Hello everyone! I am safe and sound in Santiago, Isabela, Philippines. Stay with me on my first blog post…. Here’s a recap of the last 2-ish weeks:
A 12 hour flight, an 8 hour flight, and 5 movies later… I made it to Manila!!! Immediately after stepping out of the airport, I began to sweat and it was 10:30 PM. It’s hot here y’all. SO hot and humid.
But there is so much more to the Philippines than the heat don’t worry! After exploring Manila for a few days with some fellow YASCers (Young Adult Service Corps-ers), I traveled to Santiago. Tristan, a YASCer who’s lived in Tabuk, Kalinga, Philippines for the past 2 years, Lloyd, who works for E-CARE, and I slowly but surely drove our way up the windy and bumpy roads between Manila and Santiago. I would say the drive took 9 hours because Lloyd insisted we stop every couple of hours for food (which thankfully broke up the time on the rough roads).
We ate everything from sisig (cooked pig ears with an egg over easy), buko pie (coconut pie), goat AND pork adobo (meat cooked with garlic and soy sauce), and many other dishes that were delicious, but I have no clue what they are called. Since getting to Santiago, I’ve had lechon (pig that’s cooked on a huge grilled and chopped like the pig pickins we have in NC), some form of cooked intestines, duck soup, and everything in between. The way Filipino style of cooking means take whatever is fresh in their backyard or from the local market and cook it day of. Ilocanos especially believe that no food and no part of an animal should be wasted (hence the pig ears and intestines I have eaten).
Ilocanos are a type of Filipino people that populate a lot of Santiago and the region of Isabela. That is why I am trying to learn Ilokano, their dialect, instead of Tagalog, the more general language of the Philippines. I have the most important words down: Mabisennakon (I’m hungry) and Mangan tayon (Let’s eat!). At the moment, I’m trying to find a tutor to help me out. (UPDATE: found one!!!)
The first thing we did when we got to Santiago was… KARAOKE! Its a huge pastime here and I was asked to sing multiple times since it was my welcoming and Kellan’s farewell party. Pictured below is Kellan (a YASCer who went home but is coming back for a second year in November) and I singing!
This past week, I have been settling into my room at the diocesan center in Santiago and working. I will be working with local communities on reducing the amount of greenhouse gases released in their rice farming techniques. Here is an excerpt from our project description document: “In 2013, Philippines was ranked the world’s most vulnerable country to climate change due to fatalities and economic losses. The Philippines is contributing to climate change by emitting over 150 million tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHGs) each year, according to the World Resource Institute. Of those emissions, 30% are from agriculture, with continuously flooded fields in rice cultivation being the largest emitter in the field.”
Most farmers flood their rice fields in order to yield a crop because typically rice is thought to be an aquatic plant. However, a technique called Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) demonstrates that farmers can grow rice without consistently flooding their fields, because rice is actually semi-aquatic. Farmers can reduce the water levels in their fields by 30% with AWD and still grow the same amount, or more, of rice. Consequently, they decrease the amount of water they use and also reduce the amount of methane released from rice farming by alternating the water level. All of this prepares farmers for the likely water scarcity in the future and reduces the large amount of greenhouse gases released from rice farming in the Philippines.
My co-workers and I go into smaller communities and communicate all of this in the hopes that the farmers will adopt AWD. We support and train them in the straightforward technique that benefits themselves and the planet. Pictured below is a beautiful slice of this planet in the province of Quirino that we visited last week.
Now, maybe you’re wondering why the Episcopal Church is involved in this environmental work that hopes to mitigate the effects of climate change ? It’s because one of the Episcopal Church’s 5 Marks of Mission (https://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/five-marks-mission) is “To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.” So combating climate change on the ground is one of our callings as Episcopalians (which is pretty cool if I do say so myself).
I’m already enjoying my work on that project and the people I work with at E-CARE (The Episcopal Community Action for Renewal and Empowerment). The people here are amazingly hospitable and kind. There’s always a meal or a snack waiting to welcome you into homes. The staff at E-CARE have also been so willing to help me go grocery shopping, answer my never-ending questions, and teach me about their culture. I always feel welcome, even if I do tower over most people here. The average height for men in the Philippines is 5’3 and for women it is 4’11. AKA I’m a giant at 5’8. I’m enjoying what feels like a late late growth spurt though: everything is built lower, so I can reach things others can’t, and I pretty much can’t get separated from any of my co-workers or friends, ever, since I am one to two heads above everyone else.
This past weekend, Lani and Leia, the cooks at the diocese, took me to Rizal, their home barangay, or neighborhood. We sang SO MUCH karaoke (if you must know I sang Dancing Queen, Wagon Wheel, Party in the USA, and Amie) and ate more food than I ever thought I could fit in my body. We danced we sang we had fun! I loved spending time with them and their families. People here are not only kind, but light-hearted and fun. We are always laughing about something here in Santiago (mostly my poor attempts at Ilokano).
Anyways, that’s a lot of information BUT feel free to message me on Facebook or comment here with questions, concerns, messages, etc. If you want to send me mail, I would be happy to give you my mailing address as well!
Much love from the Philippines!!!