Saturday, October 30, 2010


We finished our community project finally!  It was quite the process in which we began brainstorming and throwing ideas out the first few weeks we arrived at our training sites.  I believe I have described in previous posts that we had a budget of 2,000 pesos (46 dollars) in which to draw from.  The other sub cluster of CRM trainees here did a mangrove nursery while we opted for an MRF.  Partly because our barranguay does not have any mangroves, just an extremely polluted beach.  Like I said before, we hired Lenny the carpenter which cost us about 1250 pesos including labor.  He was able to construct our MRF in about 2 days which was pretty quick since he worked alone.  He finished our MRF late last week and we held two education sessions for the on Tuesday and the other on Thursday.  The first session was very rained like crazy an hour before and during our entire presentation so therefore only 10 people showed up.  Out of the 10 there were only two kids and we had planned a trash segregation race for the kids so that idea was tossed out.  But, on Thursday we got a break with the weather and the people came out in droves.  I think we had over 40 people at apex of our presentation.  I personally presented on four common myths here in the Philippines regarding burning ones trash.  We also touched on the lifespan it takes a banana, can, bottle, plastic, etc to decompose from the earth.  We talked about composting and we were able to have our trash segregation relay because there were plenty of mga bata (children).  Finally for the finale we sketched out some trees, "bularan mrf", etc on a big poster and had the community paint it.  We hung it behind our MRF and that was it.  It felt really good to know that we have left something tangible behind for the community to use and hopefully when more funding comes they can build on / improve our current structure. 

painting banner

MRF shot w/ community

This week is pretty much free for us except for the fact that we have our LPI on Thursday afternoon which nobody is looking forward to.  Cannot wait to get that thing done with and move on to my permanent site on November 7th.  On the 6th all the trainees and their host families will be going out to a restaurant to celebrate the 2.5 months we spent here and to say thank you.  We will be presenting a slide show, videoke of course, with lots of food, and games.  Tonight my neighbor is hosting a Halloween party at 8 PM, so it will be fun to celebrate with my fellow trainees.  It will be interesting to see what everyone dresses up as because our resources are quite limited here in Banate...  That is all for now!
dason lang-

Friday, October 22, 2010

another week in Banate & brownouts

Maayong adlaw!
Another week down here at my training site here in Banate and two more weeks left until I leave for my permanent site on November 6th!  It was another ordinary week for me, with the only highlights being that our community project has started to finally come together.  As I have said in my previous posts our cluster is working on an MRF (Materials Recovery Facility).  So, we have been meeting with the head engineer at our municipality to see if we can work together.  Since, we only have 2,000 pesos as a budget for our project we have been trying to get the municipality to at least match our contribution.  But, since elections are happening on Monday they could not free up any funds for our project.  We drew out a "blueprint" of the MRF and got the ok from the mayor and head engineer late last week.  So, on Monday we went out to find a carpenter who actually was at my Host Family's house last weekend doing some paining, unbeknownst to me.  He speaks absolutely no English so it was rather difficult to get our message across of what we wanted him to build.  We showed him our sketch and he went out and purchased some materials (bamboo, nipa, and some sheet metal).  The MRF is 9 feet wide, 4 feet deep and 8 feet tall with the nipa roof sloping at a downward angle.  There is room for 8 rice sacks to collect 4 reusable materials that the community can bring.  It is located at Barrangay Hall, for those of you reading and don't understand what a Barrangay is I'll try and explain again.....The Municipality or city that I'm living in is Banate and it is made up of over 10 Barrangays or "neighborhoods."  Our cluster is living in Bularan Barrangay and every Barrangay has a hall where they conduct meetings and the like.  So, we built our MRF inside the walls of the hall which is sort of a central point for our Barrangay.  Next week we will be having an Educational Activities like trash segregation, information on backyard composting, the reasons why recycling is a positive activity for communities, etc.  I will be posting pictures of our activities and our MRF next week so everyone can see what I am fellow trainees will  be leaving behind here in Banate.  Our ultimate goal is for them to improve on the MRF when we leave and they get more money freed up.  Then finally set some sort of way to pay back the people who bring in the scrap or pool the money for projects for the greater good of the community.

I don't think I have touched on this subject and if I have it hasn't been in depth.   We have brownouts here in Banate on a regular basis which means NO electricity.  I know some of you out there think that because I'm in the PeaceCorps that I shouldn't be complaining.  Like my host mom says, "brownouts..its a part of life for the Filipino."  But, I am going to do some venting here..... I don't mind  the brownouts that are even every day because they usually only last a few hours.  But, on Wednesday and Thursday we had back to back brownouts that lasted from 8 AM to past 5 PM.  Our classrooms are cement houses that trap in heat and when you have six large Americans in a small room sitting in Filipino chairs with no electric fan it becomes very uncomfortable.  Let alone trying to pay attention and comprehend a foreign language, your brain tends to shut down quite fast.  I will be purchasing a sweat rag tomorrow when I go to the city because at this rate my white t-shirts life span has been cut in half.  Looking forward to implementing the MRF into the community next week and my next post will include some pictures.
Dason lang-

Monday, October 18, 2010

san joaquin trip

Hello to all out there,
I have been pretty busy over here in my little corner of the world.  A lot has happened since my last post on Tuesday I think it was.  First off.. I added the address you all can send packages and mail to.  If you really feel generous and want to send me a package of some kind there are some instructions... First being, ANYTHING that gets set to me goes through Manny (the mail guy) in Manila.  He opens up everything; letters, packages, etc. So no illegal contraband of anykind please.  Second, when sending a package the sender needs to PREPAY taxes, duties, and customs and make an itemized list of the contents of package.  If not, I will be stuck with the bill and when your making 120 american dollars per month it...lets just say it will be difficult for me pay.  I also added a picture to show some sort of contrast because life here in the Philippines is not all clean beaches and sunsets.  The poverty here is very real, my Nanay(host mom) told me the Philippines ranked as the 7th poorest country in the world in a study done this month.  So, I felt like I needed to show everyone who reads this blog what a "ghetto" looks like in a 3rd world country. 

Wednesday was like any other day here, same old thing with language and tech sessions and copious amounts of sweat.  Thursday was my day to present to our tech class... Every trainee had to pick a topic back in August to research and present and I presented on Solid Waste Management.  Luckily, last week we had a "resource volunteer" come and stay with us at our training site.  He has been here in the P.I. since 2008 and has helped to implement a great Solid Waste Management program at his site in Northern Luzon.  Sidenote...for those of you who have been following the news, his site is currently getting hammered by typhoon Megi.  I'm not sure if he was evacuated or if he stayed to ride it out, but all volunteers/trainees have been receiving tons of text messages warning us about the typhoon since Friday.  But, anyway he helped me give the presentation to our tech class and we used examples of what has worked at his site. It went really well and he gave us all lots of ideas and resources we can now use when we all go to our finals sites on November 6. 

On Friday, we went to San Joaquin,_Iloilo  It is about a three our van ride to the south of our training site.  We were put up in a nice resort for one night too!  But, we were there to snorkel three MPA's (Marine Protected Areas) and to conduct coral and fish assessments.  We did this for extra practice because our training site only has one MPA.  Even though it was only a three hour ride on the SAME island, the people of San Joaquin speak a different dialect than the one we are learning.  It was similar to Ilonggo, but there were definitely some different nuances.  It was a great trip because we were able to get back into the water and as I said above practice identifying fish and corals.  Most of us will have to conduct these assessments when we make it to our final site.  At least for my final site...Buenavista Guimiars their last assessment was done in 1997.  So, it makes it difficult to see if your reefs and fish are in decline or improving if you don't conduct assessments for over 12 years.  We returned to Banate on Saturday evening and I spent Sunday hanging out at the "resort" in town with some other trainees.  We did some swimming and I got some reading done too.  We only have about 3 weeks left here in Banate and the rest of the time will be spent implementing our community project for our tech class.  We also have an LPI (Language proficiency interview) between November 2-5 to see what "level" our language skills are at.  Someone from Manila will be comming down to interview us for about 20 mins in Ilonggo... which is going to be very challenging.
Dason lang

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

extra time

I have some extra time this week so I'm throwing up an extra blog post for all my fans out there.  Need to ask a question to everyone who reads this blog first though... If you have a skype account please leave your account name on the comments.  I just bought a webcam when I was in the city last weekend, so I would like to be able to see and talk to you all.  But back to interesting things going on here....not much as happen since my last post on Saturday/Sunday.  My cluster has a current Peace Corp Volunteer that is spending the week with us. He is stationed up in Northern Luzon (the island where Manila is) so it took him 12 hours on a bus to get to Manila.  Then he took a 1 hour flight to Iloilo for those of you who still dont understand Iloilo is the BIG city next to my site.  Then my site is about a 1 to 1.5 hour bus ride from Iloilo.  The Philippines is not that big, but if your site is rural then traveling makes for a bitch.  Anyway he is a great resource for questions because he has been here for two years already and will be extending his service for six months to see some of his projects through.  He speaks the language fluently and told us to not rush with the language, that it will come in due time.  Tips from people who have been through the "ringer" are always very welcomed.

Monday was U.N. day so our local high school put on a parade during the A.M.  Our language class went out to watch the parade, which was cool.  Every time there is a parade, party or "pisto" there is a beauty competition.  So, the end was brought up by MISS U.N. 2009 and in the car in front of her were the candidates for this year.  Filipinos love these pageants, parades, competitions and the like.  During the afternoon we of course had our tech training and Elliott presented on the Bantay Dagat (coastguard) who protect MPA's (marine protected areas) if your site has one.  Ben presented on fisheries management, both presentations will be very important in my day to day routine at my final site.  I am going to be setting up and maintaining an MPA and the Bantay Dagat is responsible for protecting it.  I also will doing alot of fisheries management, doing a fish census when I get there in November.....Comparing the results to the data that they currently have and see how the fish are trending... 
Tuesday we had GRAMMER day which is always very tiring.  We learned how to use the affix PA which designates a command.  We went through which is called "actor, object, and beneficiary" sentences all in the past, present, and future.  We were given example sentences and then we had to write our own and present them to the class.  Grammer is definitely the most challenging part of Ilonggo because the verb always is the first word in the sentence, the structure is completely different from English.  Tuesday afternoon we got more shots and had a lecture from the PCMO (peace corp medical officers) on nutrition and drinking.  Drinking here in the Philippines is a way of life.  I have walked to my language class NUMEROUS times at 745AM and there are fishermen in barkadas' (drinking circles) trying to get me to take shots of rum.  The alcohol is extremely cheap here and is quite plentiful, many volunteers develop drinking problems during their service....  The vast majority of locals do not comprehend the concept of alcoholism, so it can make for a deadly combination.  However, drinking with co workers and government officials is a great way to bond and develop personal bonds/friendships which go a long way in getting things done.  If you don't develop relationships with your co workers and other officials who are put in charge then you will never see tangible results.  The Irish think they have a legendary drinking reputation, I challenge any Irishmen to come to the Philippines...
I will be presenting to my fellow trainees on Thursday on Solid Waste Management.  So, I have been doing quite a bit of research and using our current peace corp volunteer for advice.  He spend the first year he was at his site planning and implementing SWM programs and had tremendous results.  Tomorrow we got more language training and then we will be going out to interview the local fishermen on what types of gear they use, how much their average catch is, and other fishery related questions.  I can't believe I wrote this much because nothing much as happened here in the last three days.  The heat is still completely crazy and the humidity is never under 90%, but some things never change.
Dason lang

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My new Haircut

Well I am now back at my training site (Banate).  I returned home on Sunday afternoon after about a 2 hour trip from Buenavista, Guimaras (my permenate site).  This week was filled with lots of activities for language and also CRM. 
For our language class we are starting to get out of the classroom and interact with the people on the streets.  In my opinion it is a superior way of learning because we are forced to speak Ilonggo.  It also is always nice to get out of the classroom and outside anyway.  On Monday our assignment was to go to the local high school and just talk to students.  So our cluster, six of us walked over to the high school and sat down and tried to have a conversations.  Filipinos are very shy, especially the girls.  When I would try to talk to one and ask them their name they would just smile and put their hand over their mouth.  I had to keep repeating myself until they would finally answer.  Once they start to talk though it is hard to get them to stop.  There was a fundraiser going on at the school to raise money for their audio visual room.  They had "weddings" for 5 pesos.  As per usual, all eyes were on us being the only Americans in the entire school.  A girl approached us and asked if we would get "married."  So, Lindsay and I went up for fun and we were given rings and I had to put on a jacket that went half way up my wrist.  Lindsay didn't even attempt to put the wedding dress on.  After the fundraiser was over we walked around the school some more and played kick kick with the kids.  The game involves a .25 sentablos coin and they wrap it around a piece of plastic and it is held together by a rubber band.  You kick the coin in a circle and try not to let it hit the ground.  Think hackey sack, but instead of a ball you use this coin.  On Wednesday we were all assigned to go to different place in the town and interview people.  I drew the Pali Pali which is the fish wholesale market.  I had to ask a guy who worked there what kind of fish they sold, where they came from, etc.  I was speaking to him and the next thing I know there is a crowd of 30 people standing around me watching me interview this guy.  I have been here for about two months and I still haven't gotten used to the attention that I draw.  People constantly stare at me, adults and children both.  I'm pretty sure in Filipino culture staring is not considered rude because they don't even try to hid it.  People literally turn their entire heads as I or a group of fellow volunteers walk by. 
On the CRM front we had our big presentation to the mayor and other government officals on Thursday.  We have been compiling tons of data: soci economic surveys, coral reef, seagrass, mangrove assessments, fish census, etc in order to implement a community project at the end of October.  So Sam and myself were assigned to present the fish census that we conducted about a month ago.  We had a pretty good turnout, about 30 people came listen to our presentation.  It went ok... We found that 77% of the population here think  that trash is a major issue, but when we asked what kind of community project they wanted us to do they all said alternative livelihood projects.  Example of an alternative livelihood project would be making a purse or bag out of trash and then trying to sell it at the local market.  Since we are supposed to do something C.R.M related we were very hesitant in agreeing.  We put in lots of work and all of our data pointed to Solid Waste Management.  So, we ended our meeting with no community project that we could all agree on.  We had another meeting last night and we finally convinced them that we would help set up a MRF (materials recovery facility).  So, the next few weeks we will be trying to find a site, holding community meetings, and teaching people about our MRF.  We will be trying to get the community to segregate their glass, aluminum, scrap metal, etc and bring it to the MRF.  When a family gathers enough items to bring to the MRF it will be weighed and logged in a book.  We need to coordinate with a local company to establish a regular pick up for the MRF.  Once the items are picked up from the MRF they will be given pesos depending on how much "scrap" there is.  They will consult the log book and money will be distributed to each family based on the amount of scrap they brought to the MRF that week or month.  
On Thursday evening after our presentation, all the male volunteers decided to shave mo hawks.  I was the last one on the bandwagon because my hair is not exactly ideal.  But I included a picture below to show everyone the hair that I am now sporting.

Sam and I presenting our fish census.
Ok that is all for now, new post to come next week I think.
Dason lang-

Monday, October 4, 2010

perm. site

Hello all its been a little over a week since I did my last posting I believe.  I have a lot to catch up on so I will try my best to share all the details of the last 10 or so days.  So, we had our supervisors conference last week in Bacolod City which is on the next island south of mine.  We departed on Monday morning, we took about an hour jeep ride, not bus, but jeep we had to cram 16 trainees into this jeep which made for a horrible experience going to the port.  We arrived at the port at around 8 AM for our "jet boat/fast craft" to go to Bacolod City.  As per usual here in the P.I. we left about 1.5 hours late and it was stifling hot.  Since, we were supposed to meet our supervisors that same day I wore some nice jeans and a dress shirt.  I thought the boat would have some A/C, think again... We were enclosed in this cement oven with MINIMAL air blowing out of the "vents."  I got up to go to the bathroom 1/2 through our voyage and the back of my button down shirt was completely wet.  Americans here are already stereotyped as stinky and sweaty and I did not help quell this notion.  We finally arrived in Bacolod city after about a 1 hour boat ride from Iloilo harbor.  We then were picked up by the hotel shuttle and taken to Sugarland Hotel.  This was by far the nicest place I have stayed in since my arrival in the P.I.  The A/C was cranking at a high level the rooms had zero roaches or insects to speak of.  There was even hot showers and flushing toilets!  Not to mention the food was unbelievable..pancakes, omelets, eggs for breakfast.  Acutual cuts of real meal, all the meat we get here is 60% grizzle and 20 % bone so you need to be extra careful about how you bite into the meat you are liable to crack a molar.  We had shots, met our supervisors, sat through boring (albeit necessary) lectures on safety and security.  It was the first time since Initinal Orientation that we were able to see most of the other CRM volunteers who are doing their training South of us.  There are three clusters of CRM trainees the Luzon group(northern most) Panay group (me, Central) and Dumagete (South).  SO we were all reunited except the Luzon group which was kind of a bummer.  In true Filippino style we went out drank copious amounts of Tanduay rhum and sang videoke...great times.  My supervisor seems to be a good guy who does not speak much English, but really cares about CRM. 

We left for my perminate site on Thursday morning.  We took that "jet boat" back to Iloilo harbor then a banka (pumpboat) across the Guimaras straight to MacArthurs Wharf to my Municicpalty of Buenavista on the island of Guimiaras.  We arrived at the Wharf and we walked to my supervisors car and of course it didn't start so we sat there for about 2 hours trying to start this thing.  I had to get out and push start it and I was meeting the mayor later that day so again I was dressed to impress.  Jeans and a dress shirt and they were soaked in sweat within 30 mins.  The car never started and we called for some guy to pick us up and he dropped us off at the municipal hall.  From there I met the Mayor who is a M.D. he said he was going to try to get us some scuba equipment which was great news.  I then went back to the office where I met some of my co workers, they all seem nice.  I then went to meet my host family who is really nice, but are 7th day Adventist which is an Evangelical Christian religion.  So, needless to say we do not see eye to eye on many things.  But, moving on... I met my counterpart (the guy I will be spending my day to day with) and he is friggen awesome!  He is about 30 years old and speaks really good English.  We spent the entire day on Friday roaming around my municipality in his mother in law car because our car was still dead.  He took me around to beaches, where the marine protected area will be, where they want to reforest mangroves, and just gave me a great tour.  Friday evening I went to church with my host family.  Saturday I did some more roaming around and my counterpart introduced me to some of his friends in the 'hood.  They are all really nice guys and we spend the latter half of the afternoon cooking SI SIG.  We all went to the market to buy the SI SIG and ingredients.  Si sig is pig face for all of you in the states, I watched the pork vendor carve this pigs head like he was cutting bread.  We bought 2 kilos along with eggs, garlic, peppers, clams, and shrimp for side dishes.  We first boiled the pig face and then grilled it then the chef of the house diced it up into little pieces and put it on a sizzling platter along with garlic, peppers, and topped it off with a  fried egg.  Think like hash browns, but instead of potatoes it was pig face.  Trust me it was AWESOME and would eat again in a heartbeat. I returned to my site on Sunday afternoon and was happy to return.  I did miss my host family and the friendly people of Banate.  I definitely have developed a close relationship with my current host family and am not looking forward to leaving.  My neighboors are burning tons of trash I can barley breath so I'm cutting this short.  Post again soon
Dasong lang-