After Bia-0 we said our goodbyes to that team and went to the city of Santiago, where I was able to go house to house in a different, slightly more urban area. I was able to visit 6 different households, all with very different families. Some had no kids, some had 4 or 5, and one had 7. They also all had very different incomes, eating habits, and houses. One of the families had 5 children, and the oldest boy’s name was Kobe Bryant! That was also his full name, as his name was Kobe Bryant “last name”. One thing I can say for every household is that they were, as usual, always so sweet, offering snacks, soft drinks, and making sure I was doing alright. It still continued to be very interesting to me how so few households refused to be interviewed/measured. I feel in the US the number would be much, much higher. However, it seems it is the case in the Philippines that overall there is more of a sense of civic duty. This can be seen very clearly in their voter turnout. In the last presidential election, nearly 85% of Filipinos voted. In comparison, in the last presidential election in the United States, only 62% of Americans voted, which was also the highest turnout in our nation’s history. The sense of civic duty is also clearly displayed in the way community members look out for one another and share so much – especially food.
In the Philippines, food is a huge part of life. Everyone eats at least three meals a day, and breakfast is not skimpy by any means. There is always rice served with breakfast, and it is a full meal, just like lunch or dinner. We interns often found ourselves eating the hearty breakfast, and then just 3-4 hours later being offered another hefty lunch when we were still completely full from breakfast, making dinner sometimes a challenge to get down. And of course, everyone we are around is constantly offering us snacks in between these meals.
Another interesting aspect of food is that at meal time, everything stops. In the field, everyone sits together and eats in what is normally at least an hour affair. In the office, the government mandates a one-hour lunch period from 12-1pm, which also does not go towards the work day so employees stay at work for 9 hours instead of 8 to make up for that. This is all very different to the US, where at least I and people I know tend to have a small breakfast if any, perhaps coffee and a bagel, and lunch is a quick pickup, sometimes just a snack in between class, meetings, and work. In addition, at any job I have had, practically everyone works through lunch to get paid for that time and maybe leaves early to get their work done. The priority of meals is fantastic to ensure employees are being healthy, and taking their time eating full nutritious meals, and also depicts the nonstop work lifestyle of the US where things like sitting down for a meal aren’t given as much of a priority, and sometimes are viewed as a bit of a hassle.
After Santiago we went to the city of Tagudin, where we stayed in a room in the city. Still no aircon, but we did have a shower! After dropping our things at our place we were off to the first barangay. We drove in a pickup along a bumpy, rocky road and down to a river and stopped. We saw bamboo rafts going across and then realized they were moving motorcycles on these thin, wooden rafts. It was then we realized that the truck was stopping on the side of the river, and we were going to take one to get to the next barangay. It was a smooth ride and again, eveyone was very kind and accomodating. Our supervisor then informed us that the team had used these rafts earlier that day to transport their heavy boxes of survey materials. A very impressive feat that depicts their resiliency and ability to do what needs to be done to get the data for this survey.
This barangay seemed to be much more rural than the ones we witnessed in the past. Most people here were rice farmes, and it was evident in the vast rice fields; pools of water reflecting the mountain range surrounding the villiage had rice plants sticking out. It seems that rice farming is incredibley arduous, as from what I saw it is all done by hand.
We were able to observe initial interviews, and then headed back to tagudin.
The next few dya were spent in another the barangay, Cabugbugan, which was very fun. We were able to help with all the parts of the process. Since this barangay had megaphones connected to all the parts of the entire barangay, we were able to do an assembly in order to limit extensive travel, as some households were more than a one hour walk away from the barangay hall.
During our downtime we played a lot of basketball, and the kids were super fun to play with.
One of the lunches we had in Cabugbugan we did as a Buddhaphile, where the food is piled up on large leaves and everyone eats with their hands. It was so fun and we were able to help chop vegetables to prepare!
After that day we had a rest day, where we relaxed before heading back. In the afternoon, we were told we were to meet the mayor of Tagudin with the rest of the team at the beach. At first, we were a slightly perturbed as it has been a long few days and we really just wanted to lay down in that moment. We hesitantly got on the van and headed down to the beach. When we arrived, we not only saw all our friends from the past subteams, but 2 ATV’s parked up. As we immediately eyed them, they said right away that if we wished, we could take them! It was awesome, riding them up and down the beach with the sun setting over the water. We met the mayor who was kind and funny, and then had a feast at a reuraunt that was right there. We then took a motorboat out over the water and swam in the ocean before heading back to our accomodation. I think this day reflected a lot ahgout this trip – our experiences are quite often outperforming our expectations.