Monday, July 18, 2011

Surfing, Cold, MPA pa..

CRM news… The main focus still is getting my MPA up and running.  I submitted my grant for a little over 3,000 dollars to PeaceCorps and USAID the last week of June.  It was reviewed and I received some constructive criticism from the panel.  So, the month of July has seen me tweaking and revising my VEG proposal.  Since, this will be the first Marine Protected Area in Buenavista, PeaceCorps thought our proposed sanctuary was too large.  I shrunk it from 50 to 20 hectares and from two to one barangay, Avila.  This makes sense; however since I already conducted community meetings with the two barangays in June this created a minor issue.  I had to go back and re inform both communities that the MPA would be shrunk to 20 hectares and only Avila would be receiving the MPA.  I am aiming to re submit the proposal by today (Tuesday) or tomorrow.  When the proposal is passed though the committee funds will be availed to me within 4 to 6 weeks.  I am really excited to finish the proposal and get down to the information drive to the community and the whole implementation process once the funds are transferred.  The process is so long and drawn out it has tested my patience and stress level on a number of levels.  If anyone who reads this blog is curious of how I wrote it or what a VEG proposal looks like you can e mail me and I will be happy to send you a copy of the proposal.  I also have been going out with my counterpart and monitoring our many tilapia hatcheries.   We were in San Fernando last week to change three large nets that contained about 5,000 fingerlings.  It is important to keep the water and nets clean and free of bacteria and other parasites to minimize our mortality rate. 
In social and community news… I have been going over to my counterpart’s house a few times over the last month to help him with the construction of his new rest house.  It is a nice cement house on his property with a CR (bathroom), bedroom, kitchen, and deck.  Its always nice to spent the day over at his place because he has a good amount of land in a barangay which is rather remote.  His wife always cooks a good meal and I get to play with his three kids too.  Who sometimes are more interested in my cell phone games than me. 
It was the mayor’s birthday in July and he had a party/gathering for all the municipal employees.  It was a very long, lasting about 3 hours.  He had his mom and wife make a speech, a slideshow was presented with pictures of him, happy birthday was sung over 8 times.  We finally got to eat with the food being your standard Pinoy party food….Pansit (noodle dish) and lechon baboy (roasted whole pig).  I spoke to the mayor for a few minutes to catch up since I haven’t seen much of him in the last 6 or so weeks.  He told me he is not going to be able to play basketball this season because of a back issue.  He was in the hospital for 3-4 weeks undergoing procedures.  Which leads me to.. I am playing basketball again after a 2 or 3 month hiatus.  Played last Monday for the first time with some fellow municipal employees and boy was I rusty!  I couldn’t get a jumper to fall and was playing some rather weak D to boot.  It was still nice to get back out on the court and play with some cool guys.  The exercise was also an added bonus; the rice might be starting to catch up! 
I went surfing for the first time in the Philippines the first week of July with Morgan.  We went to San Juan which is a municipality about 6 hours north of Manila.  We took an overnight bus from Manila which was rather interesting after we had consumed a few too many beers.  Then we continued to make another bad decision by wolfing down two Jollibee champs (biggest fast food burger in the Philippines) right before we got onto the bus.  Morgan does not really eat burgers very often so her ride was not very enjoyable, haha.  We spent three days there surfing, eating mangoes (that I brought from Guimaras), swimming, and enjoying the sun.  The waves were perfect for Morgan because it was her first time to surf.  She got up on multiple waves and had a great time doing it.  We rented boards for 200 pesos an hour.  The scene in San Juan was very unique, there were minimal western tourist.  The majority of people were either locals or Filipinos from Manila.  There were lots of very good Filipino surfers and the vibe of the place was very laid back.  I definitely will be returning to San Juan sometime in the future because I had such a great time. 
After San Juan we took a two hour bus ride into the mountain town of Baguio.  This is where Manny Pac Man does his training before fights because of the high elevation (5-6,000 ft).  I have not used my fleece or a jacket prior to this trip because the weather here is always hot and humid.  However, Baguio is not your typical city in the Philippines.  It was COLD!!! When I say cold I mean around 50-60 degrees, but when you’re used to 85 plus everyday with high humidity that is cold!  We stayed with another PCV that lives in Baguio and she recommended we try and go to a waterfall half way down the mountain.  It was really beautiful.  About 7 or 8 waterfalls cascading down the mountain side, but the weather was cold and rainy so we weren’t able to hike the whole trail.  Really step green cliffs with the peaks breaking through the clouds.  There is a big Korean population in Baguio and we were told to go to “Korean restaurant” that is the name.  We found it and ended up eating there back to back nights.  The city is very young because of the 5 or 6 universities which makes it very vibrant.  We only were able to stay two nights because I had to get back to Manila to catch my flight home.  We took another overnight bus from Baguio to Manila.  We arrived early in the AM and crashed out at Morgan’s cousins place for a few hours then went to the PeaceCorps office to take care of some work stuff.  Then went out for lunch at one of our favourite restaurants in Manila, a Indian place called Kashmir.  After that we went to a dive shop so I could buy some dive gear.  I got a bcd and regulator now!  I am really eager to use it for a trip to Palawan I have planned for the first week of September.
My parents are also planning on coming to the Philippines for the first two weeks of March.  I am very excited to see my parents and brothers and to show them around the country I have been living in for almost a year now.  They are going to be getting their dive certifications, so we can do lots of diving when they are here.  That’s all for now.  I’ll keep everyone updated on how much VEG grant goes.

Morgan, Febe, Me, and Cousins in Manila

In San Juan

Surfing in the Philippines

Sunset in San Juan

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