also may want to check out the pics from the weekend of the 4th of july in Boracay. It was a good good time, lots of good food, lots of good drinks, to bad it was pricy. At least for us, if we were living on the dollar it would have been cheap, but alas were not anymore. Well I think thats enough for today, i hope you are all well, I'll work on getting some pics up, mabey in the next week i'll add some,, but i have a rather hetic schedual this week as well. No later than next weekend have put up more pictures. Take Care and I miss you all!