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!