To all back home, I am sorry for the lack of consistency of my posts the last month. I have been trying to get on some sort of a routine now that I am here at my permanent site. Today, Tuesday, is the start of my third week of work here. The first two weeks have been interesting to say the least. My first week was the most difficult week I have had here since arriving in country. I definitely took for granted having other Americans around me during my training in Banate. It was nice to have multiple volunteers with us in training because it seemed we were all in it together. When one is at their site, you are all alone and need to depend on yourself for everything.
I am the only volunteer in Buenavista (my municipality) and as far as I know the only American/foreigner as well. So, my first week was hard to adjust to new co workers, a new municipality, etc all without any really support from anyone. On my first day, I introduced myself to the mayor and numerous other government officials in Ilonggo. They were all very surprised that I could communicate in their native language, even though my speech was less than 5 mins. I am working for the Philippine government at the municipal level. There are 4 steps of government here in the Philippines: Barangay’s (make up municipalities), Municipal level (make up a Provence), Provencal level, and finally National level. My office is the municipal agriculture office or M.A.O. We are responsible for obviously agriculture, fisheries, solid waste management, and numerous other environmental concerns. There are about 10 people in my office and I have been assigned a counterpart, Gerard and a supervisor, Jonathan. Jonathan is the M.A.O or head municipal agriculturist for Buenavista. I will be concentrating on fisheries management, setting up a marine protected area, and doing baseline biophysical assessments my first 6 months or so.
My first two weeks I have been going around to the 17 coastal barangays that make up the coastal part of my municipality. I come to the office everyday around 8 and meet my counterpart and we usually make it to 2 coastal barangays and interview the barangay captain. We are gathering baseline data..such as the number of motorized and non motorized bancas (boats), number of fish pens, types of fish coral, mangrove coverage area, number of fish ponds. We have finished about 10 barangays and today I have been making a template and doing some serious data entry.
Some other interesting events that have happened in the first two weeks of work include: Meeting the governor of Guimaras (the name of my Provence/island I am on), getting on the basketball team with the mayor and other government workers in a league; our team name is WHITEHOUSE with jerseys, referees, scorekeepers, etc.. trying to explain to tons of Filipinos that I am NOT a mormon or some sort of religious missionary, buying a mountain bike to get around since were not allowed to ride motorcycles, eating lunch everyday with the 6 or so women that work in my office, some of the meals we have had dinguan (pig innards soup with the blood as the broth), and kinelaw (raw sardines soaked in vinegar).
Since we had a three day weekend for Bonfacio Day this past weekend I had booked a flight to Manila to meet another volunteer for Thanksgiving. We were not able to get our hands on any turkey, but we had a great weekend roaming around the city. It was the first time that I was able to get to Manila. We had initial orientation there, but we were outside the main city proper and not able to go out exploring. I am not even going to try to explain the complete and utter chaos that is Manila. I have never in my life seen a city like this and I have been to New York, Chicago, London, etc. The sheer size and scope of the city is completely mind-boggling. There are so many restaurants and bars that choosing one makes for a difficult task. We made a trip to the PeaceCorp office which is in a different part of the city, so we took the LRT (pubic rail system) and we had to literally squeeze into the train, 12 cars all shoulder to shoulder. We picked up some materials for our sites and walked around for hours checking out the sites. We also made it to a PBA game, which is the professional basketball league in the Philippines. The stadium holds about 12,000 people and since we showed up a little late we were relegated to the upper view seats for 30 pesos per seat (less than an American dollar). The game was awesome..back and forth the whole time with a last second 3 pointer that missed, but would of forced the game into overtime. Filipinos really have a passion for basketball and the atmosphere was really excellent. We wrapped up all of our nights going to bars and checking out live bands which seem to be everywhere. I have some pictures from the weekend, but I left my camera in her purse because I was in a rush to catch my flight. I will be getting it back for New Years, so I’ll have to wait to post them here. Ok my lunch break is now coming to an end..gotta get back to more data entry.