Off I go onto the next chapter of my life volunteering as a Peace Corps Coastal Resource Management Extension Worker

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Super Typhoon Yolanda and the Amazing Strength of the Filipino Spirit

We knew it, Typhoon Yolanda, was coming. The community was prepared. People who needed to be evacuated to safer areas were moved there. Massive cutting of trees happened to mitigate the damage they could do.

My favorite trees in town, a row of gigantic acacias were severely pruned to half their size, filling the street with piles of growth to be chopped up and hauled off. Amazingly, Yolanda blew them apart even more, filling the street again.
Pruning the acacias before Yolanda

After Yolanda the acacias are a quarter the size they were
  Our group of five PCVs in my area made the decision to NOT consolidate in Baybay but stay where we were. Going to Baybay only put me closer to the center of the typhoon.
Villarubins' evacuation center

Our house became a mini evacuation center. We expected it to hit about 10AM and pass in two hours. The wind woke me up at 3AM. We had no power, no cell phone service and of course no internet. Three windows were broken and half of the tree in the back broke off. About 9:00 I realized I had a problem in my room. I’d closed the two windows that would close but the third set of windows couldn't close because of the air con unit. We hadn't thought about the upper two thirds of the window opening having only cardboard in them. The cardboard had been blown out and the typhoon was entering my room. I wish I could have videotaped this most exciting and somewhat comical operation. It took Alex, Anita and I twenty minutes to get the air con unit out and those windows shut. I did take video out windows during the storm. The Firm gas station roof almost took off like a magic carpet but after tipping back and forth ended up standing vertical.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

I'm Back

  A lot has happened since my last blog; the earthquake, Typhoon Yolanda, evacuation and being sent home on Administrative Hold, being allowed to return to Inopacan, and then Typhoon Basyong hit doing more damage than Yolanda.
The epicentre of the 7.2 earthquake in Bohol on October 15, 2013 was 60 miles from here. It was a holiday so at 8:00 AM I was sitting in my room at my computer.  When the roof started shaking and I thought what the heck are the painters (painting the inside of the house) doing up on the roof?  When I looked out my window and saw the water tower rocking and rolling I knew it was an earthquake. What should I do, stand in my bedroom door frame, right? That’s what I did for a few seconds. No one else was around but I could see the two painters outside the front door.  The Chinese urn outside my door was tipping back and forth and the living room chandelier was swinging. I decided I should get outside as quickly as possible. We sat outside waiting for the rocking and rolling to stop for a couple minutes.  I was pretty shaken up. People have jokingly called me ‘Valley Girl’ but this Valli girl is used to terra firma being firma. The strong aftershocks continued in the mornings and afternoons every day. These were as disorienting and scary as the earthquake.  I started feeling the movement non-stop. On the fourth day it was time to fly to Manila for our week long Mid-Service Training (MST).

We were put up in our usual Navidad Pension House the first night.  I couldn't sleep because of the earth shaking I felt all night. I was really scared, feeling panicked, thinking another big earthquake was coming and being in Manila was a very bad place to be and the last place I wanted to be. At first light I was the first and only one up, showering, packing and being prepared for whatever happened. I was sure we needed to be evacuated to a safer place. I sat in the dining area drinking coffee as others showed up for breakfast. I started asking “Do you feel that? Do you feel the earth moving?” Soon I realised I was the only one feeling it. That day we left for the conference venue, a resort on the outskirts of Manila. I wasn’t feeling great. I was going on a week of feeling the movement which made me feel disoriented and dizzy.  I didn’t feel much like participating or interacting. This was really a bummer as the conference was a time for reconnecting with everyone and having fun. I did my best and thank goodness for my roommate and friend Kathy Gavit. She was great.

Part of MST is getting checked out with doctor and dental appointments. While with the doctor I was almost falling off the chair asking her “can’t you feel that?” I’ll never forget the look she gave me and immediately started making arrangements with counsellor. It helped. I came back to site and gradually the earth stopped moving under my feet. Then Typhoon Yolanda hit on November 8th.
I'm glad I visited Bohol and Cebu before the earthquake and was able to see things before so much damage.
Basilica of Saint Nino in Cebu taken 3-16-2013
Inside the church of Santa Nino (baby Jesus) where the original doll like Baby Jesus is gifted by Magellan to the queen of Cebu so long ago.

At the Chocolate Hills in Bohol  6-2-2013 

and after the quake

I visited the oldest church in Bohol on that same trip

Before and after the quake. It's very sad so many old churches sustained extensive damage.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Placing Marine Protected Area (MPA) Boundary Markers

I'm feeling disorganized about my blog posts. Facebook's where I do regular posting and get much needed communication from family and friends. But I have some people very dear to me who don't do Facebook and I respect that. So if I seem a little spacey, who me?, I'm doing the best I can with a plan to keep things chronological but arrrg, can't keep up.
This is me doing IEC on Cosatal Ecosystems and Solid Waste Management
 donned in the Bag Monster costume I made from some
 of the trash I pick up on my walks. Yes the kids loved it.
After the last post about Nahama's swim camp in Ormoc I was having a tough time because I didn't feel like I was doing enough meaningful CRM work at my site. I'd been here eight months. Typically mid-service is the low point for PCVs who've been very busy working with their counterparts on various projects, are a bit burned out, in a slump, wondering if they can last another year, etc. This was not my situation. I'd done a little mangrove and fish species identification, a couple days going door to door inspecting garbage segregation and going to lots of planning meetings and workshops. Other than that I'd done eleven Information, Education and Communication (IEC) presentations in schools. I love being with the students and Environmental Education is crucial for changing destructive behavior but I wanted to do more than IEC in schools.
this is one of six groups of 5th and sixth grade students
 I'd sent in my quarterly report to PC and was struggling with whether to request a transfer. PC was supportive about a transfer but we decided to give it one more shot with the mayor. I met with the mayor and he agreed to give me what I need to stay, everything I asked for and more! I'm ecstatic! It feels like a nine month gestation period and now starts the birthing process.
First and of foremost importance is I have my counterpart back, Benedick Lawagon, diver/fish examiner who for political reasons had been assigned to slaughterhouse supervision duty (yes, Benji is happy) and secondly he gave us funding to inspect, repair and get the scuba gear operational for the reef assessments needed to update our Coastal Environmental Profile (CEP) and Coastal Resource Management (CRM) plan, things listed as work I'd be doing here in my invitation packet. YES, YES, YES!!!
Benji with his son, BonBon when he
graduated from 6th grade to secondary school he's now
attending at Visayan University in Baybay.
Benji with his daughter, Jamela

mom Lani at graduation

Other things started picking up as well. One day, March 6th, I decided to start going to the barangay council meetings on my own and indeed it was good timing. I ended up being able to act as a liaison between the Ezperanza Barangay Council and the Local Government Unit (LGU) Municipal Agriculturist Office (MAO) and Municipal Environmental and Natural Resources Office (MENRO). The council told me they were happy I showed up that day because they would be discussing their Marine Protected Area (MPA)/fish sanctuary.
They expressed a desire to manage, specifically monitor their 30 hectare MPA/ fish sanctuary. They said they couldn't monitor because they couldn't tell where it was because they had no boundary markers. The markers had been lost due to storms.
I returned with Al Galo, MENRO, on April 19th. He advised the council on how to proceed with writing a resolution stating their reasons and intentions for officially transferring MPA management from the inactive People’s Organization (PO) to the Barangay Council.
They did this and asked for support from the LGU in the form of rope. They had 74, 30 ft bamboo poles and weight sinkers they made by filling rice sacks with cement and rubber tire rings for attaching rope. But they didn't have enough rope.
Heading out to Esperanza with Benji and the banka crew
I returned with my counterpart Benedick Lawagon on May 27, with rope, banka fuel and a GPS unit so we could help re-establish the boundaries. I t was a great day and I’m very happy the LGU was able to provide the rope and fuel which amounted to approximately $50 US.The Barangay Chairman, Antonio G. Molato, is wanting very much to have Esperanza's MPA assessments updated.
They had a little machete work to do on the poles

a couple of boys were enjoying a swim
some fishermen were mending nets
the poles and weights were loaded onto the banka

concrete anchor weights
and off we went using a GPS unit to place the markers

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Helping Nehama with her project in Ormoc in April

Nehama is a Batch 270 Children Youth and Family (CYF) Volunteer in Ormoc, an hour north of here. She's been working at the Hayag Family Development Center there.

 Nehama and Vanessa have both COS'd (Close of Service) and are tripping around SE Asia and beyond as they work their way home now. Less than a year and it will be me.
Nehama Rogozen 
Vanesa Reneee Batch 270 CYF came from Sogod to help out too

I was happy to help out with her Swim Camp and Disaster Preparedness Training of Children and Youth project. She needed a life guard. How fun. All I needed to do was hang out by the pool all day. It was really fun to see these kids progress over three days, from not knowing how to swim to being able to swim the length of the pool. And really cool was watching their fear of the water transformed to loving the water so much they didn't want to get out.
These wonderful folks, certified swimming instructors, came from Visayan University (Visca) in Baybay and volunteered their time to teach these children and youth to swim. 
the first day everybody kind of scared and anxious and the pool isn't filled all the way.
Teach Filipinos how to swim is important because most Filipinos don't know how to swim and are afraid of the water. This seems strange given that the Philippines is an archipelago of over 7000 islands and most of the population live on the coast. With climate change, flooding and land slides are occuring more often and many people drown because they don't know how to swim.

everyday the pool got deeper

Local disaster response people came and taught CPR and what to do
 during an earthquake or other disaster situations.

 Ormoc is a much bigger place than Inopacan. We ate pizza and there's a hotel with a restaurant where I found ceasar salad om the menu. You bet I ordered it!  There's even a cinema but I haven't tried seeing a movie there yet.
On the last day we made a camp fire and showed them how we make smores. They liked them.

Nahama had money left over so called everyone back in June for a one day Water Safety Training Follow Up at a beach resort outside of Ormoc. This way they got open water swimming experience and some fishermen came with their boats so the kids could practice jumping in the water with lifejackets and getting back in the boats.My camera'd been stolen so I was camera-less, so thank you Nehama, Laura and Nina Yuniz for the use of your pictures.

Sal's Beach Resort outside of Ormoc

starting the day



Laura Mudge came from Baybay, yeah!