It’s been a while! part 2

So, the third and fourth week in the Philippines had to be the hardest for me. Not only were they difficult for me as a general traveler, but they were hard from a social justice point of view and health wise.

The third week, my fellow YAVs and I went to an island about two hours away (by boat), called Bohol. There, we stayed in a very rural area with a local pastor and her family. That was a rough week for me because I realized a) that I’m privileged and b) I’m not so great at physically adapting to my environment. The entire week, we lived in this farming area, where everything was far, where we got to see our food before we ate it, and where the only foreigners were on the television.

We had some amazing opportunities in Bohol, like plowing a field with a Philippines water buffalo, planting corn, working in rice fields, etc. However, those opportunities have led me (along with my fellow YAVs) to the conclusion that nature is not my friend. I don’t think I’ve ever fallen into so much mud in my entire life. Also, I realize, fire ants hate me. I’m allergic to something in the rice fields and possible one of the local fruits. There are a lot more reasons, but those are just the major ones. Regardless of nature’s dislike of women named Akilah Hyrams, I still enjoyed my time in Bohol.

My fourth week was a different story. We went to a mountainous region on an island in the northern part of the Philippines called the Cordillera. There, we visited a lot of indigenous communities who were facing a lot of injustices. Many of the communities were farming communities that heavily relied on their produce. It was really heart breaking because, as I learned, farming is a very unpredictable business and the farmers don’t get to control the price for their own produce. They have to go through a middleman to sell them in the market. When I was there, farmers were given 2 Pesos for one kilo of carrots by the middleman. It costs 7 Pesos to grow one kilo of carrots. So the farmer just lost 5 Pesos per kilo. Oh, and since most communities don’t have trucks to transport their produce, it’s costs 2 Pesos per kilo to send them to the market on a truck. Well, there went the 2 Pesos they actually “earned” from the carrots they sold. Being in those communities, watching and participating in some of the work they did just to make a living was so hard to do, knowing they were getting next to nothing for it. Later that week, we saw some more indigenous communities fighting to keep their land as international mining companies came to exploit the land. And the companies that were already there were destroying the quality of land and the lives of the local communities; from contaminated water to crumbling houses due to underground tunnels.

 

So, not only did I see the effects of injustice and a corrupt system, there was also the factor of nature hating me, so naturally, I was sick pretty much the entire week. But, I really do appreciate the opportunities afforded to me over the month of traveling. There are some things you really can’t fathom until they are right in your face. And even then, I was always aware of the fact that I was leaving the area, bringing myself back to a relatively comfortable place while those communities continue to fight for their rights and their land and will continue to do so long after I leave the country next year.

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It’s been a while!

It’s been a very long time since I’ve posted a blog, so I’m going to separate my experiences into three separate posts. That way it’s easier to read.

My first two weeks in the Philippines were difficult. Mostly because it took the entire two weeks just to get over the jet lag. My fellow YAVs and I were dead on our feet by 7pm, only to wake up at 3am and not go back to sleep. Towards the end of the first week, we could barely stay up until 9:30pm! Luckily that is not the case now.

We were in Manila for our first week in the Philippines and it was just like any other major city. There was a ton of traffic at all times of the day and night, so much pollution that it was common to see people wearing breathing masks. Of course, rush hour was a nightmare. We spent the first few days learning about the history of the Philippines and visiting major landmarks around the city.

It was surprising to see how influential other countries were and still are on the history and life of the Philippines and its people. The two major influences are the Spanish influence and the U.S. influence – it’s a bit extreme. Although, food-wise, I’ll have to give it to the Chinese; they introduced rice to the Filipino people. I’m told that it’s not a meal if there is no rice; it’s only a snack. I’ve concluded that according to that belief, I only have a meal a few times a year!

After Manila, we traveled to another island to a city called Dumaguete for a little bit of relaxation and fun. It’s very much a college town. In fact, there are about four major colleges in the area, meaning there are a lot of young adults in the area. The traffic isn’t so bad, but that’s mostly because it’s more affordable and convenient to travel by motorbike. It’s also a very affordable city for foreigners, meaning there are a lot of retirement age people in this college town. Overall, it’s a very lovely city, right on the water.

Some of you may have heard about the bombing in Davao, Philippines. If you haven’t, now you have. It was a very tragic happening that affected the entire nation. Security was increased, literally everywhere, events and flights were cancelled – it was pretty bad. Davao was where I was originally supposed to serve my year, however since the bombing, I have been relocated to Dumaguete. I’ll say much more about the city and what I will be doing here in my third blog post.

That concludes the first blog post. I will have the second up very soon. Thank you for being patient with me!