Jody's Peace Corps Experience

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Roaming Around

I HAVE NEW PICS UP!!! Click on the link at the right and check out the photo albums labeled Ifugao Days--June, 2006, Out and About in Baguio, Sagada--June 11, 2006, and Thanksgiving 2006. It's been a LONG time since I last posted pics so enjoy!

The past month, I have made an attempt to rediscover my community. There are so many places that I had yet to see. I figured it was time to check some of them out since I’ve been here over a year and a half already. I have visited, seen, and experienced some of the more not-so-well-known places in and around Baguio City.

Adivay-Benguet Provincial Fair
This event is held every year in La Trinidad. Somehow, I missed the memo that it happened last year, but I took a few opportunities to browse the crafts and display booths at this year’s event. Everything from strawberry wine, to silk, to silver jewelry was being sold. All of the municipalities of the province had a booth with their specialties displayed.

Strawberry Fields
La Trinidad is also known as the strawberry capital of the Philippines. Inside the city proper are fields that grow any type of vegetable imaginable…also grown are the famous strawberries. I’ve lived in La Trinidad for a year and half without walking down the street on the outskirts of the fields. It’s a walk that should be done at least once.

Museum of Baguio City and the Mountain Provinces
I finally heard about this museum about 2 months ago. Situated in the middle of Baguio City, one would think that it would be better known, but if you blink, you would miss the hiding building. The museum is dedicated to the six provinces of the Cordillera Administrative Region. A small, glass display case show cases the various cultural traits for each province. There is also an actual Benguet mummy on display. Mummies in this region are done in a bit different manner than what we have learned about from the Egyptians. The dead are strapped into a chair, bound, and suspended. A fire is then lit beneath the chair and the dead person is literally smoked, drying out the body’s fluids.

Tam Awan Village
Tucked into a far off barangay of Baguio is this village of reconstructed native huts. There are about 6 Ifugao huts and one Kalinga hut, which is rarely seen anymore. The village is also home to several artists trying to sell their various pieces of art. The artists are on hand to draw portraits of any of the patrons…for a small fee of course. There is a short walking path through the native huts. At the end of the path is a bamboo footbridge that looks a bit scary at first.

Maryknoll Sanctuary
Anyone who has a curiosity about how the Earth came about needs to check out the Maryknoll Sanctuary. It’s run by the Maryknoll Sisters who are a progressive group of nuns that do trainings about everything from HIV/AIDS and reproductive health to working with children in conflict with the law. They believe parts of all of the creation stories (big bang theory, the biblical creation story, etc.). The property is beautifully landscaped and a footpath takes one through the history of the Earth. A resident artists produces beautiful paintings and there is also an in-house weaver.

St. Louis University Museum of Cordillera Arts and Culture
My favorite museum of Igorot (tribes of the Cordillera mountain range) art and culture, this museum boasts a wide variety of musical instruments, wood carvings, and woven bags. When you walk into the museum, you are introduced to Igorot tribes through miniature replicas of native huts. There are various displays showing religion, daily life, livelihood, art and music. The curator, Ike Picpican, is very passionate about Igorot culture and educating others about it. He gave us a personal demonstration with the various native instruments and led a jam session in which we were able to try playing a few of the instruments.

Balatoc Mines Tour
Only a 30 minute jeep ride away is the famous Benguet mines. Another volunteer and I decided to do the mine tour in Balatoc, a barangay of Itogon, Benguet. Mining was introduced by the American military after World War II. Balatoc is unique in that Americans built this little mining town so as you walk down the main road, you feel like you’re walking in a Wild West town. The first thing they had ask visitors to do before starting the tour is to get outfitted with a headlamp and boots. Then they are lead down to the mine entrance. Along the way the guide explains various tools of the miners. The great thing about the tour is how interactive it is. Visitors are able to operate a drill, ride on an old mining cart, and feel the blast of half a stick of dynamite. The guides also take visitors into the operational part of the mine. The dynamite blast was definitely the highlight of the tour in my opinion. Even though the miner detonates only a half a stick of dynamite, it shakes the whole mine and the sonic wave almost takes your breath away.

So, mom and dad, if any of these things sounds like something you would want to do during your visit, let me know. I’ve enjoyed going to each of these places and I’ve been able to take something away from all of them.

As far as work is concerned, I’m still busy. This past weekend another volunteer and I facilitated a session focused on HIV/AIDS education to the girls and women at the Regional Haven. The Haven is a center for sexual and domestic abuse cases in the Cordilleras. Now that the end of the year is coming, everyone is getting ready for Christmas and New Year’s. Reports are being written and Christmas parties are being organized so things are at a small standstill at my center, but promise to pick up after the beginning of the New Year! Hope everyone has a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR! I’m headed to Sagada for Christmas and Bohol in the Visayan Islands for the New Year. I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures and write about it next year. Until then, take care!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Cooking for 50

I survived Thanksgiving...

About 18 of us volunteers set out at 8:30am Wednesday, November 22, 2006.

Where were we going? Sagada, Mt. Province.

What did we have with us? 120 pounds of vegetables, 85 apples, 3 live turkeys, 5 big bags of groceries and a backpack or two for each volunteer!

Why were we going? For a fun-filled week of cool, mountain air, good food, good company, and to celebrate Thanksgiving of course...

The trip was probably the worst ride I've had since being in the Philippines. I'm not talking about the condition of the road, but the condition of the vehicle. We hired a jeepney to take us on the 6 hour journey as we had so much stuff that we didn't think we would be allowed on the bus. There were a couple close calls as far as motion sickness. We also are in the dry season so the dust on the roads is almost unbearable when in an open air vehicle. By the time we got to Sagada, all of us were covered in a thin layer of dust. Those with dark hair looked like they had aged 40 years.

Thursday was spent chopping, dicing, peeling, etc. the 100 pounds of veggies. All of us worked as a fine oiled machine to get our meal prepared. Ok, so maybe it wasn't a fine oiled machine, but a rusty, old clunker that chugged along and made it through to the end. We had all of the favorites associated with Thanksgiving! Deviled eggs, veggie tray with yogurt dip, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, roasted turkey, squash, glazed carrots, zuchini bake, and a huge fresh veggie salad. 50 people attended our Thanksgiving feast!

My host sister was able to come along and experience an American holiday. We joked with her about if she would be able to handle not having rice with her meal for 2 days. She also enjoyed learning to cook common vegetables in new ways. I loved that even though I couldn't be with my own family, I had my host sister and good friends to share the day with.

After getting back from Sagada, the staff who attended my training of trainers session in October, echoed it for the rest of the staff at my center. They made several changes to the lecture sessions that surprised me a little, but overall, the training went ok. I think that the direct care staff understood the concepts and know how to use the manual.

Today, I attended an agreement signing for several Non-Government Organizations of Baguio in cooperation with USAID and the United States Embassy. The US Ambassador to the Philippines attended the event. Later this month, all volunteers in the Baguio area will be attending a Christmas Party held at the Ambassador's Baguio residence. The Ambassador is newly appointed earlier this year and is very active in social reform. She has been keeping busy with visits to various parts of the Philippines and has visited a number of Peace Corps Volunteer sites.

One last thing, I'm ok! The typhoons that are rocking the Philippines and causing devastation and destruction are far away from Baguio. Although volunteers are in the areas where there have been landslides and flooding. They are safe too, but please keep the communities that have been hit by the recent typhoons in your thoughts and prayers. Another typhoon is expected to hit this weekend in the same area.