On the Move

Things have picked up fast in the field. Our first 2 nights were spent in a bed and breakfast run by a pretty cool guy who had worked abroad in Greece and had 2 adorable children. The older one, a boy named Franco, was absolutely precious. We played with him every morning at breakfast. The B&B owner explained to us that many Filipinos will travel abroad for a considerable amount of time in order to benefit from substantially higher wages and in many cases, such as his own, they will invest their earnings into a business. He specifically worked in the hotel management industry as well, so he was able to apply what he learned to his business here. I thought that was quite remarkable and depicted a very high level of resiliency and passion.

While we were in Candon we got to meet a fabulous team, all with bubbly personalities and a real fun-loving attitude. On our last day we went to the beach after work, and then to dinner where there was live music, and a couple of us even went up to do some karaoke (which they love here). It was a blast.

We didn’t stay too long, we left after 3 nights to our next location, a barangay called Damuman West located in the municipality of Santa Maria. On our first day, we were set to have a “courtesy call” with the governor of Ilocos Sur in the capital, Vigan City. We learned that a courtesy call is something done often by the researchers when they first visit the area, where they will explain what they are doing in the region and will ask for assistance if it is required.

When we arrived in Vigan we went straight to the capitol building. We waited for a while and then met the governor, a powerful character who was very kind and welcomed us to Ilocos Sur and took a picture with us. After this, an official took us to all the main sights and activities in Vigan. There were streets heavily influenced by Spanish architecture, cobbled roads, and lots of horses and carriages, which added to the Romantic European aesthetic. The quaint streets and old churches were gorgeous. We even got to do guided turntable pottery! It was lovely.

We had lunch with the chief of the local hospital, a powerful woman with a high position who was clearly very no-nonsense and highly competent. She described her travel experiences and international projects. After lunch she allowed us to tour the hospital. Our guide explained the rapid expansion of the hospital from 8 to 200 beds, and then took us through each area. It seemed to be a very high-functioning hospital with many amenities, but very different from those in the US. It was hard to see that the outpatient wing had an indoor airconditioned waiting room completely packed, but it only contained a fraction of the waiting patients, as there were also tents set up outside where there were many more patients waiting.

The next day I woke up to take my bucket shower, in a bathroom approximately 1m x 1m. Someone was currently inside so I sat outside for a minute and I was asked if I enjoyed biking. I said yes and 2 bikes appeared and suddenly we were off. We saw signs for a nearby mangrove forest and just kept going, despite the fact that there was no plan for this and the heavy undulation in the terrain did not make for a particularly easy ride. I kept thinking we had reached the end of the trail, but we continued on whatever signs of a path we could see, and sure enough, we come across a thick, well-maintained mangrove forest with a makeshift bamboo boardwalk. Over the tops of the brush, we saw the mountains in the distance. I was also able to see the Philippine Eagle soaring over the nearby forestry! When I asked one of the team members, they confirmed that was indeed what it was! I had been really looking forward to seeing it after taking Dr. Harper’s Field Ornithology course over the may term and hearing about the magnificent, huge raptor. However, truthfully it probably wasn’t a Philippine eagle, as there are only about 430 known pairs and most are in the southern region of Mindanao. Regardless, I’m going to pretend it was indeed what we thought, and whatever it was, I’m sure Dr, Harper would’ve said that it was pretty spectacular.

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