So now I am officially a Peace Corps Volunteer! Woohoo! This past week was spent in Bacolod City again, for our counterpart’s conference followed by the swearing-in ceremony on Friday. It was tough to leave our host families in Banate but I promised to visit soon and will definitely keep in touch! The conference was pretty good and the hotel was great, with delicious food, comfy beds and aircon. With all of the amenities I almost forgot I am in the PC. It was really good to see our friends from other training sites again too and catch up with them. My counterpart is pretty cool, he likes to cut up and have fun but he has a lot of good experience doing CRM so hopefully together we can get a lot done in the next two years.
Pretty much the entire week, we spent the evening time hanging out and having fun with each other, celebrating the end of training. And Thursday was Elliott’s Birthday so we celebrated his birth in true Grupo Grabe fashion!
Of course these evenings were always followed by an early start the next morning for conference session but we managed. We had a lot of sessions split up into our sectors. The CRM sessions were really great, giving us information about the marine ecology here and various funding options we will have at our disposal. Joyce, the current CRM sector manager, announced that she is leaving PC and moving on to other things. We were all really sad to hear this, although I already knew from talking to current PCVs, it was still upsetting when she sat down to tell us the news. She was emotional as well. PC will have a hard time finding someone to replace her. She is so passionate and dedicated to CRM and PC and making sure that our two years here are spent well. She worked especially hard for us to make sure we were matched up with the best sites possible and has high hopes for our group. She will be sorely missed.
The swearing-in ceremony was fantastic! It took place at the historic provincial capital building, which was decorated in red, white and blue for us! We were greeted by sounds of drums and instruments playing native music. The special guest who actually swore us in was the US Ambassador to the Philippines. It was pretty neat to have him there and his speech was inspiring, telling us that we were the actually ambassadors to the Philippines and the great impact we will have on American-Filipino relations.
|Batch 269 with the US Ambassador to the Philippines. We made it!!!|
That night more celebrating ensued by going out on the town. I also decided it was high time that I ate balut! For those who are not familiar with this cultural delicacy, balut is a fertilized duck egg which has been boiled after a few weeks of incubation. So the duck is partially formed and the yolk is very big. For a PCVer, it is sort of like a rite of passage to eat. So what better way to celebrate swearing-in as a PCV in the Philippines than to partake of balut! I will say it was not that bad but the key to eating it all (and I did eat it all) is not to look at it while you are eating it. Namit!
Saturday was time to leave Bacolod. My friends and I decided to spend one last night together in Iloilo, before heading to our different sites. Our PC Filipino friend, B, who has all the best connections, hooked us up with great and cheap accommodations. Instead of staying at a pension house (hostel), we stayed on a family compound in the city. They have extra houses that they rent out so we rented one for the night, complete with aircon! We got their number and definitely plan to stay there during our future reunions in Iloilo. It is really great that the city is so close to all of us. It will be a great place to get together and catch up with each other.
A big reason we wanted to stay together one more night was also to watch the fight Sunday morning. World Boxing Champion hailing from the Philippines, Manny Pacquiao, was challenged by Mexican Boxer Antonio Margarito. This was kinda a big deal. It was a terrific fight and even more amazing to watch it among Filipinos in the Philippines! We went to a hotel that was showing it and the place was packed with people! Filipinos are known for being very hospitable and friendly, but during my three months here so far, I have also come to know that Filipinos are also very proud to be Filipinos. This pride seemed to culminate around Manny Pacquiao. Every time he threw a punch people cheered. And when he was hit, there were screams of panic. However there was much more cheering than panicking. Pacquiao is a small man and he is very fast! I’m not really into boxing, but I could not take my eyes off of the fight. It was so exciting! And of course, Manny defended his title successfully!
After the fight it was finally time for us to part ways. It was tough to say good-bye but we know we will see each other soon enough. Now I am at my host family’s house in Guimaras am starting work as a PCV! The next few months will be challenging for me, but I am anxious to start.