Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mango Heaven

This past week has been a very busy one! We did our socio-economic training in our community, which involved doing interviews with community members and holding a focus group community meeting. My host mom was good enough to go with me and Jensen when we went to do our interviews which ended up being a HUGE help so she could translate for us. We had our questions written in Ilonggo but sometimes she needed to rephrase the question for people to understand and she was great to translate their responses for us since we are still learning the language.

The Community Meeting was a huge success too! So many people showed up and they were very excited to participate. We had them draw a community map, identifying resources in their Barangay, make a list of needs, and give us their daily and yearly schedules. All of this information will be vital as we plan a project and continue to seek their involvement! 

Saturday my cluster plus a few from the other CRM training cluster went to the nearby town of Baratoc Nueva to play soccer on an actual soccer field. This has become a weekly event for us! Our PC driver, Bobbit has a lot of friends who play soccer so we usually meet up with them to play. Most of the time the Filipinos beat us pretty badly but in our defense some of them are ex-national players... no lie!

Sunday some of us traveled early in the AM to IloIlo City, about an hour away. to run in the annual Milo Marathon. The actual marathon is held in Manila, but in Iloilo there is a half marathon, 10k, 5k and 3k, so we all ran in the 5k race. Even though I was feeling a bit under the weather I mustered up some strength and ran. It turned out to be a really great race and a lot people came out for it. The starting line was packed but everyone took off as they sounded the buzzer! They had water stations along the way and also handed out plastic string necklaces at every kilometer. There were quite a lot of PC volunteers and trainees running in the race and many many Filipinos! We all had fun and already plan to re-unite every year in Iloilo for the race :)

So this week we are all in Bacolod, a city in the next island over, for our highly anticipated Supervisor's Conference. We are staying at a really nice hotel with showers, flushing toilets, AirCon and really really really good food! It is almost like a vacation for us.... except we are still training.

Yesterday we found out our permanent sites and met our supervisors. Ever since the first week of training we all heard about the CRM site of Guimaras, home to the best mangos in the world and lots of coastal resources. Since we heard there were two CRM volunteers going there we sadly assumed it would be the married couple. But surprise, there are actually going to be three CRM volunteers there and..... Drumroll please.... I will be one of them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Guimaras is a small island south of the large island of Panay that I am training at. I will have two site mates, an education and youth development volunteer. Two of my CRM friends are also going to be on the island in neighboring towns about 20 min on either side of my town too! We are really excited to be so close to each other and to the city since we are only a 20 minute boat ride to Iloilo City, where there is a mall and theater!

All three of our supervisors get along too and are already talking about our three towns working on projects together! When it comes to coastal resources management the more towns and provinces you have working together, the more effective the management is so we are really fortunate that our municipalities get along!

My town in Guimaras is the capital and also home to coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass and a Sea Turtle Conservation Center! These will be the things I will be working on for the next two years! I will be going to my site for a visit later this week so I am really excited to meet the host family I will be staying with there and the office people I will be working with! Then back to Banate to complete my training for another two months!

More to come later!
Halong :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Finding Nemo

To continue with our training on how to perform bio-physical assessments, we did coral reef assessments this weekend. I was so excited to finally go to Hibutkan, the MPA (marine protected area) offshore from Banate!

We started by performing a manta tow, which is being dragged by the boat while assessing the coral reef below.

Manta tow!
Next we laid our quadrants for counting fish diversity.

Laying down our quadrants!

Then came the hard part, identifying fish!

Time to identify fish!
Of course we had help from our local friends!

Our boat captain and assistant fish identifier!
I got to see so many fish, mainly Damsel fish but Nemo also made an appearance! My favorite was the giant clam! It was so beautiful but sadly my camera died before I could get a pic. Hopefully I will see another one next time I go out!

That's all for now! One more week till I found out where my permanent site will be!


Monday, September 13, 2010


My "number one fan", as my host dad calls him, is always hanging around my family's compound. He is 11 years old and his name is Chris.

Chris aka President of my fan club.

Chris loves to ride his bike up and down the street in front of my house, hoping to see me (sounds a little creepy but really it's kinda cute). One day I asked my host siblings, Crystal and Jon-Jon, if they like to ride bicycles. That is when I learned that not only did they not know how to ride a bike, but neither did my host parents or cousins, Darielle and Dax. So I decided that I needed to teach them how!

Now I can't really remember not knowing how to ride a bike, so I wasn't sure how this was going to go. But I knew the most important thing was to have a bike to practice on! Like I mentioned before my host family does not own any bikes. Bikes here are a major mode of transportation, along with the trike (powered by motocycle), there is the sideseat, which is powered by a very skinny and in-shape guy who rides a bicycle attached to a side car. Therefore unless your bike is your job, they are kind of seen as a luxury, and one which my host parents have decided they can do without. So where was I going to find a bike...... Chris!

Chris was very reluctant to share his bike with us, but he is my number one fan after all, so I worked my charm and got him to hand over his wheels! 

Me and my host mom teaching Dax how to ride!

It didn't take long for this learning session to turn into a neighborhood activity! My host mom, Lisa, came out and helped me push and pull the kids on the bike, teaching them to peddle and balance on the bike. 

My host mom and sister, Lisa and Crystal.

This gave me a chance to take a break and sip on some young coconut juice thanks to my Tita Nina. Very healthy to drink on a hot day!

Yummy yummy butong juice!
The kids are still learning but I remind them to practice every day!
My Tita Kisang's dog, Timay, kept laying in the way! She was about to be run over a couple of times!

Timay, move out of the way!

Here is a close up so you can see just how cute Timay is! and She is set to have puppies in a few short months!


Timay is my constant companion when I seek rest on Tita Kisang's porch. Her house is the farthest away from the street (but still on my family's compound). It is a really nice house and the porch has the best breeze so I usually spend the hot afternoons there trying to stay cool. Timay always joins me and sometimes Neil or one of my other cousins will play cards with me. Tita is also always trying to feed me no matter how much I tell her "Busog gid ako!" ("I am so full!"). 

Timay 'keeping guard' of the porch.

A really awesome view and cool breeze can always be found at Tita's porch.
Along with lots of smiles and food!

This is my favorite spot to hang out with my family or have some alone time reading my book. I am very lucky to have relatives with land as appeasing as this. And Tita tells me they will be harvesting the rice soon, so I will be sure to take lots of pictures when that happens!

Well there is definitely an ugly storm rolling in so that is all for now!


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mangroves and Seagrass Field Day!

Finally a couple of days in the field! We have so far been having our technical lessons in the classroom, learning about working with Local Government Units and the history of Coastal Resources Management in the Philippines. Yesterday and today we finally got a chance to go out in the field and get some hands on experience!

Our vessels!

Yesterday was a practice run of assessing mangroves. We went to a nearby Barangay and trekked out to the sea, only to find mangroves covered in plastic trash. It was definitely a harsh reality and a look into a lot of the work that we all have ahead of us. We really wanted to start picking up the trash but that was not why we were there and will have to wait for another time. Time to learn how to assess mangrove growth!

Today was much better in the sense that our mangroves and seagrass beds were not completely covered in trash. We were able to lay out quadrants, record the species present, and the growth of the sea grass and mangroves.

Seagrass was first, time to get wet!

First we had some seagrass assessing to do!

Next it was mangrove time! Elliott is laying out our quadrants to measure!

We had some help from the locals in identifying different mangrove

Wrapping things up as the tide comes in.

Then it was time to trek back to the boat. Our banka awaits!

It was a really fun day. The weather ended up being great, cloudy and not too hot! I hope all field days are this pretty!

Lastly another count down begins: 16 days until my Supervisor's Conference, where I will meet my supervisor and, more importantly, find out my SITE!!!


Monday, September 6, 2010

Take 2

Ok so I am trying this again... here is the clip I promised before! Her name is Cherry and she asked if she could sing for me. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Every Filipino has music in their heart

Something you can find in every Filipino Barangay is.... a videoke bar! Filipinos LOVE to sing.

We took our first weekend trip away from Banate today, finally free from classes! Our goal was to find clear water to snorkel in, and although we didn't end up finding clear water per-say, we did find some local hospitality! The children at the beach had never seen Americans before, except for on t.v. So we made friends very fast once we got there. There was also a family picnic going on and once they realized we didn't bring any food, they made it their priority to feed us... home-made mango ice cream, chips and cold coca-colas! I love these people!

But back to the singing, Filipinos LOVE to sing. Walking down the street some will actually sing at you! Kite's, our normal hang-out spot, is also a popular videoke bar. And what do Filipinos like to sing? Anything and everything from love ballads, Celine Dion, to Akon, and L'il Kim. It doesn't matter if your good or bad or really bad, they are always up for a song!

I was going to leave you with a song from one of my new friends from the beach, Cherry, but I'm having trouble loading the video, so look for it later!

(Also many thanks to Tyler M. for letting me use his awesome picture as my new blog header.)


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Get use to it, Part 2

Everywhere we go, people know our names and shout "Good Morning", "Hello!", "Where are you going!" Children flock to the street so they can see you and shout Hello! You feel sort of famous... it makes me wonder if the novelty of us being here is going to wear off ever.

In America we have certain foods reserved for breakfast: cereal, oatmeal, pancakes, etc. In the Philippines there is no such thing. It is perfectly normal for my  breakfast to consist of rice (what meal is complete without it), fish and fried chicken. Some other foods that frequent my table are various soups made with either fish, chicken or vegetables. Dessert is usually fruit, and the mangoes are delicious! Other foods that I eat often include shrimp, crabs, squid, eggplant, and cucumbers.

Like I mentioned before, we also snack throughout the day. My snacks usually include some type of fruit I have never heard of, and various sweet treats. And when I say sweet, I mean SWEET. Filipinos love their sugar and like to put lots of it in everything!

This deliciousness is a banana turon and is basically banana
coated in sugar. Yeah its pretty much amazing.

We are pretty close to the equator here so we have 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark. Also taking into account how hellish the heat is at midday, the town in up and running around 4 am and pretty much quiet around 8. My friends and I closed the local bar the other night at around 9pm.... yep.

My host brother, Jan-Jan, was running around with a little matchbox and kept poking at what was inside. I asked him what he was keeping in there. Imagine my surprise when he takes out a giant spider that starts to crawl all over him. It is a very popular game with the kids, especially the boys, to catch or even buy spiders and then fight them. No lie! (I guess I should also mention that the spiders are not dangerous. No Black Widows here!)

Jan-Jan with his spiders. I love the fact that he happened to also be
wearing a spider-man shirt when I took this picture. 
They take sticks and place a spider at each end, then let them have at it! Winner gets to eat the loser.

This is probably the hardest thing to get use to here. Stray dogs and cats litter the street. And there is definitely no such thing as a fat animal here. The dogs and cats are all skin and bones. Cock fights and dog fights are a common occurrence. At the resort bar that we hang out at there is the saddest little monkey chained up with a broken foot. His chain doesn't even allow him to reach the shade so he is stuck in the sun during the heat of the day. This is a very harsh reality for me to understand here. I have to come to the realization that these are cultural differences. Cock fights, illegal in the US and cruel-seeming to me, are a part of the culture here.

So cute! 

On a lighter note, my host family and relatives actually do have pet dogs that are purebreds. They are well taken care of and treated nicely.

Ok since that last one was a bit of a downer, I will leave you with smiles!

Filipino kids are the absolute cutest!
(My host brother is up front in the orange.)