Week 7

On Monday, we transferred to Ate Hannah’s subteam. Their Barangay was rather small, so everyone was sleeping very close to each other. This wasn’t an issue at all as everyone got along very well and we spent more time sitting outside together since there wasn’t much space inside. We had the opportunity to go grocery shopping with them and pick out items for the meals that they were planning to make for the week. At this specific Barangay, there were so many kids playing basketball at the Barangay hall the entire time we were there. This was by far the most densely populated Barangay that we visited. We were immediately bombarded by at least 20 kids/ teenagers. The kids wanted to give us high fives and fist bumps. It was so rewarding to see their faces light up after talking to us getting a high five. Lukas and I also had the opportunity to play badminton with some of the children which was a really cool experience. There were also some teenage boys that came up to Abi and I and called us beautiful and tried to give us hugs. This was kind of an uncomfortable experience, but we knew that they were just surprised to see foreigners, so we understood. Tuesday was scheduled to be their data editing day, However, Ate Hannah and her team took us to Tagaytay for the morning since they were caught up on their editing. We saw Taal volcano, rode horses, ate a traditional Filipino lunch, made TikToks, and looked at the souvenir shops. This was a very fun experience and I am so glad that they took the time to take us to Tagaytay! Personally, I value the sightseeing experiences so much because it helps me to gain a deeper understanding of Filipino culture! 

On Wednesday, we transferred to Ate Rose’s subteam. This time, we were able to stay in the house of a family who was out of town. We were so grateful to have unlimited running water and a bed to sleep in! Once we arrived there, we met Sir Chance, one of the dietary researchers on her team. He was very outgoing and had many insightful and eye opening things to say about healthcare. First, he asked us if healthcare is affordable and accessible to all in the US, and we explained to him that it is not. Healthcare is so expensive that you either need to have quality insurance coverage through your employer, enough money to pay out of pocket for healthcare (only the rich can do this), or pay a lot of money for an insurance policy if you are not able to get one through your employer. As one may assume, many people are not able to afford insurance or have insurance provided to them. Additionally, insurance policies do not cover all expenses, so many people are stuck paying out of pocket which is too expensive for some households. We then explained that although we do not have universal healthcare, we are very blessed to have great technologies that save so many lives. Sir Chance then told us that Filipinos are starting to invest in insurance policies, but the majority do not have insurance coverage yet. He also explained that nutrition and holistic approaches must be used to prevent non communicable diseases. He tells his respondents that their answers to the surveys can greatly influence policies and technologies that can prevent diseases such as cancer and heart disease. He specifically said that one must change their lifestyle to improve their overall health and well being. He also said that although Filipino medical technologies are not nearly as advanced as they are in the US, that most working class and poor Filipinos are unable to afford them. This makes me incredibly sad to hear. However, I am so happy that there are institutions like FNRI that work tirelessly to implement programs and policies that will benefit the health of all Filipinos. Although this conversation was not directly a part of the NNS, I am so grateful for our conversation with him because it was very eye opening. On Thursday morning, we accompanied researchers in the field again. Lukas, Abi, and I were each able to take the blood pressure of a respondent. I felt so much more confident hearing the sounds and recording the systolic blood pressure over the diastolic blood pressure. I also had an easier time finding the MIL- this is where you stop feeling a pulse then add 30 to that number. When taking blood pressure, we learned that it is more accurate early in the morning. We also learned that we must have them put their feet flat on the ground, ask if they are taking any medications, and ask if they have eaten or had coffee prior to the measurement. We went to a few households and observed the interviews being conducted as well. We then went back to where we were staying to eat lunch and pack our things. Ate Rose then explained to us that her team is going to the southernmost part of the Philippines next. In this part of the Philippines, they speak a completely different dialect, so they do not understand Tagalog well. When this language barrier occurs, they will need to rely on the Barangay health workers to translate for them. Since I don’t know Tagalog, I understand how intimidating the language barrier can be because I have had to have someone translate the questions for me when I interview respondents. Hearing this helps me understand the importance of the Barangay Health workers. Without their full cooperation, the NNS would not be possible. 

Overall, we had another amazing field immersion experience and I am so sad that it is over! After sleeping on the ground and taking bucket showers, I have a new appreciation for my bed and unlimited running water in the US! I also now understand that air conditioning is a luxury that so many people do not have access to. I will never take this for granted again! I have a new perspective and appreciation for life that I will forever cherish.

On Friday, Abi, Lukas, Hunter, and I traveled to La Union (the surfing capitol of the Philippines) for the weekend. We stayed in an open air hostel, so the only thing separating our beds from the outside was a mosquito net and curtains. It did get kind of hot at night, but we had a fan, so it wasn’t too bad. On Saturday and Sunday, we took surfing lessons from locals. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to get the hang of it. On Sunday, I started figuring out how to catch a wave on my own. We also found several restaurants on the beach. Sunday afternoon, we went to a local pottery place and made our own pottery! This was a super cool and relaxing experience. We used a manual pottery wheel while shaping our pottery. After this, we had lunch and went to the bus station. All buses were full, so we ended up taking a van back to Manilla and arrived at our apartment around 1 am.

We had another great week and it doesn’t feel real that it is already our last week!

The collage above is with some of the kids we met in Cavite! They were so sweet!

Some pictures from our trip to Tagaytay!

Some photos from our time in the field!

Some pictures from our trip to La Union!

Week 6

On Monday, we flew back to Manila from El Nido. Our flight was delayed a little over an hour, but we still were back in time to go into the office at 1pm for a half day. Upon arrival in the office, we had the opportunity to observe the process of data editing and validation of the dietary component. This is an incredibly tedious process. First, they must print out the data from the food weighing portion and the 24 hour diet recall portion of the study. Then, they go through each and every row of the data and check for various errors including beginning and ending inventory of condiments, serving size, food code, etc. Every time they find an error in the codes, they must either fix it or mark it so that they can consult with the researcher who collected the data. Most food items have a specific code. Therefore, the person checking the data must read the description of the food then check in the database provided by NAMD/FNRI that has the description, flavor, serving size, nutritional information, and code of each food. From time to time, the researcher may miscode a food, so that is where the data editing and validation team comes in. For example, if someone has a slice of wheat bread and the researcher accidentally used the code of white bread, that person’s overall micronutrient intake could be miscalculated (wheat bread has a higher fiber and iron content than white bread). Therefore, it is important that someone checks to make sure that the food codes are all correct. There are also codes for where the food item was purchased (supermarket, sari sari store, etc) and what form it was purchased in (raw, ready to eat, etc). Although it was impossible to fully comprehend everything that the data editing and validation team checks for, it was incredibly interesting to see how tedious the data is and how thoroughly it is checked for errors.

On Tuesday morning, we had the opportunity to meet with the food matching team. This is another incredibly tedious job! As previously mentioned, each specific food item has a food code. However, Filipinos are incredibly resourceful and sometimes eat rather exotic foods. Some examples of these exotic foods include cat, dog, bat, camel, and many types of fruits and vegetables. Therefore, a food code may not exist for certain foods. When this occurs, the researcher or the team leader must submit a request to the food matching team with as much information on the food as possible. Then, the food matching team will look through data bases from other countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, China, Japan, etc to find the closest match. It is important to find the closest possible match because specific macro and micro nutrient composition could differ. Sometimes, if it is not possible to make an exact or very close match, they most improvise. For example, camel meat and beef are both red meal that come from mammals, so they could be matched if that is the best option available.

On Tuesday afternoon, we had the opportunity to go to the biochemical laboratory and observe the process of analyzing blood and urine samples. We were able to meet with several chemists who explained their specific task to us. After blood and urine is collected in the field, it goes back to the lab to be tested for fasting glucose levels, vitamin A content, vitamin E content, iron content, iodine content, etc. There is a different lab for each specific thing that is being tested for. For example, there is a vitamin A lab, vitamin E lab, iron lab, and so on. Therefore, each specific chemist does the same test on all of the different samples. Although it was impossible to memorize the steps that take place for each specific test, we were able to observe many techniques including (but not limited to) centrifuging blood and pipetting precise samples of urine.

Due to weather, we had Wednesday off. On Thursday, we left for our final field immersion experience in Cavite City! The remainder of week 6 was spent with sub team 1 in a Barangay in Imus City. After arrival, we visited the Mayor’s office for a courtesy call to introduce ourselves and explain the purpose of the NNS. He gave the team leaders 20,000 pesos for food! In this Barangay, there were several households that refused to be involved in the NNS. This kind of came as a surprise to me because in the previous Barangay’s, everyone was very happy and willing to participate. Some of the team leaders and researchers explained that some of the households near the cities are busier because they are more likely to have a full time job. Since there were so many refusals, we had a little bit more free time, but we were still able to observe several aspects of the NNS. Specifically, Ate Carol, the team’s med tech, allowed us to closely observe the process of blood extraction and packing. Although we aren’t allowed to actually extract blood yet, we were able to practice tying tourniquets around each other’s arms to restrict the blood flow. Then, we were taught how to palpate veins and find the median vein which is the most stable vein to extract blood from. Once she had all of the blood samples, she showed us how to centrifuge them for five minutes to separate the platelets from the plasma. Although I have used a centrifuge in chemistry lab, it was incredibly interesting to see how it is used in the real world and how chemistry in used in everyday life! Another morning, I went into the field at 5 am with Ate Melody, one of the anthropometric researchers, and she let me take the blood pressure of a respondent! I actually felt so much for confident in hearing the sounds and recording this time since we have been practicing for a few weeks now. I was also able to take the height and weight of a respondent and interview her. The specific questionnaire that I used was in Tagalog, so I had to use the pictures and the help of a translator to properly communicate with the respondent.

On Sunday night, the sub team that we were with bought us donuts and pizza as a going away party. We also learned some TikTok dances with then and got ready to transfer to another Barangay with another sub team on Monday!

Week 5

On Tuesday, July 4th, we traveled back to Taguig from our field immersion in Pangasinan. We then invited Hunter over to our apartment to celebrate the Fourth of July! We also had to unpack and do laundry after being gone for a week. Although I love our field immersion experiences, I was very happy to sleep in my bed again, take a warm shower, and have access to toilets that flush.

On Wednesday and Thursday, we were able to attend the 49th annual FNRI Seminar Series in the Dusit Thani hotel in Makati, Metro Manila. We learned so much about the research that was conducted in the last year and some of the new technologies developed by FNRI employees. There were several politicians and lawmakers who attended the seminar series. There were also stakeholders and potential investors who attended.

Unfortunately, approximately three out of every ten Filipino households reported being moderately to severely food insecure in the previous National Nutrition Survey. However, researchers at DOST-FNRI are working to decrease the prevalence of food insecurity and are diligently working to made proper nutrition affordable and accessible to all.

In the Philippines, anemia is very prevalent. They explained that anemia causes fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and shortness of breath. In 2019, 2/5 of children 2-69 months were anemic. Among all Filipinos, the overall anemia prevalence was 10.4%. In 1998, the overall anemic prevalence was 30.6%. Therefore, the Philipines has made great progress in the last 25 years although they still have a long ways to go. Anemia is more prevalent among females, those living in rural areas, and those living in poor household. Unfortunately, 23% of women of reproductive age suffer from iron deficiency anemia. The main function of red blood cells is to carry oxygen and other nutrients through the blood and deliver it to the tissues. When there are more red blood cells lost than produced, anemia can develop. There are many different causes such as inadequate intake of iron, vitamin A, vitamin B12, and folate. The most common type of anemia is iron deficiency anemia. The elderly are at an elevated risk for anemia due to their diet, age, and health condition. Iron deficiency anemia is common during pregnancy and can cause preterm labor, increased blood loss during delivery, and low birth rate of the baby. Some ways to combat anemia (specifically iron deficiency anemia) are iron supplements. Additionally, fortifying foods such as rice and flour with iron can help combat iron deficiency anemia. Tea, coffee, cocoa, and chiles slow down the absorption of iron. 

Another common theme was combatting malnutrition. Additionally, preventing non communicable diseases through a healthy diet was heavily emphasized throughout the two day seminar. They explained that consuming enough folic acid can prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. The worldwide prevalence of spina bifida is 2 cases in every 1,000 births. One of the presenting chemists explained that fortifying foods with folic acid can effectively prevent birth defects. Additionally, folic acid fortification can prevent depression and promote optimal neural health. This was very interesting to me especially because it directly relates to my degree in Behavioral Neuroscience. This information also helps me to understand why there is a mental health survey included in the National Nutrition Survey that we help administer during our field immersion experience. Although correlation does not necessarily mean causation, it does appear that nutrition may be connected to one’s mood, energy, and overall mental health. 

At 5:00 AM on Friday, Abi, Lukas, and I flew to Palawan for our three day weekend. We had the most amazing time and everything there was absolutely beautiful. Other IWU interns from IRRI and Cabrini met us there as well. We stayed at a social hostel called Outpost. We had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people from countries such as France, Spain, Portugal, New Zealand, Australia, London, and so many more! Everyone was so outgoing and friendly- it felt like we were lifelong friends even though we had just met. On Friday, Sam, Lukas, and I tried to swim to another nearby island to rock climb. Unfortunately, it began raining after we had swam about one mile, so some locals on a boat offered to take us to shore. We were so grateful for them as we were clearly in over our heads. On Saturday, all 13 of the interns from IWU did an 8 hour long island hopping tour. This was easily one of the most beautiful things I have ever done and I had the most amazing time. On our tour, we went snorkeling, kayaking through a blue lagoon, swam, played sand volleyball, and so much more. Saturday night, a group of us went into the city and watched live music. It was so much fun and we made friends with people from France!

On Sunday, Lukas, Hunter, and I rode motorcycles around the island of Palawan. We ended up 2 hours away from our hostel and it started raining. We were also on dirt roads, so it was very hard to drive. I was on the back of Lukas’ motorcycle and it tipped over. I had several cuts and bruises and a burn where the exhaust pipe landed. However, the beautiful view that we saw was so worth the minor inconvenience. Lukas went to a local clinic with me because the hostel workers thought I would need stitches. Luckily, it wasn’t too deep and she just cleaned it out and gave me some antibiotics, anti-inflammatory pills, and burn cream. After that, Hunter, Abi, Lukas, and I went to an Italian restaurant on the beach. It was so incredibly good and such a cute place. We then packed up and enjoyed our last night before our early flight Monday morning. Stay tuned for week 6! Below are several pictures from week 5!

Week 4

Once we returned from our field immersion in Marinduque, we had two days off. Lukas, Abi, and I did a little bit of exploring around Metro Manila. Below are a few pictures from our day. We were able to try different coffees, lemonades, gnocchi, pizza, and much more. When we visit Makati, BGC, and other cities in the business district of Manila, we are able to find restaurants that kind of remind us of places that we have in the United States. Although we loved the traditional Filipino food that we tried in Marinduque, this was a great change in pace from the typical Filipino meals that we had been eating. After we took a day to explore and relax, we had to do laundry and pack for our second field immersion in Pangasinan.

After our two off days, we were ready for our second round of sleeping on the floor and taking bucket showers! Our second field immersion was in Pangasinan, Philippines. We were able to stay with Sir Erwin’s sub team in the Tobor Barangay. We felt so incredibly welcomed from both Sir Erwin’s team and the people of the Barangay. Some of the Barangay officials cooked all of our meals for us and offered us coffee and snacks throughout the day. Everyone in Pangasinan was so excited to have visitors and meet foreigners. There was a group of teenage girls who were jumping and screaming when they first saw us and asked for pictures. We then were able to get to know them and spend some time with them. I am not being dramatic when I say that I have never taken that many pictures in my entire life. We easily took upwards of 1,000 pictures with locals during our time in Pangasinan. We were able to play pickup basketball and get milk tea during our free time.

I had the opportunity to interview a 17 year old boy about his mental health. He was so friendly and very patient with me as I navigated my way through the questionnaire. Ate Gwen, one of the researchers from Sir Erwin’s team, helped translate my English. She was so kind and helpful and I loved having the opportunity to learn from her. Sir Erwin and Ate Gwen also let me practice taking blood pressure, and I felt much more confident with hearing the sounds and accurately recording blood pressure. We then walked to another household and observed Ate Bridget conduct a 24 hour food recall and food weighing. The purpose of the food recall and food weighing is to estimate the amount of food and the variety of food that a household consumes in a typical day. Unfortunately, many Filipinos have nutrient deficiencies such as iron deficiency, iodine deficiency, vitamin E deficiency, protein deficiency, and many more. Some Filipinos consume enough energy, but not enough of specific micro or macro nutrients. Others do not consume enough energy overall. Approximately three in ten Filipino households suffer from moderate to severe food insecurity.

We were also able to closely observe the process of biochemical sample collection. The med tech explained to us how she collects a small sample of the respondent’s blood and how it is analyzed once it gets to the lab. Some of the tests include (but are not limited to) hepatitis testing, blood iron level testing, blood vitamin E level testing, fasting blood sugar testing, and blood iodine level testing. Once this date is analyzed, Filipino lawmakers can implement the findings into legislation. For example, a few years ago, the most common deficiency among Filipinos was iodine, so a new law was enacted that requires that all salt be iodized. After this law was enacted, the prevalence of iodine deficiency among Filipinos has drastically decreased. Below are some pictures of us at some of the households. Everyone was so friendly and happy to participate in the National Nutrition Survey. The researchers also ask each household for a salt sample so that they can test it to make sure that it is iodized.

As previously mentioned, the people that we met in Pangasinan were so kind and accommodating. One of the households that participated in the survey made us Pansit noodles and bought us bread. Pansit is one of my favorite foods that I have tried so far in the Philippines. Another family offered to take us on motorcycle rides. Sir Brian took me on a 30 minute motorcycle ride and showed me some of the local rice farms. We were also asked to be in so many pictures! We met a group of teenage girls who were so sweet and asked us for our social media accounts so that they could stay in touch with us.

For our second night in Pangasinan, the mayor bought us a hotel room to stay in for the night and we were able to swim. We also had the opportunity to try street food! Lukas and I each tried chicken liver, chicken kidney, chicken head, chicken intestine, chicken feet, chicken anus, pig’s blood, balut, and crickets. It was very interesting and had a very weird texture, but I am glad that I at least was able to experience trying these different street foods. My least favorite thing I tried was probably Balut. It is a fertilized duck embryo (the balut egg that I tried was 16 days old). For our last night in Pangasinan, the Barangay members made us so much food and we ate it with our bare hands off of banana leaves. This is called “boodle fight.” This meal was easily the best Filipino meal that I have had so far! We had milkfish, tilapia, egg rolls, chopped suey, cucumbers, tofu, and of course rice. After we ate, the locals taught us several popular dances. Below are pictures of the various foods we tried, people we met, and our motorcycle rides!

Overall, we had such a great time in Pangasinan. The people are truly inspiring and I loved being able to get to know them! They are so happy and have such a positive view on life. In Pangasinan specifically, most of the households have farms. We were even able to see herds of cattle being led down the street. I have started to get used to sleeping on the ground and taking bucket showers. For this field immersion, we had unlimited running water, so that was very nice! We also had air conditioning and 24 hour electricity. However, we did experience one power outage due to a storm. The respondents were also very willing to participate in the National Nutrition Survey and were happy to welcome us into their homes. Everyone that we met does their very best to communicate with us and start conversations even if they are hesitant to speak English. Overcoming the language barrier has been a challenge, but everyone we have met has been very patient with us and makes a genuine effort to include us and make conversation with us. This experience has been so eyeopening and has helped me to be more grateful for the lifestyle that I am able to live in the United States.

Next week, we will be attending the Annual Seminar Series in the Dusit Thani hotel for two days. Then, we will be traveling to El Nido, Palawan to meet some of our other friends from IWU and do some sightseeing.


Below are several pictures from our travels so far!

We visited Intramuros, the “Walled City”

We climbed Mount Binicayan- a couple near death experiences were encountered

Some highlights from our trip to Marinduque (these were also included in my week 3 blog post)

Week 3

On Thursday morning, right after I posted my week 2 blog, there was a 6.2 earthquake in Batangas which is a little bit southwest of us. We didn’t really feel much, but we still had to be evacuated. It was an interesting morning because we don’t have earthquakes very often in the midwest.

Over the weekend, Sam and Faith came to visit from Cabrini. On Friday night, we took them to Penthouse for dinner and then went to “Bolthole” afterwards. On Saturday morning, Abi, Lukas, and I went to Tagaytay to see Taal Volcano which is inside of Taal Lake. We went to a local coffee shop and also had lunch at a restaurant that overlooked the volcano. We then went back to Sienna Park (where we are staying) and went to the pool with Hunter, Sam, and Faith. On Sunday, Faith and I walked to Starbucks for breakfast then got some things for my trip to Marinduque with Lukas and Abi. I then worked out in the gym at Sienna Park and went to the pool afterwards with Lukas and Hunter. After that, Lukas, Abi, Hunter, and I went to a local Laundromat and did our laundry then found a place to get burgers and fries. My burger was so good- just like the burgers I eat at home! We then packed because we had to be up at 3 am for our departure.

On Monday, we reported to FNRI at 4 am for our trip to Marinduque. We had a 3 hour drive in the van, then a 3 hour trip on a Ferry. We then met with Barangay officials and introduced ourselves. The locals are very surprised to see Americans here and the children wave at us every chance they get. On Tuesday, we went to the Mayor’s office and met more local officials. We then went out into the field and interviewed specific households. We are walking distance from the beach, so we are able to watch the sunset on the beach every night. While we are in the field, we eat home cooked meals that our team leaders make. We have had tofu, lots of vegetables, mango, eggs, eggplant, okra, chopped suey, and so much rice. Everyone here is so kind and accommodating. Since we are in a rather rural area, we are sleeping on the ground in sleeping bags and the water supply is very limited. The water shuts off at 5 every day to conserve the supply, so we must make sure that we put water into buckets before 5 pm. We also have to take bucket showers, which has been very eye opening and interesting. The people live very simply here and take things slow which is very refreshing.

On Tuesday, we visited the Mayor’s office and met with local officials in the morning. In the afternoon, we assisted the researchers in the field. They collected basic demographic information from their respondents. On Wednesday, I woke up at 4:30 and went with a nutritionist to one of her assigned houses to weigh the families breakfast before they cooked it. We then went back after they ate and weighed their leftovers and plate waste. Lukas, Abi, and I then observed another researcher as she interviewed a different family about their daily food intake. It is a very eye-opening experience to see how resourceful Filipinos are. Some of them raise their own chickens for eggs and even have their own rice farms. The water is also very limited, and some families have to pump their own water. I take having access to drinking water for granted. Many of their kitchens are outside, so they have to go outside to cook their food whether it is hot or cold. On Thursday, we continued our observations and I was able to practice taking blood pressure and other anthropometric measurements such as height, weight, hip circumference, waist circumference, and upper arm circumference. I was also able to watch the biochemical samples be collected. They take blood and urine samples to test for vitamin and mineral deficiencies. We were then able to go with the researchers to a home and observe a full day dietary recall. They even let us practice asking questions (with the help of a translator).

On Friday, we took a boat to a nearby island called Gaspar. It was so beautiful and the water was clear. We went with some other nutritionists. We were able to swim for a while then some locals made us fresh fish which we ate off of banana leaves. We then went on a beautiful boat ride around the island before returning to Marinduque. On Friday evening, some locals performed the “Tubong/Putong” ceremony for us where they serenaded us with songs then crowned us and gave us flowers. It was so much fun and we loved experienced this unique Marinduque tradition. On Saturday, we transitioned to another Barangay with another sub team and observed the process of data editing.

Overall, we had so much fun on our trip to Marinduque and we loved meeting locals and immersing ourselves in their culture. It is such a beautiful place and we can’t wait for our next field immersion experience!

Marinduque sunset
On our way to interview a household
Us after being crowed in “Tubong/Putong”

Week 2

Since Monday, June 12th was Philippine Independence Day, our first weekend turned into a long 3 day weekend. On Friday after work, we went to the BGC which is a business district outside of Manilla. We had dinner at Penthouse which is a rooftop restaurant. Some interesting things happened to us later that night, but I will not be going into detail. On Saturday, we slept in then went to get massages. We got 60 minute massages for 500 pesos which is approximately $9 US dollars. On Sunday, we visited Binondo, the world’s oldest ChinaTown. Then, we walked to Intramuros, which translates to the “walled city.” We explored and looked at the architecture. We also gave a group of homeless kids our leftover rice from lunch. They were so genuinely grateful for our leftover rice- it was truly one of the saddest things I have ever witnessed. We met some locals who invited Hunter and Lukas to play pickup basketball with them, and Abi and I learned how to use “plackers” which is a Filipino toy that the kids love to play with. They were much harder than they looked. After the basketball game, we began to walk back order a Grab (the Filipino version of Uber), but we got POURED on. We also had only one umbrella for the four of us, so that was unfortunate. On Monday, we hiked Mount Binacayan. We had a tour guide named Alfred, who we could not have gone without. On google, it was described as beginner, but we quickly learned that it was not beginner. Abi fell onto rocks and we genuinely thought we were going to have to carry her down the mountain and find the nearest hospital. Thankfully, she landed on her back and not her head, so everything was okay. We were exhausted when we got home, so we picked up pizzas and had a movie night with the roomies. 

So far, I have learned that I take so much for granted in the United States. Having access to unlimited clean drinking water is something that I am incredibly grateful for. We also have very safe and advanced roads in the United States, so we are able to get places much quicker. Here, it is faster to walk 1.3 miles to work every day than to ride in a car. I have also noticed that Filipinos take things much slower than we do in the US. I am trying to learn how to slow down and take more breaks. This trip has helped me to unplug from electronics and social media. My screen time average has decreased by over 2 hours a day! I am used to having a very busy schedule back at home, so it is very nice to slow down and enjoy every moment. 

On Tuesday, we returned to work. We had a debriefing with the other field researchers about our recent practicum. On Wednesday and Thursday, we attended a seminar to prepare for our upcoming deployment to Marinduque, the “heart of the Philippines.” We were originally supposed to leave for Marinduque on Thursday, but there was a delay in being approved to travel. On Thursday, we also had some time to read research studies and familiarize ourselves with the nature of the studies. As shown below, almost 70% of their total caloric intake is from carbohydrates, which is above the AMDR guidelines provided. Less than 13% of their total calories come from protein and about 18% of their calories are The most commonly consumed foods/ ingredients in the country include rice, coconut oil, inion bulb, eggs, chicken, brown sugar, coffee, and soy sauce.

Macronutrient percentages

In our seminars, we learned about how to obtain informed consent. They explained that it is much more than just a signature on a piece of paper, but rather an ongoing dialog between the researcher and the participant. Each island of the Philippines has their own specific dialect, so it is very common for the researchers to have to rephrase things so that the participants fully understand the study. Most Filipinos know at least some English, but we have to be careful to not use slang/ “Urban Dictionary lingo” because that can be very confusing for them. I also have to be careful to not use figurative language because they are likely to assume the literal meaning of the words, not the figurative meaning. The language barrier has been incredibly eye opening so far. Most of the seminars are taught in Tagalog, so we have to follow along with the English words on the screen to make sense of what we are being taught. Luckily, they are happy to re-explain things in English to us afterwards and do not expect full comprehension. I have noticed that work in the Philippines is much more relaxed than in America. They take several breaks, eat snacks throughout the day, and have unlimited coffee. I am used to a very chaotic and busy schedule in the US, so it has been very nice to slow down and not be so stressed.

This week, I have begun branching out and finding different foods that I like. The first few days, I did not eat much at all because I was very culture shocked. We tried “toho” which is silken tofu with some pearls and kind of tastes like jello. We also eat “pandesal” which translates to “salt bread.” I have been eating a lot of chicken and rice and pizza from a local pizzeria. The meat is very interesting here. They cook fish whole with the head and the tail, so I haven’t been eating much seafood because that is something that I am not used to in the US. They also eat a lot of pork and chicken with the bones and fat still attached, so it takes much longer to eat because we have to find the actual meat and separate it ourselves. I have been eating a lot of bread, rice, and fruit since that is the most plain food that is here. Overall, everything is going well and we are excited for our upcoming trip to Marinduque!

Week 1- Kennady Estes

Hello, we have been in the Philippines for five days. We had a 14 hour flight from Chicago to Abu Dhabi, a 15 hour layover in Abu Dhabi, then a 9 hour flight to Manila, Philippines. We then traveled to Los Banos for our orientation. We met Kuya Gillian who taught us some basic Filipino words and phrases and cultural norms. Professionalism and respect is very important here in the Philippines. 

After our initial orientation, we travelled to Manilla and moved into our condo. The two bedrooms have AC, but the bathroom and common area does not, so we have been doing our best to get used to the heat. We have a stove, oven, microwave, rice cooker, and toaster, so we have started buying groceries and using those appliances. Lukas makes us eggs every morning before work. Once we get to work, Sir Boy brings us coffee and bread before we go out to the field. 

On Thursday and Friday, we went out into the field to assist in the research study that FNRI does. We were in a very poor and overpopulated area in Taguig City (near Manilla). There were many stray cats and dogs roaming the streets, and most of the homes were only one or two rooms and did not have any air conditioning. We started by interviewing the members of each household about their demographic information, food intake and preference information, and living situation. We also asked them questions about their mental health. Then, they met us at a local church right outside of their neighborhood and we took several measurements including height, weight, waist circumference, and blood pressure. We then went back to their households and recorded their total food intake for the day in a tracking system. We weighed their food before and after they ate it and recorded the amount of waste. We entered everything into a logging system and estimated the amount of pesos that their food costs. 

It was very eye opening to see the way that many people in the Philippines live. Although many of them endure great hardships every day, they were very happy and outgoing. Unfortunately, food insecurity is very prevalent in the areas that we have visited so far. They were very shocked to see Americans in their homes and neighborhoods, so many of them took pictures of us and even asked us to take pictures with them. The children stopped what they were doing to say hello to us and ask us where we are from. Abi and I were catcalled in Tagalong several times and called beautiful, gorgeous, etc. A group of guys about my age followed me and tried to convince me to accept a drink (it was 8:00 am). Many of the moms loved Lukas. One woman even told him that she was honored that he went into her home because of how handsome he looked. Some people even told us that we look like “the people from the movies.” We are much taller that most Filipinos, so many of them ask us how tall we are and comment on our height. 

Unfortunately, there are many homeless people here. Every day on our walk to work, young children (about 6-10 years old) follow us and beg for money. Many of them don’t have shoes on and look very undernourished. Some of them will even hold on to our arms to try to get us to give them money. Since we don’t look Filipino, we are automatic targets for them. Pickpocketing is also very common here, so we have to walk with our bags in front of us and be very aware of our surroundings. 

Next week, we will be traveling to Marinduque for our first deployment! We have been told to prepare to sleep on the ground and take bucket showers. It should be interesting, so I will keep you posted!

Kennady Estes- First Post

Hello, my name is Kennady Estes, and I am a sophomore here at IWU. I will be traveling to Manila to research nutrition. I am so excited to be in a new part of the world and learn how to properly collect and interpret data. I will be interning at NAMD/FNRI.