As I was going through the day at work it struck me that this was a very typical day for me in the field. And that made me very glad how well this project is going.
My days so far have been split between meeting people / government organizations and p compiling, and analyzing the secondary-data that I gather from them / going to and hosting meetings with stakeholders.
A typical day in the field starts off with either a jeepney ride if I’m staying in the city or taxi ride if I’m going far out into one of the municipalities further out in the bioregion. Today’s taxi ride started out with the usual chatter of explaining where I from, why I’m here (I’m an intern at the Canadian Urban Institute!) which is followed by an explanation that I’m not a Canadian, talking about Philippine culture and finally comparing Philippine to American weather. The Philippines, being both a tropical and an island country, keeps a pretty consistently warm temperature of say 32C/90F which only a bit cooler later on in the year. This makes my stories of Arkansas summers reaching 40C/110F and Missouri winters diving down to -18C/-1F just mind-blowing
This day was interesting because the driver went into an interesting talk about poverty. When I asked him what he thinks is a solution to poverty in the Philippines I was surprised by the straight-forwardness of his answer – move to another country; China, Japan, Malaysia, or the Middle East and find work (which itself is almost impossible here) even though it probably won’t pay much. He went on to tell me about how attractive Filipina girls sometimes have to leave the Philippines to find work and take on risque jobs at bars, clubs, or end up in prostitution. This is actually a big trend in Japan where Filipinas in such situation wind up marrying a Japanese client, and becoming, as my taxi driver put it, a “Japouki”
While on the topic of women was on the table the driver asked me if I had a girlfriend back in America. I just said I had a boyfriend back home and he does a double take and then asks me with very sincere curiosity “why?!!” “Well we like each other a lot…” I start explaining and then remembering the importance of the family in Philippine culture I throw in “and my parents LOVE him!!” The driver starts to chuckle and nod like that’s a totally reasonable explanation and we continue talking about another aspect of Filipino society.
So after a good long drive we arrive at the Municipal Hall where I would be meeting with my community partner and went through what has become the very typical protocol here; get introduced to all the staff members, pose for pictures with staff, sign-in, shake hands with the mayor, pose for pictures with the mayor, talk about how my project is going, have a quick ‘coffee break,’ shake hands again with the mayor, and then leave but not before some random girl is like ‘oh its a white guy!’ and has her picture taken with me.
After this we needed to go to another Municipal Hall to actually get the data. And the trip there was anything but typical.
The community partner member and I rode A bike for about an hour through breathtaking scenes of the Panay Highlands, dodging ditches, water buffalo and fording a river. It was awesome.
An hour, maybe two, later we arrive and get introduced to all the staff members, pose for pictures with staff, sign-in, shake hands with the mayor, pose for pictures with the mayor, talk about how my project is going, have a quick ‘coffee break,’ shake hands again with the mayor, and get offered a very kind token from the Mayor. The municipalities and Regional government organizations I’ve worked with have been fantastically hospitable and there have been many times I’ve left a meeting with some gift like a box of locally made candies (baye-bayes to be exact 🙂 ), a hand sewn tapestry, a bamboo fan, lots and lot and lots of food, I’ve even been offered a pet koi! That said, Illongos are seriously famous for their hospitality and its been great to be the benefactor from their generous spirits, an attribute I hope I will take with me as the ultimate souvenir. With that said I was seriously unprepared for this..
“So how long are you here for?”
“I’ve been here since June and am staying until late August”
“So where do you live?”
“In Iloilo City”
“Oh, do you rent a house?”
“No, I’m just in an apartment downtown”
“I have a few extra lodges here in _____, why don’t you take one of those for the rest of your time here for free?”
yikes!! If it wasn’t for the long comute I think I would have jumped at the chance! That and knowing how rude it is to turn down a gift here I would have had a hard time turning anything down unless, you know, it was a whole freaking house!
Back to the normal stuff now
Noon: take community partner out for lunch for delicious Filipino cuisine, talk about the state of the watershed, local politics, etc
Afterwards; go to a government office to discuss research projects done by the organization and gather what will be useful for the State of the Watershed Report which is followed up by a tour of the facilities and its immediate surroundings (in this case the municipal water sources, a tree nursery, and a bamboo forestry facility (with bambbo almost thirty feet long and weighing 25 kilos).
During the tour my tour guide, a volunteer at the site, was telling me his story about Typhoon Frank and the trees that saved him. Nodding at the house fifty meters away from the river he explains to me that ‘the trees protects our house from the floods, if it wasn’t for the trees Typhoon Frank would have destroyed our home.’
The aftermath of Typhoon Frank
And then a super-intense storm starts up so I end up hanging out in the office until its clears so I can head back to the office. In the meantime, however, I listen to stories about hikes in the Tigum-Aganan Headwaters like the Ginlumsan sang Ayam Falls, the mysterious three-basin falls were twigs, leaves, and animals (including someone’s dog!!) falls through the first basin to the second basin and then disappear in the third. There seems to be a great whirlpool that even with scuba equipment has never been sucessfully explored by people. Local legend says that the falls are guarded by mysterious spirits which cause unexplainable disasters.
Well despite the whole being offered a lodge part this was a pretty typical day for me. It’s sad to think I’m already halfway through.