We left Transy at 2:30 on Thursday afternoon; over 33 hours later we arrived on Mactan Island at noon Saturday their time. No big disasters in transit; food was good, seats somewhat comfortable. All of the time changes required some adjusting but most of us handled this pretty well. Andre from Outkast was on our flight from Atlanta to LA and several team members had a chance to get his autograph and take pictures with him. That was probably the biggest event on the trip and one of our hit conversation topics with the kids on the Island who apparently love American pop music.
After landing at the Cebu Airport on Mactan Island, we were met by a member of the Island Ventures staff and two Jeepneys to take us to our 3-week home. Jeepneys are kinda like beautifully decorated, scrunched busses/trollies. We all seemed pretty excited by how colorful these vehicles and the city in general are. A huge contrast from all the grey city walls at home.
We arrived at Island Ventures just in time for lunch. The staff is feeding us very well and ever-so-kind. A student from DePauw Univ., John, is spending a few months here on Independent Study and he is a great assest to the group, helping us get accomodated. Already he's taught us some Cebuano phrases and how to catch a trike (one of the most common modes of transportation around the island).
Spent the day relaxing, unpacking, and playing with the local children. They were very excited to meet us, swarming us all afternoon (particularly when we had cameras, ha) and joining in games like duck-duck goose, hopscotch, volleyball, and basketball. They tried to teach some of us a few local games - a dance game and a version of paper-rock-scissors.
Topped off the first evening with bucket-showers and a long walk to the beach. Showers, of any sort, felt like a luxury at this point of the trip.
To start the day, some of us went to mass; most of this service was in English, though others are in Visayan. Other team members went for a long walk across the island and received memorable blessings from an old man on the street side. The afternoon was spent touring the island by trike (these are little motorbikes with covered passenger carts attached; later that night we learned we could fit as many as seven plus a driver on one trike!) We saw some of the sites where the construction team will be working, enjoyed snacks, including roasted pig (head and all), at the house of one of the Island Ventures staff and visited the Mactan Shrine to Lapu Lapu. Though it's said that Magellan was the first to circumnavigate the world, he actually only made it as far as this very island where he was defeated by the natives led by Lapu Lapu.
Sunday night Jon, Joe, Kevin, Becky, Janelle, Lori, Amanda, Sarah, our new friend John and the IVI guard's two Filipino sons all planned to attend a disco held as a part of election week celebrations. We were eager to immerse ourselves in a Filipino activity and maybe meet some locals, but things didn't exactly turn out that way. Before the disco, there was to be a recognition of the winners of a barangay beauty pageant (barangays are similar to American city-districts), with an appearance by the mayor. Upon our arrival, the officials of the ceremony offered our group seats of honor to watch the ceremony, but since it would be a while, they first invited us to dance on the ball court. Pop music blared from stacks of speakers to each side of us, and there we were, nine Americans awkwardly dancing in front of a large crowd of Filipinos. We tried the Macarena and taught the Barangay Captain how to do the electric slide. Then she had some children try to teach us a local dance. The whole night was both tiring and exhilarating, embarrassing and flattering. We've yet to stop laughing. Once the mayor arrived, the ceremony began, but it lasted so long we had to leave when at last the disco itself began. Those who went will have plenty of stories to tell about this; just ask us when we come home.
WORK DAY 1
The health team met with the barangay health workers to revise surveys and organize what they will be doing the next few weeks. They will be going from home to home asking questions to gather data about water quality, hygiene practices, sanitation, etc. The construction crew went right to work building a comfort room (toilet room) at Balong Silang Elementary, breaking out walls, diggingor better said hammering slowlythrough the hard coral ground, led by Peter, a local carpenter who has been hired to help us with our work. IVI brought lunch and snacks and neighborhood children picked bouquets of flowers for the the girls in our group. Many children came to watch, play, and help out. Also, a few students had a chance to watch a cock fight near the construction worksite.
Back at IVI we learned of a play to be performed at the Mactan Shrine that evening. The entire team, John, and the guard's daughter piled into one jeepney (this was a tight squeeze even for Filipinos) and went to see the play. It was a huge production, on par with our Broadway musicals, about Lapu Lapu and Magellan. We were told to arrive around 7-7:30 to get good seats for an eight o'clock show but it didn't start until at least 9 p.m. That seems to be how things go in the Philippines, and the whole team is trying to adjust from our own hurried, scheduled, gotta-be-on-time culture. The play was mostly in Wasayan with some parts in Spanish, so it was hard to tell exactly what was going on, but we got the gist of it and enjoyed all the scenery, costumes, singing, and dancing. Most left early, worn out from a long day of work.
BATTLE OF MACTAN
Today we went back to the Mactan Shrine to see a reenactment of the Lapu-Lapu vs. Magellan battle. Tomorrow is the national holiday commemorating the island's victory. For the opening ceremony, Gloria Arroyo, the President of the Philippines, came to give a speech! It's very rare for her to visit this island, so it was quite an opportunity we had to hear her speak. A few students got to wave at her as her van drove toward the ceremony! Once again, we got to have some fun "foreigner experiences" with people stopping us at the roadside wanting us to be in pictures with them or wanting to be in pictures we were taking.
We completed work at Bilang Silang Elementary today. It was difficult all day knowing this was the last we would probably see of the area kids we had been surrounded by all week. Some of them handed out necklaces and bracelets for us to have as souvenirs, and many asked for our addresses and phone numbers. Hopefully, we can keep in touch. In the mid-afternoon, we had a turning-over ceremony at which the school children performed several dances and songs for us. Some of the youngest, dressed in elaborate angel costumes and bold lipstick, danced a precious number. Don't worry, we took lots of pictures. Also, we sang "Skidamarinkidinkidink Skidamarinkido I Love You" and "Head-Shoulders-Knees-and-Toes" for them, and tried dancing the Bamela and Ocho-Ocho with them. The entire team was present for the ceremony, the health team having joined the group after a morning of surveying. The surveys have been going well. Each student walks with a Barangay Health Worker to area homes, getting to see inside and talk with the families. Seems everywhere we are greeted so warmly; many spoke of older women and nursing mothers standing and making them sit in their chairs and other such hospitality.
Today we took a boat to Pagan-an. We had lots of fun riding the boat and looking at the beautiful islands all around. Arriving at Pagan-an, we had to load our work supplies and weekend clothes/food/etc. onto a smaller boat and walk stomach-deep to the island; that was exciting. This island is much smaller, and much more impoverished than Mactan. There is no fresh water; all of their water has to be bought from other islands or collected from the rain. Their power comes from a solar collection plant donated by a group of Belgians.
The entire team got right to work repairing the pre-school and, as usual, were helped much by some of the locals. After work, we split into pairs and headed off for our first home stays. The families we stayed with were very kind. We had some very interesting experiences trying to overcome language barriers and figuring out how to eat some of the food. Most of the families at least had a member who could speak some English or invited an English-speaking friend over to help. Most of the groups and their host families went walking around the island after dinner. And, as much of the island could hear, Sarah and Annie spent the night singing karaoke!
We finished working on the school, said bye to our host families, and waded back to the boat with all our gear. The boat anchored for a while to let students swim and everyone had a great time. Tomorrow we go to Cebu to spend a day at Southwestern University with Filipino students.
We went to Cebu City to spend the day paired with students at Southwestern University. Unfortunately, we hit the middle of mid-term exams, so we were unable to sit in on any regular classes. Nonetheless, each pair seemed pretty happy with their experiences. Marni went to a dance class and taught the students some American moves; Becky got to visit her hosts' boarding house. It was exciting to talk with Filipinos/Filipinas our own age and with similar interests (we were each paired with someone majoring in the same subject), but whose everyday experiences are very different from our own. On the way home, we stopped at SM Mall, a huge mall that was jarringly home-like and air-conditioned.
The health team worked on home surveys, as usual. The baranguay health workers had worked all weekend meaning there are now less than 1,000 surveys left to complete; the goal of over 3,500 will actually be met! Starting the trip, this number seemed overwhelming and impossible, but it's looking like it will all get done. Team members are really enjoying spending time with the local workers they have been paired with and are hoping to keep in touch.
The construction team started work at our last site, Buagsong Elementary in Cordova. The neighborhood children warmed up to us thru the day and eventually were singing songs and playing games with a few team members while the others nailed ceilings and painted. Becky and Brooke are great at teaching the kids songs, and Erik and Jon are VERY popular. The little girls find them very "guapo" (handsome). Just as happened at Bilang Silang, as we were leaving the site, a swarm of children chased our jeepney down the road waving and laughing. That's a site I doubt any of us can forget.
Another workday. Health team now has less than 200 surveys to complete. How exciting! Things are going well on the construction site. With everyone divided into teams to work and with the help of the kids, we've gotten a lot done very fast. During our nightly reflection, Marni handed out the e-mails she collected from our family and friends before we left for the Philippines and made a large portion of the class cry (happy tears, of course). What a lovely surprise!