Maayong gabi-i

This post comes late in the week as I had a busy one with language classes, pre-Christmas celebrations and birthdays. So as promised, I’m still playing catch up and I will now attempt to concisely tell you what I did for two months during our “Community Based Training” (wish me luck)! Basically two months of living with a host family in the province of Bataan, Municipality of Morong, Barangay Sabang, while we took language classes, had technical training and got to know each other. I will break this down into ten events/types of events to make it more manageable or concise. They didn’t necessarily happen in the order listed but will try to stick to the timeline as much as possible. Luckily for you, I will also include many pictures so it’s easier to read.

  1. Habitat Assessments

One of the first things we did in regards to technical training was learning to conduct habitat assessments in the Philippines. Although I had spent the last year doing habitat assessments in Belize, it was interesting to see how they were done here and a good refresher. We did coral surveys, seagrass surveys and mangrove surveys (my least favorite). This of course was one of my favorite parts of technical training since it allowed us to be outdoors. We were also fortunate to have really great weather during these days with flat seas and sunny skies!

  1. Excursion to the fish market

This was a combination of language training and fish ID. We got to go buy fish at the local market while speaking tagalog and identifying what the catch was. I gotta tell you this place was shocking, in a good and bad way. Being there reminded me of the Asian fish markets you see in movies where they sell everything under the sun, there are endless colors and smells and also endless smiles from the vendors. It’s also quite funny to see peoples’ faces when they realize you can  “speak” their language and then they decide you’re not a tourist and maybe they shouldn’t over charge you. The down side to this experience is seeing all the types of fish and animals that are eaten, from huge tuna to parrotfish to rays and sharks, but you gotta do what you gotta do to feed your family so there’s no judgement just the realization that a lot of work remains to be done. This excursion was followed by a trip to the mall, which if I remember correctly, was a day where I ate a burrito (first one in a month bless my soul), a pizza and a dairy queen  blizzard with Nutella all in one siting.

  1. Participatory Coastal Resource Assessment (PCRA)

What is a PCRA you ask? This is an event (in our case it lasted one day but can last multiple days) where certain stakeholder groups from the community (i.e. fishermen, women’s groups, town captains, people’s organizations, etc) are invited to do an assessment of their town and figure out what their resources are, where they are, what their seasonality is, what threats they face, what can be done and potential projects that can be done in town to address issues related to these problems while maintaining a people centered approach to conservation. Our training group (there were ten of us trainees living in this particular town) planned for the event during the week doing things such as creating and sending out invitations, securing a place to hold the event, of course making sure we had merienda and lunch for the occasion and getting other materials such as certificates of attendance completed (certificates are a MUST here for events). Of course our planning wasn’t flawless as we soon realized our certificates had spelling mistakes (they had BATH275 instead of BATCH275 written on them), but these are the types of things you learn to laugh of and quickly come up with solutions for. Anyways the day went well and we started, of course, with a prayer and national anthem, these are also a MUST for meetings here. We split into teams and did fisherfolk calendars, a community map, transect walk and fish trend diagram. We also did a needs assessments where we identified a community project for us to do. The whole day was rounded out by having merienda breaks, lunch breaks and of course multiple energizers.

  1. Visit to Indigenous Peoples’ Community

After a short jeepney ride we walked up this muddy trail (of course it was a rainy day) with awesome views where we met with an indigenous community up in the mountains. They told us what it was like to live up there along with the challenges they faced. They also showed us how to make some really cool things with bamboo including a make shift rice cooker. The children perfomed some traditional dances and in return we sang songs for them.

  1. Coastal Environmental Profile

After doing the PCRA, habitat assessments, fisherfolks’ interviews and having spent well over a month in the community, we compiled all our results to make a document called an coastal environmental profile. We presented this document in the form of a half day event to the people of the community, again we had to go through the same logistical burdens of invitations, venue, food etc (but don’t worry there were no certificates to mess up this time)! We presented our results of the CEP, and I gotta say this was an awesome moment for me as I presented the results of our habitat assessments in tagalog using few notes (and people understood me) *pat myself on the back*. We also presented to them what would be our community project… hold for suspense I will tell you all about it in the next paragraph.

  1. Community project

Suspense lifted – our community project was all about solid waste management. The Philippines has a huge problem with this, not only because people buy single use plastics in excessive amounts (not that it’s their fault it’s just that this is usually what they can afford) but there is also nowhere to place trash and there is a lack of education. I will probably write a post about this exclusively into the future so I won’t go into more details about the problem. But for our project we did a beach clean up combined with workshops related to solid waste management where we taught people about separating trash, how to compost and also the decomposition time of different types of trash. The day started of rainy and gloomy and we thought no one would come, but much to our delight we had 50+ enthusiastic people turn up with rice sacks for collecting garbage, rain boots and of course umbrellas. We were able to collect well over 20+ sacks of garbage which were later taken up to the waste dump.

  1. Handog sa pamilya

Our time was quickly coming to a close at training and with that we had to say goodbye to our host families in addition to thanking them for so graciously taking us into their homes and welcoming us as part of the family. For this we had a big party were we invited all the host families. We each got to thank our families for taking us in and in turn our families spoke of how grateful they were to meet us and host us as part of their family. Some of us cried, some didn’t, I can tell you I didn’t, not because I wasn’t thankful or sad to leave but just because I am not the “public display of emotions” type of gal, but of course I am infinitely grateful to my host family. After the more “cheesy” things were out of the way it was time for some laughs as we played kalamansi races, object musical chairs and makeshift pinatas. Of course the day was finished off with some good ole’ videoke (also a MUST in the Philippines)

  1. Language Classes

These were and ongoing affair throughout training, with most days involving 4 hours of class. The first month and a half we learned tagalog and after learning our permanent site we switched gears to learning our local language. Class was a mix of fun and frustration. We had fun times going to the market to practice our language, cooking traditional recipes while trying to write out the recipes in the language, playing color twister and so on and so forth. Frustrating were the times when I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where to put the 2 or 3 letter words in the sentences!

  1. Host family

Of course a big component of training was living with a host family. I was placed with the Renol family which were incredibly welcoming, and not to mention patient with my slow tagalog and picky food choices. Nonetheless, they were amazing and treated me as part of the family. My host nanay made some killer meals (the lumpias, pancit and sarsyado were delicious), though it was hard to communicate with my host tatay due to lack of language from both our sides it was awesome to always see him with a big smile on his face, even after spending whole nights out fishing to feed the family. My little host sister, Milan, was amazing always teaching me new things in tagalog, taking selfies with me or exploring the tide pools behind my house. My little host brother Nicole brought me back to my youth when we go to play marbles. I also had two other host brothers, Nixon and Mac, who I didn’t see as much cause they were working or in university in Manila but they were super awesome in helping me with language and navigating the town

  1. Other

Of course I haven’t covered everything I did, these are just some of the bigger events/highlights of training. But left to be mentioned are the birthday celebrations, countless of them, were we drank red horse, chanted “Steve Steve Steve”, watched sunsets, licked each other’s elbows (don’t ask…) and ate good food (we had pizza and real cheetohs for one of these and I teared up). We also spent two days at a resort where we got our language interviews and the big moment when we learned where we would be living the next two years of our lives, this of course included a night of more red horse and celebrations. We also went snorkeling, and swimming and exploring, we watched sunsets, went to the mall, sang videoke to our heart’s content, had endless trainings from the medical and safety and security teams which we filled with shenanigans to keep ourselves sane…. and well the list could go on and on but I won’t bore you anymore as I see I have made this post incredibly long.

If you have stuck with me this far, thanks for reading! Next post I will write about my last week in training, yes there are things left to be said of training imagine that, but don’t worry I will keep it much much shorter!

Until next time!