Saturday, August 29, 2009

More Fun Facts from Lonely Planet

- Apocalypse Now, Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July were among the many war films fully or partially filmed in the Philippines.
- Before the Spanish arrived, the utilitarian nipa hut characterized Filipino architecture. The basic nipa hut is made of wood and bamboo, with a roof of (nipa) palm thatch – cool and breezy in hot weather and easily repaired if damaged by typhoons. The Spanish brought stone houses and baroque churches. By the 19th century, Filipinos built houses mixing Spanish and Asian styles with elements of the nipa hut; they had upstairs living rooms and capiz-shell windows. The American era brought neoclassical architecture, evident in many of Manila’s government buildings, with some art deco thrown in. The Marcos era added huge concrete creations, and now the contemporary urban landscape is dominated by tinted-glass high-rises.
- Geographical isolation from Southeast Asia has resulted in the evolution of thousands of species found nowhere else on earth. The country is home to 13,500 species of plant; only four countries (I don’t know which) have more; 30 to 40 percent of these are found only on the Philippines. There are at least 111 mammals found nowhere else – but many are small or elusive, so this is not much of a wildlife-spotting place. There are 500 species of coral, ranking it second in terms of coral diversity, and 600 species of bird, of which almost 200 are found only in the Philippines (here, the countries with more endemic species are listed – Indonesia and Brazil). There are 900 endemic orchids.
- The Philippines is one of the earliest victims of rising global ocean levels and temperatures. Global warming is causing massive coral bleaching. El Nino has also taken its toll on Philippine reefs. Overfishing, dynamite and cyanide fishing, and deforestation are other issues. But conservation measures are being enacted.
- Turns out the dive season really begins in November and peaks in April and May. This is not a good time of year to learn – many dive operators shut down during the rainy season; unpredictable weather and choppy water are common. But I may still go for it at some point while I am here – we’ll see. Other activities in the Philippines from Lonely Planet that I might try at some point – caving, hiking/trekking, rafting/kayaking, chartering a bangka (outrigger boat) to island-hop, and wellness centers (look at for a sample – Mary said she wanted to join me for that one).

And some fun facts from my observation:
- There is what is called “color coding” here – license plates ending in certain numbers can’t drive in rush hours on certain days. This leads some people to work very early or very late – or, like Sir Tony, to get another car with a different plate.
- The catsup (sic) here is made from bananas. Tastes sweeter than Heinz but still ketchup-like. I don’t understand how.
- Shaw and EDSA, the intersection I cross between the jeepney and the bus, is one of the few street-level crossings here. Most of the time I use an overpass – sometimes the overpasses are multi-leveled and quite extensive.
- The jeepneys and buses, as they weave in and out of traffic, speed up and stop short (often I step in or out when they are still in motion, and I still always bang my head in the jeepney) all have signs saying, “how’s my driving?” As if you would call the number!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Reflections and Reactions

I’ve been somewhat reflective this week – or, rather, I realized that I really haven’t been reflective before this week. Visiting Mary and then coming back here gave me pause – it made me think a little bit about what’s important to me in the future. Could I have a life where each day begins and ends with a swim in the ocean? Can I have a job where I don’t have to go to an office every day? Just how important is it to have natural beauty? Or a beautiful city walk (I never took for granted my proximity to the lake and my walk along the Magnificent Mile – or the walks I take when I visit New York)? I then got a long email from a friend I hadn’t heard from in a while, telling me about her life and asking me similar questions and making me think still more. And what finally occurred to me is that I am doing pretty well at living in the moment, which is my goal! I think I will update my resume this month, and maybe the month after that start to put myself in a position to look for the next assignment. I think it’s good to muse about how what I have now helps me prioritize what I might want next (and that means not just the job and the location but also relationship/s), but upon reflection, I don’t want to do too much reflection right now! But maybe I’m also not reflecting (as much as Mary, for example, who shared with me her emails home) because, as I mentioned before, I feel acclimated – I certainly feel I’m in another culture, but I’m also in a big city, and I know big cities.

Some non-work-related adventures: This week I went to the post office to mail a letter for Mary. The post office was such a central part of my Azrou experience – writing cards that never went anywhere, hoping for mail that sometimes arrived, getting my monthly living allowance. Here, we get our living allowance via ATM (and Morocco is moving to that system), and post offices are few and far between. The mail that I have received has come to my office, and when Peace Corps sends anything they send it by courier. So it was a treat to go to the post office. Sir Tony had someone accompany me on the jeepney; we wound through Pasig City to the City Hall. Pasig City is big! It’s all urban, but I saw some interesting parts to it – commercial streets with more people hanging out than hang out on my walking route, the big market that I may go back to for fruit. Nothing’s walkable, but maybe I can take the jeepney and walk around a bit to get more of the flavor. The post office transaction itself was an adventure, too, but I think I managed to get postage and get the letter in the mail.

I also went to the baranguay offices to introduce myself. A baranguay is a neighborhood of a city, but it is also the main social unit of the villages – named after the boat that the Malays arrived in way back when. The volunteers who move into the villages have to introduce themselves to the authorities. I’m not sure I had to but I thought it couldn’t hurt.

And I decided to spend more time on language. I’ve been bringing my book to the office, thinking I would take language breaks, and not doing it. So I decided I’ll do some every morning and go into the office later. I practice every so often with Hanna but I want to do it more regularly. I’ll never learn if I don’t spend more time with it! It’s a good way to start the day.

And I’ve had some social forays. Last week, I went out for a drink with Jonathan and Charlie. We went to the M CafĂ© – M for Museum, right next to the Ayala Museum, so I knew exactly where it was. It’s an expat hot spot on Thursday nights. I’ve never been much of a bar person, but maybe I can broaden my horizons here. I did meet some interesting people. And now (that Peace Corps knows about it) it can be told that Jonathan, Charlie and Drew (along with Drew’s friend Jenny, who is visiting) came along on the Mindoro weekend. I thought I did a good job of writing about the weekend without mentioning that! Yesterday I met three Princeton-in-Asia fellows (one of whom was a Princeton alum; the program is about half non-alumni now) in another Makati hot spot – good people! I have some other friends of friends (whose names I was given) to meet and hope to do meet them soon, and there may be an alumni network or two to tap into. I’ve also been working on columns for the Alumni Weekly and have been in on some conversations about Reunions, so I have a bridge to another reality, and this week I was officially matched with my World-Wise Schools class – a different one from the one in Morocco, but still at my nieces’ school.

I should also add that I heard that one of the volunteers here was robbed at gunpoint. That’s disturbing! More when (and if) I know more (and can tell it).

What's in a Name?

A study showed that Habitat for Humanity was among the top ten most-recognized non-profit brand names (in America). The top ten:
1 – YMCA of the USA
2 – The Salvation Army
3 – United Way of America
4 – American Red Cross
5 – Goodwill Industries International
6 – Catholic Charities
7 – Habitat for Humanity International
8 – American Cancer Society
9 – The Arc of the United States (I had to look this one up! Haven’t looked at the entire top 100 yet but if I don’t know all ten of the top ten….)
10 – Boys and Girls Clubs of America
This is helpful for fundraising (and for my resume…) – it’s a known brand name; my job is to make a case for Habitat for Humanity Philippines. This week I started working on appeals letters to the Filipino-American groups and to Habitat for Humanity chapters in the U.S., as well as a facebook appeal to those groups. I made an appointment with the American Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines (Milo, at Peace Corps, called to check in and he sounded impressed that I was able to get an appointment – I said, “that’s what I’m supposed to be doing, isn’t it?”) and am working on getting one at USAID as well.

Though it’s a global brand name, Habitat for Humanity seems to be #2 here in terms of building housing for the poor (and fundraising, and media mentions). The NGO that is #1 is the one where Jonathan, Charlie and Drew are partnering. Sir Tony has some things to say about that organization, and the guys have other things to say about it, and I’m careful about what I relay back and forth; it adds an interesting dynamic to my assignment.

I’ve been thinking it would be interesting to work for a global non-profit – maybe get some international travel or living out of it – and I notice that many of the top names have religious roots (or more than roots). I had been hesitant before about working for a religious organization, but there is so much good work that they are doing – maybe as long as I could be accepted in the company culture I could do it. Then this week the president of HFHP asked me to speak at the weekly devotion. I was completely unprepared for this, so the best I could come up with was that I didn’t have anything to add. Then I was reviewing the comments that my counterpart had made on the list of corporations to contact that I have been working on. He eliminated a tobacco company and a casino company because Habitat doesn’t want the association, and he eliminated a drug company because they make contraceptives. Oh.

While I was deciding how I felt about that, I saw on that Ted Kennedy had passed away, and that hit me hard. The Times had a good – balanced – obituary; he was flawed but did great things. End of an era. I am glad that I voted for him when I lived in Massachusetts. You have to be of a certain age to know the name Mary Jo Kopechne (and I heard the “true story” of that one night at an Alumni Council meeting – a story for another time and place); my mother’s problem with him was that he got caught cheating at Harvard (not that he cheated but that he got caught). I think in the end he made up for all of those things and was not only a great voice but had great accomplishments. This right after Eunice Kennedy Shriver died – another person with great accomplishments. It would be interesting to be in the States and share the reaction of others, but to be honest, I am glad not to be hearing about health care night and day.

So how did I feel about it? Well, I worked in nuclear power and didn’t feel great about it and worked in alcoholic beverages and felt downright bad about it. In each case, I found a way to live with it. What a career…. My other work endeavors of the week were researching Sister Cities of cities in the Philippines, exploring the wealth of information on the Habitat for Humanity International web site, and getting orientations from other members of the Stakeholder Relations team. Now I’m working on my monthly report for Peace Corps. I’ve been here a month today! A sixth of the time over – it’s going fast!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Medical Kit

I mentioned a while ago that I would list the contents of the medical kit, since they’re not the same things that were in my kit in Morocco – it makes sense that each country would tailor its kit to the most common ailments there. I’m slowly perusing the medical handbook too – there are lots of tropical things to watch out for!

I used several things in the medical kit in Morocco (dental floss, ibuprofen/aspirin, disposable thermometers, Benadryl, anti-itch cream, and the like) but my goal here was to open the kit to describe its contents and then not use it at all. So much for that – on Sunday night on the way home from the bus, I stepped on some reinforcing steel sticking up from the sidewalk. It was bleeding, which I took as a good sign, and I cleaned the wound thoroughly. Then I had a debate – call the PCMO (Peace Corps Medical Officer) over what was likely nothing and risk being branded a hypochondriac, or be sorry rather than safe? I called – wound not deep enough to require a tetanus shot, and I had had one recently enough anyway, but I was advised to use the cleanser in the medical kit and then triple-antibiotic for a few days (and to keep the wound clean, which was not possible, but I tried).

So, without further ado, the contents of the medical kit – if it’s something that wasn’t in the Morocco kit, I’ll label it P (note – some things are listed with a generic name and a brand name – I’ll list here the one most familiar to me):
Ace bandage
Aloe vera lip balm (P) – I think I will use this now that I know I have it!
Adhesive tape
Aquatabs (to treat water when you can’t boil it)
Antibacterial ointment
Bandaids – as well as butterfly bandages (P)
Bentyl (Dicyclomine) – for abdominal cramps (P) – I’m not familiar with this
Betadine solution – for cleaning wounds (P, though there was something similar in M – this is what I used on Sunday)
Pink Bismuth
Caladryl/Calamine lotion (P)
Clotrimazole – anti-fungal (is that generic Tinactin?)
Dental floss
Eye wash (P – in M it was a one-time emergency wash – here it’s Visine drops)
First Aid Guide
Flammazine cream – for burns (P)
Gauze pads
Hydrocortisone cream
Imodium (P)
Malaria slide kit (P) – you draw blood and then bring the slide to a medical facility
MIF kit – for stool sample (P) – if you needed one in M they would send it to you
Oral rehydration salts (but only the kind you mix with water, not the kind you take with water – though I hear they’re banana-flavored…).
Paracetamol – for pain and fever (P) – I’m not familiar with this
Rubbing alcohol
Cough lozenges (2 kinds)
Sunscreen (but Coppertone – not the wonderful Elta Block we got in M)
Tamiflu (they gave us this in M, but we had to give it back at the end – could have kept or used up everything else)
Urine/stool cups (P)
Multivitamins (P – you could get this in M on request; note, in the kit, and in drugstores, vitamins and other supplements come in boxes of blister packets, not in plastic or glass bottles – just something I noticed)
Vitamin C (P – you can also order B-complex and calcium – which implies that the PCVs have trouble getting enough of these in their diets)
Whistle (I never carried this around in M but maybe I will here – now that I’ve opened the kit!)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pictures from the Weekend in Mindoro


White Beach:

Mary's nipa hut:

Inside the hut:

Mangyan village:

Rock-scramble hiking:

Multiple waterfalls:

Swimming in the waterfall:

Mangyan village artisans and their baskets:

Mary in a "Peace Corps" picture:

Mindoro sunset:

Weekend in Mindoro - Part Three

I went on my first tricycle ride! We went down the road to a trail leading through a Mangyan (one of many indigenous groups throughout the Philippines) village – houses on stilts, women weaving baskets, others washing their clothes in the stream) – to a path (actually, a non-path!) leading to a waterfall. Lonely Planet said it was fine for swimming, so I decided not to worry about schistosomiasis. The hike was great – a Mohonk-like rock scramble but without the red arrows, following and at times crossing the stream, going up and around and over the rocks. It would have been a great hike even without the waterfall at the end, but that was icing on the cake. We stopped at a place with two waterfalls and two swimming pools and swam in both the upper one and the lower one. The water was cool but not cold, refreshing after the hot (but not too humid – those ocean breezes really do make a difference) hike. The hike back down was a bit more of a challenge – I had been following Mary on the way up and she seemed so sure of what she was doing that it was only on the way back down that I realized that there wasn’t a set path and that she was just picking her way, having been shown it once. Her Birkenstocks did not live to tell the tale, but my nice-looking-enough-for-work but they-told-me-they-would-stand-up-to-hiking-and-water Tevas performed as promised.

I bought a basket from the artisans in the Mangyan village (what can I say?) and a keychain (which I needed) that the Stairway boys had made. Then I went to White Beach for a power-shop to buy some sarongs to have as guest towels (they have more uses than actual towels) – maybe next time, a little more exploration or a meal in White Beach or one of the other little Puerto Galera beach strips, though it’s so nice where Mary is that I’m not sure I need to. She suggested a hike to the golf course, which has a great view, so that’s first on the list for next time. There are also more waterfalls to hike to; she hasn’t done those yet. Another swim in the ocean, another sunset, another dinner, another round of stargazing – she has a great site; that’s all there is to it. Sunday brought another leisurely breakfast in the hut and a short swim and then it was time to go. It was great to have a three-day weekend, but it would still be manageable for a two-day weekend. I even got home within the Morocco grace period (well, almost), although there’s no restriction on night travel here.

And yesterday, I’ll admit, I was a little blue to be back. Manila is dirty and polluted and the charming part is nowhere near me and sure, it’s Peace Corps and yes, it’s only for six months, but I felt sad to be here. Fortunately, I like the work (and am still reveling in the novelty of saying that after not feeling that way for so many years). Still, I kind of went through the motions yesterday – and decided I needed a treat. So last night’s walk to the mall led me to California Pizza Kitchen, where I drowned my sorrows in a cup of my favorite soup and a half-order of my favorite salad. That hit the spot!

Weekend in Mindoro - Part Two (Stairway)

Mary’s nipa hut has three levels – on the ground floor there is a small bathroom and sink, a desk and chair, a drafting table and chair that her foundation built for her, and a comfy chair and footrest on a balcony, with trees and flowers and a sunset view. The floor of the next level is also shelf-level to the first – so it’s a space for cooking and storage. There’s a ladder to that level and then up to the upper level, which is the sleeping platform. There’s a peaked thatched roof that rains debris every so often, but it’s charming. She graciously had me sleep in the upper level so that I could have the full experience (and the mosquito net). We had a leisurely breakfast, including entertainment by the six-year-old daughter of the founders, who came over to inspect, draw, and then have a tea party with two visiting friends of hers, all in princess dresses.

Stairway Foundation is very impressive. The founders, Lars (a Dane) and Monica (an American), came for vacation 20 years ago and stayed. While they were vacationing, they saw pedophiles with young boys and decided to do something about it, starting a camp and now a residence for young boys. Over the course of their ten-month stay at Stairway, the boys learn self-esteem and life skills, and then they go on to other institutions that care for them. I half-jokingly asked if they needed marketing and they do, wanting to increase outreach of their advocacy program, so maybe there’s an opportunity for some work-related leave. I was glad to leave with some of their materials, including three animated pieces about children’s rights and child sexual abuse that they produced.

Mary’s an architect, and her assignment is to design and build a new theatre for them. She finished the first part of the design and handed it off while I was there, so it was an exciting time to be visiting. I said I’d try to dredge up some formulas from the memory bank (but actually, I shall ask one of the engineers whom I met last week) to check the stresses and such – it’s a cool design.

The old theatre, one of the first structures in the complex, is to be torn down this week, and Mary came up with a ceremony to celebrate and commemorate it. Each of the boys (and I, since I was there) and the staff wrapped a stone that was to hang from a pole strung across the stage. And there was to be another set of stones on the stage (this was after I left, though I told her I should stay to be the photographer – it worked in Timhadite!). Each person would pick up a stone, tell a memory or a wish for the new theatre, and put it in a basket, and then all of the stones from the basket and the hanging pole will be incorporated into the new theatre. It sounded like a magic ceremony, and I can’t wait to return and see the construction in progress and the final product!

Weekend in Mindoro - Part One

I was more than ready for a getaway – my first overnight trip in Morocco, to Fes, was the second weekend we were in homestay. The only reason I lasted this long is that I was waiting for a holiday weekend! MRT to LRT to one of several bus stations in Metro Manila (the key is knowing what buses go where and where they leave from – but there are multiple options). It took about three hours to get to Batangas in at-times-stop-and-go traffic, and then an hour and a half on an outrigger-type bangka. These times would almost be reversed on the way back, either because the seas were choppier or because I took a different boat company (Golden Osprey was faster than Blue Penguin – well, that makes sense!) – so maybe by the end of my time here I’ll figure out what times I have to come and go in order to have the shortest bus ride and the shortest boat ride. On to the island of Mindoro and to Mary’s site, outside of Puerto Galera.

Puerto Galera is the main town, but there is a series of beaches that comprise the area; the closest one to Mary is White Beach. A mango shake was in order while I waited for her to walk over – in the meantime, several people approached, selling massages, pearls, Rolexes and the like. The town itself (well, really more of a strip than a town) has a good vibe (though there was a fair amount of trash on the beach – I should have brought my rubber gloves and plastic bags to pick up for sweptashore; next time!) – little shops and restaurants and hotels, a mix of Filipino and foreign tourists.

We walked over to Mary’s site, just off the next beach over but much quieter. I knew something was amiss when, as we emailed in New York, she mentioned that her individualized letter mentioned that for relaxation, it was a ten-minute walk to the beach and my letter mentioned that for relaxation, there was a mall a 30-minute jeepney ride away (that was for the original location – in the new location it’s a 20-minute walk away, which is a big improvement, but it’s not a nice walk, and it’s a mall, not a beach!).

Her site is truly paradise. I can only imagine what it would be like to be there for this six month period. I am just glad we’re friends, because I’ll be visiting her as often as she’ll have me! Her partner agency is the Stairway Foundation; we toured some of the facility, met the founders, dropped my things at her nipa hut and went to the beach! It’s rocky, but the water is warm, with waves at times and like glass other times. She swims in the morning while I am inside my little room doing yoga, and she swims in the evening while I am going on my exercise walk. We watched the sunset – a daily ritual for her – and then we walked along the beach to an Italian restaurant. Pasta! It had been a long time since I’ve had any. We walked back along the road since the tide had come up; the sky was filled with stars. I love seeing the Milky Way! And that was only the first day.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Some Pictures from Week Four

Residents of the new community perform a thank-you song:

Mountain background:

My office is in the big green building:

Decorations in my neighborhood:

Banner for Ninoy Aquino:

Manila City Hall:

City Hall mural:

Photo of Rizal execution (looks like the sculpture!):

Capiz-shell windows:

The mayor of Manila and some familiar faces:

Chinatown - though electrical wires like that are all over:

The neighborhood that might have been:

New guest sheets:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

World War II in the Philippines

I am just back from a long weekend in paradise; I'll be writing it up, but in the meantime, I was working on this last week...

On the same day that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor (December 8 on this side of the International Date Line), they also bombed Clark Field, catching Douglas MacArthur napping, despite many hours’ warning. Within two days, Japanese troops landed in North Luzon, driving the allied American and Filipino troops to the Bataan Peninsula, opposite newly-occupied Manila.

MacArthur (who, Sir Tony told me, had his headquarters at the Manila Hotel), holed up on nearby Corregidor Island, made his promise to return and fled to Australia. Ordered to maintain a holding action, his abandoned troops on Bataan soon fell to the Japanese, with the unconditional surrender of 76,000 people (66,000 of them Filipinos). Those able to walk began the 120 km Bataan Death March on to prison camps – 20,000 people died along the way and another 25,000 died in the camps.

From 1942 to 1945 the Philippines endured a brutal Japanese military regime (the American teacher who led the group of students on the Habitat build said that throughout Southeast Asia he sees resentment against the Japanese, though it is fading with the younger generations). In 1944, MacArthur landed at Leyte (which I could also visit – it’s in the Visayas, and I do want to get to destinations there; air fares are inexpensive, and there are not only WWII sites but other things to do – but we’ll have to see). The main battleground in his onslaught was Manila, where defenseless residents suffered horrifically in the crossfire. By the time MacArthur marched in, 150,000 civilians had been killed and a city that had been one of the finest in Asia was destroyed. Lonely Planet places it with Warsaw, Hiroshima and Hamburg as cities that suffered the most damage in the war.

That was all from Lonely Planet, but there’s more to it than that – the panels at the American Cemetery also described the many naval battles that took place in and around the area. I guess Lonely Planet doesn’t discuss them because one can’t visit battle sites in the middle of the sea! So I went to wikipedia, where there’s a good overview of the war in the Pacific (I’m still far from a buff, but I used to know a lot more about the European Theater than the Pacific one, and now I have a much better sense of what went on on this side of the globe).

The Battle of Leyte Gulf, in 1944, was arguably the largest naval battle in history. It featured the largest battleships ever built, was the last time that battleships engaged each other, and was the first time that kamikaze aircraft were used. Admiral Nimitz, who commanded the naval forces, favored a blockade of the Philippines to block off Japanese sea routes and a landing on Formosa. MacArthur favored an invasion of the Philippines, and Roosevelt went with that. It should be noted that in one of the engagements, the USS Princeton sank.

This naval battle supported and cleared the way for the land invasion; there were several major landings on several islands throughout the Philippines. In all, ten divisions and give independent regiments (over 175,000 men) battled on Luzon, making it the largest campaign of the Pacific War, involving more troops than the United States had used in North Africa, Italy, or southern France.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Volunteering While I Volunteer

Before I left for the Philippines, I was working on, a site that my sister started. I did a beach cleanup every day and posted a picture, searched for and posted links, and in general became more familiar with beach and other cleanups and with non-profit organizations in New York and on Long Island’s East End. This turned out to be a good project for me – more than anything else, it was nice to do something for and with my sister, but I also gained some knowledge and received psychic reward.

One of the links I found was for the Ocean Conservancy, which sponsors International Coastal Cleanup Day; this year it falls on September 19. Featured on its web site the day I found it was Manila Bay – coincidence? This week I signed up for the Manila Bay cleanup – and I hope to recruit other Peace Corps Philippines volunteers as well. There are plenty of cleanups in the United States, too (sadly, I don’t see any in Morocco, but you can propose one…) – go to (in spite of its name, there are Great Lakes cleanups too!) and join me!

I’ve also seen ads for some runs here (there was a 5K for Habitat for Humanity the week before I got here – too bad!) but the ones I’ve seen aren’t easy to get to via public transportation, and they’re either at 5:30 n.u. or 7:00 n.g. I may find one that I can do – or find a way to do one – but I’m still somewhat wary of running in the heat and humidity so maybe it’s just as well.

I received some mail this week! Mail! I had sent out change-of-address cards but didn’t really expect anything, and it was a nice surprise to get some letters! I also received the package I had sent myself on July 17 – opened, but apparently intact. Really, electronic media makes so much more sense, so this isn’t a hint, but the mail did lift my spirits.

Not that they needed lifting – I have moments, of course (for example, the jeepney ride is turning a daily low – as opposed to the bus ride, which on Monday morning had a James Bond movie playing - and I am more than ready to get out of Metro Manila this weekend and go to the beach), but I’m basically content and happy to be here. I like the work, which again gives me the hope that I might find work I like in the future – and I do feel I am not only helping Habitat for Humanity Philippines but also increasing my skills set and getting valuable experience. This week I researched fraternal/service organizations and social media, contacted USAID and the American Chamber of Commerce to try to set up meetings, made a list of materials that Habitat for Humanity Philippines might have or need which could be helpful in my effort, and continued the building of my prospect lists. I still have lots of ideas!

Today I went to Manila City Hall, where Sir Tony and Ritchie had a meeting with the mayor’s chief of staff. City Hall is an elegant old building; the reception hall has a beautiful historic mural. The meeting room had walls made of bamboo and translucent capiz shells; these were used in windows in the old houses. After the meeting we had lunch in Chinatown, where I discovered my new favorite food – a mango shake. I must have one every day! We drove around Intramuros, the walled city that was the original Spanish settlement (most of it was destroyed in the war, but the walls remain – it merits further exploration) and then went out to Habitat’s resource center in Taguig City, where I was supposed to live. The living arrangements, I have to admit, are not bad – a separate bedroom and then shared living/dining/bathroom space, all inside, on an entire floor. The neighborhood is more suburban than where I live, that’s for sure, but I am happy with my location – I am going to do what I can to stay where I am when the next Peace Corps Response volunteer arrives; she’ll be doing impact assessment of the community next door to the center.

August 21 is a national holiday for Ninoy Aquino day, commemorating the day in 1983 that Aquino was returning from exile, escorted off the plane, and shot in the head. I remember that – I was much less conscious of world events then, but somehow I remember it. It got me thinking, though – what if America’s national holidays commemorated assassinations rather than birthdays? Lincoln was assassinated on Good Friday, and many people already have that day off (not to mention that his February birthday, combined with Washington’s February birthday, made President’s Day what it is)…Martin Luther King was assassinated on June 4, and that’s too close to Memorial Day and/or the end of the school year…. So from a timing standpoint it’s probably just as well we celebrate their birthdays. The school year here runs from June through March; March through May is called summer here (solstices and equinoxes notwithstanding!). Are there any deaths that Americans commemorate? The only ones I can think of off the top of my head are Elvis’s and John Lennon’s…

I should also mention that this week Peace Corps suspended its program in Mauritania due to continuing safety and security concerns. Once again, I feel lucky to have served in a program that didn’t evacuate or suspend while I was there, and I feel fortunate now to be in a country where interruption of service is extremely unlikely.

Advice From the Ladies Who Lunch

One of the women at the office (the one who told me about taking scuba lessons) has kind of taken me under her wing; unfortunately she’s a consultant and is working there only through the beginning of September, when Habitat for Humanity Philippines will host an Asia-Pacific Housing Forum. She invited me to lunch on Monday. This time I had the rice and hot dishes (it’s easier for me when someone tells me what I’m eating) and I came up with a new favorite dish – kaldereta, a beef-tomato-carrot-in-tomato-sauce dish. Actually, my favorite is still the chicken adobo I had in New York with Debbie, but I haven’t had any here yet! It’s more to have something to say when people ask. Anyway, she told me that it is important to clean your plate – there should not be a single grain of rice left on it.

I had the chance to put that into practice right away on Tuesday, when I went on a field trip with the president of the organization and some other folks. We had a 7:00 am – or, as I just learned, n.u. (abbreviation for words that translate to “now morning”) departure – I woke up at 5:30 (I am so used to not setting an alarm – I hope my future involves as few alarm-clock awakenings as possible) and took a taxi because I had no idea what traffic would be like. The taxi ride featured my first incident of major harassment – I’d had a couple of minor ones but this was tough. I think there’s more harassment in small towns, but not as much as there was in Morocco (and most other Peace Corps countries). Anyway, we went to a site about two hours south (rice fields, volcanic mountain ridge background), where Habitat is the infrastructure partner on a project to resettle 4000 families from the Pasig River and the railroad tracks. This is a huge undertaking and they seem to have thought of everything – not just the infrastructure but also building a sense of community norms and values, livelihood training, recreation, education and health, religion, composting, even an organic garden and a meditation space. We saw the site and then there was a meeting of all of the major players, led by a dynamic woman from the foundation that is coordinating the project. Think of the typical Habitat for Humanity local chapter that might build a house a year, and now think of Habitat for Humanity Philippines helping to create a brand-new community of 20,000 people – that’s what I have to convey. The meeting included lunch – kaldereta again, and a vegetable dish I had had the day before and didn’t like (too much bitter gourd) – so I knew what I was eating and knew to clean my plate. It was a long day and I was somewhat rudderless – my counterpart was supposed to come along but got stuck in traffic and didn’t make it – but I learned a lot – seeing the scale of it, the other players, and especially Habitat’s role and expertise were all helpful.

But most of the people in the office don’t go down to the canteen for lunch; when I refill my water bottle I see them eating, but I didn’t know where they got their food – until today. It turns out that the same lady who brings the afternoon merienda also brings box lunches to buy at around 10:30 n.u. I bought one today – some more beef, rice and noodles. Not a lot of fruits or vegetables in the daily Filipino diet! I think I’ve had enough now and am going back to the tuna sandwich – I might have to have two, to avoid having a too-sweet snack at snack time. At least at the canteen I can get a banana! And some chips – I was wondering why the smoothies, which I loved in Morocco and was planning on making a staple here, just weren’t working for me, and why I kept thinking about having something salty – and then I was reading about dehydration and realized that my body needs more salt! But I also want fruits and vegetables. Thanks to Hanna, I tried rambutans (I had seen them in Indonesia but wasn’t sure what to do with them – you break open the spiny skin and eat the inside; they’re hard to chew so you kind of suck around the giant seed in the middle – all that notwithstanding, I’m ready to get a kilo and eat ‘em all up – they’re refreshing). I still have to figure out how to get enough vegetables – maybe I’m due for another CPK salad! As long as I brought the kilo up, the Philippines is on the metric system but also uses feet, inches and yards for measuring things. The Philippines is known for having the sweetest mangoes in the world – but I just missed the season!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Things You Might Not Know About the Philippines

I don’t think I ever used Lonely Planet before Morocco, but now it is my go-to travel guide. It doesn’t have many pretty pictures, but it has a lot of practical information, with just enough background and history to make you want to visit a place.

I briefly outlined the history of the Philippines in an earlier entry, but here are some additional points; not that they weren’t in the other things I read beforehand, but now that I have been here a bit and taken in more, here you go.
- Magellan came here in 1521 and was killed here. In 1565 the Spanish came back and this time they stayed. The islands were administrated through Mexico.
- Great Britain invaded in 1762 and occupied Manila for two years (i.e. not long enough to make high tea a tradition!) – this planted the seeds of a Filipino nationalist movement that rose up again 100 years later.
- The Spanish-American War started because of a dispute over sugar and was centered in Cuba, but the Philippines were drawn into it. Dewey overcame the Spanish fleet in the battle of Manila Bay.
- The Treaty of Paris in 1898 ended the war, and the United States effectively bought the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam for $20 million.
- The themes of the home-front debate (hawks holding on for strategic and “humanitarian” reasons while liberals railing against subjugation of a foreign people as morally wrong and warning that the fight would drag on for years) were echoed later in Vietnam and Iraq.... McKinley at first resisted the Republicans but then decided that the Filipinos “were unfit for self-government” and needed “civilizing.”
- What the Americans brought – education (literacy is very high here, and this is the world’s third-largest English-speaking country) and infrastructure.
- Moving right along to the Marcos and People Power eras (I’ll address WWII separately) – Imelda is still alive and well and living in Makati.
- The June 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo ended another chapter – ash rendered Clark Air Force base unusable and the lease on that and Subic Bay were not renewed, tens of thousands of troops left and $100 million a year in rent was no more.
- I’ll end with a modern success story. Arnel Pineda was a singer in a cover band, very good at imitating the Steve Perry, the lead singer of Journey. The aging rockers of Journey had to dump Steve Augeri, who was losing his voice but who never really sounded like Steve Perry anyway. They stumbled across clips of Pineda on YouTube (speaking of which, if you want to see the movie I made, ask me for the link – I won’t keep it up there very long) and invited him for an audition. The story goes that when he applied for his visa, nobody at the Embassy believed his reason for travel, i.e. auditioning to be the lead singer of Journey. They asked him to sing a few bars, he nailed it, they issued the visa, and he got the job!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Some Pictures from Week Three

Pasig River cruise:

Central Post Office:

Sampaguita, the sweet-smelling national flower:

Relief map of the Philippines:

Japanese Garden:

Sculpture depicting Rizal execution:

On this spot on July 4, 1946, the Philippines were given independence from the United States:

Manila Hotel:

Warnings posted at the MRT and LRT stations:

Found that spinach (?) tempura at the food court in the mall:

Manila Exploration

I worked from home on Friday. I love working from home! If I could find a job where I could work from home once or twice a week in real life, then it might not be so hard to go to an office the rest of the time…. Only problem was that I didn’t leave the room until late in the day! I intended to take a walk at lunchtime, but I was on a roll. Well, as my sister said, now is the time to set boundaries – maybe go to the track or pool on the days I work from home. Sir Tony said it was fine, as long as I get my work done. Nobody is watching over me and clocking my hours. Not to mention that I am a volunteer! I am eager to do a good job, but I also want balance (I always have), and if I’m not going to find balance now, I’m certainly not going to be able to manage it if I get a full-time job next.

At least I took the weekend off (well, I did some work-related reading, but that’s because I wanted to). Yesterday I met Caitlyn, the warden, and we took the ferry along the Pasig River. When I went on the tour with the people from Habitat for Humanity International, my counterpart mentioned a river cleanup project that Habitat is partnering in. He mentioned Paris and other great cities of Europe, where tour boats on the rivers are a major attraction. Well, the Pasig River does cut through the city and is the reason Manila is here, but Paris it shall never be. The scenery was for the most part a combination of slum and heavy industry. There were some okay houses on the other side, and some streets decorated for a fiesta, as well as Malacanang Palace (I was forbidden to take a picture of it, unfortunately…maybe on foot, from the other side, another time?). The current president lives there – along with the First Gentleman (so that’s what we could call the husband of our first woman president); not all presidents have. I enjoyed the ride – I love boat rides. And then we went to lunch – a good outing. I then went to get a massage at the Shangri-La mall - it wasn't great, so I'll have to look around for another place, but as part of the service, I had a hot shower - maybe that alone was worth the price!

Today I went to Rizal Park – the green space in downtown Manila. At first I found myself relating it to various other places I’ve been to recently – the botanical garden in Java, a garden in Honolulu, the park outside the State Capitol in Sacramento – but my head was spinning, and I finally grounded myself in the here and now. It’s a nice park, not too big, not too crowded; the museums in the park were closed so I may find myself going back there. There was an orchid garden, a Japanese garden, a Chinese garden, an artist’s haven, a tableau depicting the execution of national hero Jose Rizal (on the spot where it happened), a monument to him, a monument to freedom, a big pond with non-functioning fountains (and with big swan sculptures at the corners – so I thought of Boston too), a plaque declaring independence from the United States, snack stands, music coming out of speakers. I walked on to the Manila Hotel, which Lonely Planet described as Manila’s answer to Bangkok’s Oriental. It was a grand hotel indeed, but the Philippines weren’t under British rule, so there’s no high tea – I had some iced coffee instead, as long as I was there. And then I walked over to the bay. It started to rain, so I stood under an overhang a couple of times as I made my way back to the LRT (there’s the LRT – light-rail transit, and the MRT, metro-rail transit – I am a 20-minute walk from the MRT, but not too many stops from the transfer point), but that cemented my decision to go home. That was enough for one day anyway! I am fine with doing one outing per day, as opposed to having long days out with multiple destinations – I’m not trying to see all of Manila in my first month! It takes a while to get anywhere, too – I may not live in Bridgeport, but maybe it’s like Queens? So even one outing means being out for most of the day.

It hasn’t rained every day – somehow (maybe because of Bali?) I thought it would rain every day in rainy season. And, except for the typhoon days, the rain usually isn’t hard – I don’t mind walking around without an umbrella. In fact, I find it refreshing! Sir Tony said that global climate change meant that the typhoon season comes earlier. But he didn’t think there was any more or less rain in rainy season. We did get a warning from the safety and security coordinator – due to the recent mudslides and floods, hiking and trekking in the Pinatubo area is off-limits until further notice. I wonder how often there are safety and security warnings like that!

Pictures from the Heart-Strings Day

At the orphanage:

Me with orphan:

Japanese group (and my chance to take a pic of the inside of a jeepney):

Sieveing sand:

Homepartner Grace:


With Japanese students, Habitat workers, homepartners and more:

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Heart-Strings Day - Part Two

One of the homepartners, Grace, took me under her wing. She took me outside the site to the neighborhood – concrete block houses, shops with barred windows and teeny openings for transactions – to buy a bottle of water. She took me on a tour of the site and introduced me to some of the workers and other homepartners. I had lunch with the Japanese group, and then there was some downtime before their farewell party (I wanted to get back to work, but there was no work going on…a little disappointing, but it was good to experience this day as it unfolded). So Grace sat with me and I asked for some Tagalog words. She was a great tutor – I now have a bunch of practical words and phrases in my arsenal! She is being relocated from the riverbank.

Grace introduced me as a dalaga. I remembered from Culture Shock that that meant unmarried woman, but I also remembered that there was more to it – a dalaga is basically a spinster, but also has a role in society here, taking care of her parents and of the church. I will also copy this verbatim from the book – “There is some social stigma attached to spinsters, though. Because of the great emphasis and importance attached to getting married and having children, most Filipinos do not understand how a woman can be over 30 or 35 and still be unmarried (M). The only reason they can think of is that she did not receive any offers. Hence the matandang dalaga is seen as someone who was ‘left on the shelf.’” In Morocco I tried to have an imaginary husband back in the States, though my cover was quickly blown. Maybe I need to invent some imaginary kids? Too late. Maybe I need to acknowledge that even in my own culture, sometimes I do feel left on the shelf. Hanna suggested that she call me “Ate,” which is “older sister,” and is a sign of respect (at least she didn’t want to call me “Tita,” or “aunt”). I told her she didn’t need to. Sometimes people here are referred to by their titles – for example, Engineer or Architect (I didn’t see Marketer listed as a title worthy of note in the book though!).

Eventually the party began. Rows and rows of homepartners gathered, with the Japanese group up in the front in the VIP seats. Sharon the Volunteer Coordinator introduced everyone – the children from various villages did some dances, some of the adults did some videoke, the Japanese group performed their numbers, there were speeches, there were gifts from the town government, there were certificates of appreciation. There was a farewell song that the students and the homepartners were given the lyrics to so everyone could sing – several of the students were crying and I teared up too. The lyrics made me sad so I didn’t keep a copy, but the gist of it was that we’re leaving, but we’ll leave our hearts here, and though this is goodbye, we will always remember you – but it was more poignant than that. The homepartner children lined up to give flowers to the students, and then there were snacks for everyone. At the end, as a special treat, they brought out balut! Grace demonstrated eating it, some of the Japanese students tried it and others couldn’t manage it, and I successfully made myself appear invisible. It was quite a long party! What a treat to see how attached the volunteers get in just a few days and how much love is a part of the team effort (Mahal kita – we love you – how’s that for a useful phrase?).

Actually, it was odd being the only volunteer worker at the site – they are more used to having groups. I hope to go back when a group is there – last week there were Dutch and Americans in addition to the Japanese. I was there too late! But again, it was good to witness this part of what Habitat for Humanity Philippines does – I hope I can convey some of the feelings in the appeals that I’ll be writing.

It was a long and emotional day, and I went to bed early and slept late this morning, but before that, I had a so-far-rare evening out. My fellow Metro Manila PCRVs were at a meeting near my neighborhood, so we met for some refreshments and dinner at the mall. Their meeting was a something of a breakthrough workwise and it was nice to celebrate with them. They’ll likely be coming to the area more, so I may see quite a bit of them!

A Heart-Strings Day - Part One

I was sitting at lunch on Wednesday when two women from the office came to sit with me. They asked me what I ate and when I told them I had a tuna sandwich, they said (Hanna had said the same thing) that to a Filipino it’s not a meal without rice. They asked me what my favorite food so far was – thankfully, I had the banana-cue answer prepared, and they told me I had to try balut. I asked what else I should try, keeping the conversation moving away from the balut. I then asked what I should wear when I go on a build, because I was scheduled to go on a build the next day!

Actually it wasn’t quite a day of building (so now I want to go on another – and I am all the more excited about going to one in a Katrina area when I get back – but first, I hope I can participate here once every couple of weeks or once a month), but it was a day to experience what the volunteers experience. There was a group of Japanese college students (and their American professor) who had just completed a Global Village building trip, and this was their last day. I went with the person in charge of Volunteer Programs (one of the other Sharons) to spend the day with them. First, we went to an orphanage.

There are many children at risk here in the Philippines. Per the brochure of the place we visited, there are 6.6 million malnourished, 3.7 million child laborers, 1.5 million substance-abused, 75,000 sexually abused, and 200,000-250,000 who live on the streets. This organization takes children off the streets and houses and educates them – one success story is that five are in college. Another is that the younger ones who live there are happy and secure. There’s no program of adoption in the Philippines, so most of the children have no chance. These are the lucky ones.

We disembarked from our “chartered jeepney” and some of the kids took our right hands and put them to their foreheads – a sign of respect for elders. They led us into the room and – well, there was some downtime. The professor was playing with the kids, but the Japanese students were more reserved, waiting for the program to begin. I wasn’t sure of my role either, so I waited as well, but I wish I had played more with the kids. Finally the program began – the kids sang a song, the Japanese students did a couple of dances and a couple of songs (one of which was the Carpenters’ “Top of the World;” I probably heard that ten times yesterday. Can I write on my monthly report that one of my cultural challenges is getting ‘70s music out of my head? This is after the video machine on the bus to work the day before played “We Are the World” – not ‘70s, but one that can stick with you – and Michael Jackson songs). Then the students had gifts for all of the kids – I definitely had to hang back there, because I didn’t have anything. I finally did get to talk to some and my heart went out, especially to a little girl who whispered, “thank you,” to me as I was leaving. And that was only the morning!

Then we went to the work site. The Japanese team had been there all week, and they had gotten to know the skilled workers and the homepartners (the families who put in “sweat equity” before they move in). They were finished building, but I had only just begun (Songs of the ‘70s for 400, Alex). I had bought work gloves, a plastic wrist bracelet and a t-shirt (and you too could have these and more! Let me know if you want something that says Habitat for Humanity Philippines) and was ready to work. I was put to work on a giant sieve. One of the workers shoveled sand into it, and I had to shake it back and forth, and then I had to fling the rocks onto a rock pile. It took me a few tries to get the flinging down, and sometimes the shovelfuls were quite heavy, but I got into a rhythm. And all too soon it was time to break for lunch!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bits and Pieces

I have been taking some walks in the neighborhood – no longer just on the main street that goes to and from the mall. There are some small restaurants and some townhouse-type communities behind gated fences – in general, there are lots of security guards as I walk along, not only in front of the banks but also at the drugstore and the fast food places. The neighborhood behind the main street is nicer than the one on the main street, but it’s still not easy to walk – there isn’t always a sidewalk, but there is always traffic, and it doesn’t stop for pedestrians. Busy corners will have a traffic policeman – I use Rose’s trick of crossing when the locals cross. Nearby there is a track and an Olympic-size swimming pool that I can go to - I haven’t yet been around when it’s been open, but it would be nice to add either or both to my routine (now walking and yoga). Someone at work was telling me about a pool nearby where I could get dive certification – I think I might go for it. The Philippines is known for its diving, after all.

Monday morning at the office I listened to Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN radio – with the twelve-hour time difference, I can listen to most night games. I thought I would get an subscription for October but why wait? Baseball is wonderful background music to work by. Monday morning is also when the Habitat office has its weekly devotion; I was expected to attend that. There were a couple of songs, a bible reading and some testimony – it was fine to observe and I felt no pressure to participate. But I do think I would feel uncomfortable if this were a permanent job – here I am not a part of the culture, either in the country or the company, so it’s okay.

Some small world news – back in orientation (weeks ago!) I mentioned to Mary that I had done a charity walk the day before we got on the plane, and she happened to have designed the theatre right near the beginning of the walk! Not only that, but her sister is a nurse whose church goes down to Honduras every year – to the village where Charlie was a volunteer!

After the Corazon Aquino viewing, some enterprising marketers were handing out samples of wrapped candy. I put them on my desk at home and when I got up in the middle of the night, there were a bunch of ants! Not even wrapped candy is safe. I bought some airtight food containers (these work so well I might have to send them home). I have seen a few other uninvited guests in my room – I keep telling myself it’s a tropical country. So far, it’s only been a few, no chemical intervention is required. Another uninvited guest the other day was a gecko. He’s welcome, but I feel more comfortable with him on the other side of the room.

Gary gave me every DVDs of Survivor and Amazing Race that I had missed while in Morocco, and I have been watching episodes at night. Last night the Survivor: China people had to eat balut – the fertilized duck embryo that is boiled and eaten in the shell. It’s a delicacy here. So far I haven’t been offered any yet, but watching the contestants try to eat it, I don’t think I could do it.

And some fast facts from Culture Shock Philippines -
Land area: 115,900 square miles
Length: 1850 km
Breadth: 965 km
Natural resources: cobalt, copper, gold, nickel, petroleum, salt, silver, timber
Government: Elected president and bicameral legislature
Administrative divisions: 79 provinces and 116 chartered cities
Exchange rate: About 50 to 1 (the currency here is the peso)
GDP: In 2004, $430.6 billion
Agricultural products: bananas, beef, cassavas, coconuts, corn, eggs, fish, mangoes, pineapples, pork, rice, sugar cane
Industries: chemicals, electronics assembly, fishing, food processing, footwear, garments, petroleum refining, pharmaceuticals, wood products
Exports: chemicals, coconut and copper products, electronic equipment, fruits and nuts, garments, machinery and transport equipment, optical instruments
Imports: chemicals, fuel, grains, machinery and equipment, plastic, raw materials, vehicles and vehicle parts

Be sure you look at the comments when there are some below an entry (easier to find now that I have changed the color scheme). There are some interesting discussions there! Add your own comments or ask questions. Simply click on the word “comments” and there you are. The beauty of this medium is that it’s interactive!

Now What Can I Do?

The first week of freshman year, I heard Bill Bradley speak; I decided then and there that if he ever ran for President I would work on his campaign. I had my chance in 2000, campaigning in Iowa, Ohio and Illinois. I went door-to-door, I organized other volunteers, I wrote campaign letters and cards. I found myself sitting at work and thinking, “What can I do today for Bill Bradley?” And then I realized that I didn’t spend my day thinking, “What can I do today for Monte Alban Mezcal?” – or any of the other brands I was working on. I longed for a job where I would be as passionate about what I was working on as I was about Bill Bradley.

So far, I have taken that approach to Habitat for Humanity Philippines. I am still in the information-gathering and orientation stage, but I do find myself sitting and thinking about it. They have some great marketing materials already – and now I have a list of other materials that I could produce that I think would be helpful for approaching overseas targets. Mostly, I have been doing internet research to find the targets – I found a wealth of Filipino-American organizations, for example, and I think that’s only the tip of the iceberg. There are corporations and foundations and government agencies and other NGOs and on and on – the list keeps going. And more things keep popping into my head.

I finally had a chance to talk at length with my counterpart today – we talked about what the organization is currently doing and what his expectations are. I showed him what I had done so far and he seemed very pleased. I looked at the same list yesterday and thought I hadn’t come up with any big possibilities yet, but for Annual Giving I always called myself the Queen of the Five-Dollar Gifts – maybe a lot of small contributions can add up to a big amount. Plus, I still intend to look for big donations – I’ve only just begun.

Yesterday was the first day of commuting on my own, and it was a success – almost. I didn’t get change back from my jeepney ride at the end of the day. Nobody on the jeepney did – I thought it was odd but when nobody else complained, I didn’t either. I asked Hanna whether that was normal and she said no. Oh well, a three-peso lesson. Today I was reminded that even though I feel remarkably acclimated (is it because I am still in Peace Corps mode from Morocco? Is it the lack of language barrier? Is it that I am just more flexible in general? Is it something about the Philippines? All of the above, I think), I still have a ways to go. I thought I got on the right jeepney in the morning but it turned a corner before it got to my destination (I still don’t know what I did wrong – I thought my destination was the one printed on the side of the jeepney) – and then I went past my bus stop! Fortunately, in both cases only a minor amount of walking was required. Yesterday was the birthday of someone in the office and she brought in enough tuna spaghetti for everyone (my birthday in 2010 is on a Monday, the day when everyone is in the office, so I guess I too will be bringing in food) – that saved me from going to the canteen downstairs. But I went today and decided I could have a tuna sandwich on white bread every day (every day that I come in to the office, that is) – why not? If there’s anything appetizing on the hot food table I could mix it up occasionally, but I can embrace the tuna sandwich.

Near home, I found something else I can really embrace, too – a “banana-cue” (after barbecue), a fried banana on a stick with a little bit of added sugar. The bananas here are quite strong in flavor – almost too much for me – but fried and coated with sugar, they are yummy! Also probably not too healthy, so I don’t think I can have it too often. But at least I can tell people it’s my favorite Filipino food when they ask!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Some Pictures From Week Two

Morning baked goods:

Tricycles - another way to get around:

Blessing of the building:

Outside the Mall of Asia:

Manila Bay:

Ayala Museum:

Green space in Makati:

My favorite restaurant, CPK, is at the mall closest to me:

There's a place they think of, longing to be there: