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

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Be Careful Where You Swim

December 9, 2012
This was a pleasant day to go for another swim at the river.

As usual there were many people doing laundry and bathing.

It’s a little bit disturbing watching mom combing and picking lice out of the kids’ hair. I execute a quick exit from downstream of that. It’s also disturbing the people leave the empty laundry soap plastic sachets. My habit is to find a discarded plastic bag, they’re always around, and pick up all the plastic trash along the river bank and along the road on the way home. I’m always hoping when people see me doing this they will maybe be more conscientious about their littering.

This woman was drying fish in the sun laid out on the rocks. They’re very small and I don’t think they’re from the river, maybe caught in the sea and brought here to dry as she’s doing her other domestic chores.

Sometimes the river is cleaner than others. Clarity while snorkeling differs on different days. When I think about all the people who might be using the river upstream for various things like laundry, bathing, cleaning fish and butchered chicken as well as the caribou that laze around in it I’m thinking the farther I go upriver for swimming the better. The only thing is every time I’ve gone exploring there has been no end to human habitation. Trails go off in every direction, well worn from motorcycle use. There are many people live in the jungle in nipa huts with no running water or electricity.  


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Founding Day Celebration-A Long Day

December 6, 2012
Dennis giving me thumbs up. He works in Solid Waste Management
This is the 160th anniversary of the founding of Inopacan. This is the day all of the frenzied preparations have been for and it was a long day indeed. It began with a parade. I wore my new ‘Inopacan' tee-shirt and joined all the other LGU employees in the parade.

This is with nurses in front of the Rural Health Unit where Anita works
Sheryl Miraflor, the Villarubins' niece, a nurse and one of my close companions

Letter to Streamkeepers

December 7, 2012 Letter to Streamkeepers

Hi Friends,

I'm definitely ok with anything I communicate to Streamkeepers being used and edited for the newsletter.

Today I attended yet another Integrated Coastal Management Planning Workshop for IMFARMC (Integrated Municipal Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council) for the 5th District of Leyte. The 5th district includes six municipalities of coastal Leyte. Leyte is the province (like a state) and municipalities are like a county. The municipalities are broken into barangays which are like barios. Or like Seattle having areas such as Wallingford, Queen Anne, University and Freemont but on a much smaller scale. At some point a muni can have a 'city' with different government??? but I haven't got that part figured out yet.

My municipality of Inopacan has 20 baranguys, nine coastal and 11 upland. The national gov. has relegated coastal resource management (CRM) to the Municipal Local Government Units (LGUs). My position is with the LGU. Each municipality is charged with developing a CRM plan. As I said before ours is weak but at least we have one. Many don't. Many PCVs are starting from ground zero at their sites.

We have many challenges. Today's homework is to prioritize two project goals from our muni and get the write-up back to Visayan University next week so areas of focus and funding can be targeted. With municipal resources and funding seriously lacking it's funding through the universities that gets research, studies, assessments and recommendations done.

As in the US laws are passed at the national level such as 'municipalities will have sanitary landfills as of five years ago, ha, that is not happening, or munis will establish 10% of their municipal waters as MPAs and enforce regulations of these Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) but the national gov. provides no funding for this enforcement. Most munis have no patrol boats or if they do they have no money for gas for the boats and the only incentive for being an enforcer is a tee-shirt and a cut of the fine money if they ever catch an offender and the charge actually leads to a fine being paid.

The biggest problem and violation is commercial fishing in municipal waters, a no no. But charges never hold up in court because of boundary disputes. Things like political boundaries are decided by the elected legislative body/(city council) through passing of ordinances and these people are always looking out for votes, especially when its election time like now. I don't quite understand why, but for some reason this is why we are having difficulty in delineating our municipal water boundaries.

Politics are very interesting here. The same families stay in power for decades. The provincial governor of Leyte is at the end of his third three year term. He can't run again. His brother is up for election unopposed. His sister is the mayor of our neighboring muni of Baybay and was a congress woman previously. They create dynastic power and if they're corrupt which seems to be the case sometimes it is a bad situation. One fellow CRM PCV from another area had a very difficult time. Her mayor owned the commercial fishing boat that was doing illegal fishing using dynamite (destroys the coral reefs). No body does anything about it. Everyone looks the other way.

Enforcement and support for enforcement seems to be the going concern and at the forefront of all these management planning workshops. The big joke at our first conference with our prospective site bosses and counterparts was them asking if they could put us to work in CRM enforcement. Answer: no

I would like to see us focus on monitoring, doing regular assessments and establishing a centralized database so we can network and share the information.

We need easy to understand visual representations, like pie charts and graphs, we can present to fisherfolk that helps them understand the importance and value of MPAs to their livelihoods. They may not be highly educated but they're not stupid and they know fish populations are dwindling. How can we tell them they can't fish here or there where they used to fish or that we need to make the protected areas bigger without showing them why and the proof that it is really improving their fish catch and will continue to do so in the future?

I'll be proposing the idea of something like Streamkeepers with volunteer fisherfolk trained to do assessments. We don't need expensive instruments, just slates, snorkel gear and some gas for the boats. At first my boss, Cito, asked me if the people aren't being paid what's the incentive. After explaining the people would be those who care about the environment and future and they would know they were doing important work providing valuable information used in governmental decision making, he said yes, he thinks it's a good idea we can propose. YES!

We'll see where it goes.


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Frenzied Work on the new Municipal Building

November 28, 2012
We got the order from the mayor today to pack up and move our office to the new building.

I love our mayor Sylvestre Lamarda. Every day he walks the Baywalk at 4:30 am picking up litter, being a good role model. Here he is supervising the landscaping. They are laying sod. In some places it's solid sod. In other places the one foot sections are cut into smaller and smaller pieces to get more for the buck or I should say peso. Slyvestre told me it is very mahal (expensive) at P150/sq.ft.

After Thanksgiving Get Together

November 30, 2012

Thanksgiving came and went without my usual celebrating with family and friends but some other PCVs and I made a plan to meet in Tacloban after Thanksgiving for our own ‘after-Thanksgiving’ celebration.
yes that is a tower of beer we're having with the best ever meal at Ochos Grill
This was my first time to Tacloban, the capital and biggest city in Leyte, other than landing at the airport on September 19th.
It was very fun going to a couple of different ‘coffee shops’. They have real coffee shops. One of them is called Libro. It’s a bookstore with great books, yummy baked goods and fruit smoothies.
They have mall with a cinema. We decided to go to a movie. The choices weren’t great but we decided to go see the latest Twilight movie at 4:00. When we came back it was ‘standing room only’ so had to make another choice? Trouble with Curves is a Clint Eastwood baseball movie with Justin Timberlake as the romantic interest with his daughter. It was an entertaining escape. When I’m sitting in a movie theatre I forget where I am.
We went to a place called Ocho’s where I had the best meal I’ve yet to eat in the Philippines. Fresh seafood cooked to order. Everything from the scallops, curried fish, fish in sizzling mushroom sauce to the decadent desserts was amazing. 

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And These Little Piggys Came Home

November 15, 2012

Wella, Wowee and Cookie everpresent in the back courtyard. Swift and Jack too but I don't have pictures of them here.
Could it be pigs in a sack?
 I looked outside in the back courtyard to see what was going on. There was a truck with a bunch of rice sacks moving around. I had to laugh. My ex used to make mean comments about 'pigs in a sack'.