The beginning of community-based training (CBT) is marked by the end of IO. The end of three buffets a day, air-conditioned rooms, 88 other English speaking trainees, and all the other comforts of staying at 11RR. It was a strange feeling as our three sectors separated somewhere along the Bataan highway and headed to our three respective sites for CBT. The strong bonds we’ve made over the past couple of weeks have been sealed by boat rides, snorkling trips (first time in the water in the Philippines, awesome!), bonfires, basketball games, language study, balut adventures, and enough ice-breaking energizers to keep you stoked for the rest of your time as a trainee. As we head separate ways we leave the comfortable aspect of being together as one group and begin our first homestays and take on our first solo challenges. I’d like to add here that I found a Cinnabon at the rest stop during the bus ride and had a minibon for 65 peso (about 45 peso/dollar), which is more money than I should be spending on rolls but if you know me then you know that this cinnamon roll meant the moon to me.
Two 5-person “clusters” of our coastal resource management sector arrived in Poblacion, Morong on July 19th, and after gathering all of our bags (my belongings now include my PC-issued rubber boots, mosquito net, medical kit, and life-jacket…oh and I bought a ukulele) we made our first connection to our homestay nanays and tatays (mothers and fathers). My “nanay” is actually my “tita” (aunt) Fely. Her nephew Alvin gave me and my stuff a “tryke” lift to her house, located very close to Poblacion’s Municipal Hall, Cathedral, and covered basketball court. I was quickly greeted by her brother (tito) and then met Alvin’s wife, two year old daughter Alia, and nine-month old son Red. It is customary to bring gifts, or pasalubong, when coming home from a trip or arriving at someone’s house like this, so I brought a postcard of Missoula, huckleberry hard candies, Evening in Missoula tea, and small replicas of my four hens from Missoula (thank you Ellie!) for the two little kids. These gifts are really just meant as a gesture, but it’s nice to bring things from your hometown to show your new family things from where you come from.
Tita Fely lives in a baby-blue two-storied home surrounded by plants, especially putim angels (white angels) that she loves to care for. There is a shower room that is separated from the CR (comfort room), and if other trainees read this then I’m sorry for the little brag here but this residence has toilet paper and a flush toilet, which I absolutely did not expect. It’s always interesting when I’m warned about upcoming hardships and then find that in reality the elements that I’m facing are often upgrades from my usual living arrangement. First things first, I was shown my room and fed kanin (rice) and a sizeable whole fried fish, even though I’d literally just eaten with Tita Fely when we got dropped off outside the Municipal Hall. Tito and I chatted at the table. I tell him that my Tagalog is konti lang (just a little), but that he must help me by not speaking English all the time. Sige, sige.
- You are very tall! And gwapo.
- Oo, I am tall (read: I’m not actually that tall).
- Ilang taon ka na?
- 25 years na ako. Then, an expected part of the conversation emerges…
- May asawa ka na ba? (Do you have a spouse)?
- Wala pa, pero okay lang na single ako. (None, but I’m okay with being single. I am always quick to add this disclaimer after mentioning my marital status).
- Bakit? (Why?)
- Kasi, I am a long way from home. (This seems sufficient, family is an important and valuable part of life in the Philippines, but many Filipinos know that it’s difficult to be so far away).
We go to meet the Barangay Captain, visit the Pulis Station, and then attempt to meet figures in the Municipal Hall, including the mayor. Courtesy calls are critical for paying respect to important figures in the community when a volunteer first arrives at site. Especially in CRM, getting programs implemented and projects funded means that certain entities within the Local Governmental Unit (LGU) need to get on board. In other words, make friends with as many folks as possible! We all quickly practice little introductions for meeting the mayor, and though it’s supremely hot and and humid we’re in nice clothes to make a good first impression. This is an introduction we’ve done in class, and at this point it rolls of the tongue in time with the sweat rolling off my forehead.
- Magandang umaga po. (Literally: beautiful morning)
- Ako po si Dov.
- Ikinagagalak kong makilala kayong lahat. (It’s nice to meet you all)
- Taga-Montana po ako.
- 25 anyos na po ako.
- Coastal resources Peace Corps trainee po ako.
- Nagtatrabaho ako sa pagpapabuti ng barangay. (I’m working for the improvement of the community).
- Nakatira po ako sa Poblacion, Morong.
- Gusto kong umakyat ng bundok at tumakbo. (I like to climb mountains and run)
- Mahilig ako magbasa ng libro. (I like to read books)
- Maraming salamat po. (Thank you very much)
Po is a word included to show respect, especially to persons older than yourself. I use po as much as possible, whenever I realize that it fits within the context of my sentence. I think it’s good practice to “drop” the po (droppin’ respect never hurt anyone right?).
On Finding Something Familiar
Things are definitely in flux right now. Some moments I feel like I’m floating downstream without any knowledge regarding what the river might have up its sleeve. Most mornings I wake up and need to remind myself where I am. What I’m doing here. There’s no waking and scampering up Mt. Sentinel after a cup of Black Coffee Roasting Co.’s “Laura”. There’s no Coldsmoke in hand while reading a literary classic and sneaking glances at the person behind the bar. I have not made myself a burrito in over two weeks. There are, however, some parts of life that I feel I’ll always know, even if the pieces arrange themselves a little differently. On my first run in Poblacion I headed out the door just after 5:00 am. Poblacion is just starting to awake. Finally, something familiar. With each step, shy heels tempt scraggly street dogs. I know how to do this. With each step, the heel of morning, tempts the night from behind mist-shrouded mountains. At least I know how to do this.
Things frequently seen: dog-sounds in the night/ 4 am rooster wake-up calls/ smiling kids.
Something nowhere to be found: burritos
favorite new phrase: bahala na (come what may/ it is what it is).