Ilocos pt. 2

Ilocos Pt. 2

            On July 16th, we left for Ilocos Norte for the second time during these two months here in the Philippines. But, this day was more than a travel day… it was my birthday! I was having a great day already, and everyone made me feel so special when we met up with the team. Little did I know that they were secretly planning my birthday party! I had no idea what was going on, I simply thought we were going to Jollibee for dinner. When we walked upstairs, and they blindfolded me, I knew something was up. I never expected all of Team 3 to be there! Team 3 is who we were with the first time we were in the field, in Benguet and Ilocos. It was such an amazing surprise to see everyone that I was missing so much! It was the best birthday ever, and I am so very grateful for these incredible people that made my birthday so perfect. That night, Marcia had her first balut. It was overall an outstanding day and I could not have asked for a better birthday and first day in Ilocos Norte!

Jollibee party!

            After the wonderful first day, it was time to get to work. We went to our next barangay, Dupitac. I was back with my first team, with Mam Reina and Sir Allain! It was so great to be able to see them again. This barangay was deep in the mountains. Houses were quite spread apart, so we had to walk long distances to get to the households occasionally. I got to weigh food for the first time, as well as some interviewing and recording. At the end of our time with this team, we had a free day and went to the Piddig sunflower garden! It was so lovely there.

            I was sad to leave this team, but luckily, we had another free day with our new team! We had the wonderful opportunity to go to Pagudpud. It was so beautiful there! We first went to Hannah’s Beach, which had the most beautiful clear water I had ever been in. It was so fun to be with the team and just be able to relax on the beach. My face was so red and peeling by the end of the day! After going to this beach, we visited an important landmark in Ilocos Norte. This was the Bangui Wind Farm. The windmills we saw here provide some of the energy for this part of Ilocos Norte. Just down the road from this wind farm were stunning white rocks. Here is a picture including both the windmills and the white rocks:

White rocks & windmill

            I had heard so much about the beautiful windmills in Ilocos, I was so happy I got to experience this. After these two fun days, it was time to get back to work! We moved to our new barangay, called Nalvo. We were now with a subteam we had never been with, which was subteam 6. I had my earliest morning here. One of our households had breakfast at 4, meaning we had to leave by 3:45 am. I woke up at 3 am and got ready to go to the house. After going to the household, I went straight back to sleep and slept for a few more hours.

            At barangay Nalvo, our subteam leader was Mam Kenneth. She taught us so many things about the Philippines, and took us to some educational places in the area. For example, we visited a salt refinery where they take salt water and remove the salt from it! We also visited a breeding farm, where there were lots of pigs and chickens! Mam Kenneth herself taught us about some of the history of the Philippines. She’s also from Ilocos Sur, so she taught us some Ilocano, the local language! Not only did she teach us about the Philippines, but she also taught Marcia and I how to do our laundry by hand. This was something I had never done before, and I was so grateful she took the time to teach us this important life skill. I wasn’t very good at it, but I’m so glad she taught us this!

            Barangay Nalvo was actually our last barangay that we were working at in the field. On the last day before we left, team 3 threw us a going away party. We had a boodle fight, which is essentially where they place banana leaves on the table a put a bunch of rice and food on it. Everyone sits together and eats with their hands, usually. We played games together, ate cake, and did some karaoke! Some of the team members also said some heartwarming messages to us. It was lovely getting to see some of the people we spent time with and getting to say our final goodbyes. It was so sad to have to leave these people that I’ve grown so close to in the past two months.

            On our very last day, Mam Juliet drove us to the airport. However, we made a few pit stops along the way. The first was a church, called the Church of Paoay. Here is the information about it:

It was very cool to go see a part of Ilocos Norte that had so much history! We got some ice cream & ice scramble (some of the best street food in the Philippines) and started on our way to the next stop, which was the Bacsil Sand Dunes. This was one of the most exciting things I have ever done! It was super fun but slightly scary. We then headed out to the airport and it was time to say goodbye to Ilocos Norte & the field.

This was our very last trip to the field. It was a very bittersweet feeling to know that we were done. I am so grateful for the experience I have gained from being in the field. It was so cool to be able to travel all around the Philippines and see places I never would have been able to see. However, I am glad that I’ll (hopefully) never have to shower with a bucket again!

Short Vacation!

One night in Marikina, we spoke to one of our team members, Berrn, and he showed us pictures from different places in the Philippines. We were feeling so envious of him when we spontaneously decided… let’s go to Cebu! Most of our time here in the Philippines has been spent out in the field. While Benguet, Ilocos Norte, and Marikina were nice, we didn’t really have many rest days or time to ourselves. So we thought we deserved to treat ourselves with the three days we had between Marikina and our second trip to Ilocos Norte. So, we did some planning, and booked the tickets to Cebu!

The first thing I feel I should note was how easy the airport was. We had never really been in an airport here, besides our first arrival, and security was a breeze! We had plenty of time to spare while we waited for our flight. After a few hours, we got on the plane and flew to Cebu, landing about 2 hours later.

On day one of our vacation, we had a chill beach day. We had talked to another team member, Jave, who was actually from Cebu. She told us to go to a beach resort in Mactan. Well, we grabbed the hour to get there, just to find out someone had rented out the place for the day. So, we had to ask around where another nice beach would be. Happy Beach was what was recommended to us! We drove to Happy Beach, which was about 15 minutes away. This beach was very happy! There was a lovely pool and a little poolside restaurant. We got nachos and sat by the pool. At night, they had a fire show. It was so shocking… these people just threw torches around! It was kind of terrifying, but really cool to watch and a nice way to end the day. We got a picture with them, too.

Day 2 was the most exciting day. We started the day at 4 am and drove 2 hours to Moalboal, which is near the southern coast of Cebu. Here, we took a boat to Pescador Island. We got out of the boat and snorkeled. This was one of my favorite snorkeling experiences ever. The water was so clear, and we got to see so many fishes! We all got to hold a starfish, which I unfortunately didn’t get a picture of. Then we got back on the boat and got off near the shore, where we saw sardines. They were so cool and there were so many of them! Then we got back on the boat again, went to a different side of the shore, and saw the sea turtles. They were huge!

After our snorkeling adventure, we got back in the car. This time, we were going to go canyoneering. I really didn’t know what canyoneering was at this point. At the end of the day, though, it became one of the coolest things I have ever done! Canyoneering basically consists of jumping/sliding off of cliffs of all sizes in a canyon. I was scared at first, but it was actually amazing. We ended up at Kawasan Falls, which was a beautiful waterfall. The water was super blue in the canyon, and it felt so nice in the scorching hot weather!

Day 3 was probably my favorite day in Cebu. I was sad it was our last day, but we made sure to pack a lot of things in before we left later in the day. On this day, we did a tour of Cebu City! Shoutout again to Jave and her brother, who gave us an itinerary to do. We started out the day going to a cute café, called Yolk Café. Then, we went to the Taoist Temple. This is such a sacred place and is full of beautiful architecture. We then proceeded to the Temple of Leah. This place truly blew me away. It was on a mountain, so there was a beautiful view of Cebu City, and then the temple itself was absolutely gorgeous. This temple was built only a few years ago, and it was built by a man for his wife who had just passed. Our next stop was the Sirao Pictorial Garden, which was also stunningly beautiful. This had cute little sculptures and beautiful flowers. They call it “Little Amsterdam”, I guess because it resembles Amsterdam. After this, we went to the Basilica del Santa Niño and the Magellan’s Cross.

Then, it was time to head to the airport. I was so sad to be leaving Cebu, but we had a big day the next day. We were heading out the Ilocos Norte part 2! I will write all about that experience in my next blog.

Work in the City

Though our condo is in Manila, these two weeks (7/1-7/12) were the longest time we have actually stayed in Manila. The first week was at the FNRI Seminar Series, and the second week was our field immersion in Marikina. This blog will be a recount of our wonderful time spent in the city!

The seminar series exceeded our expectations from the start. It was located at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City, which is a beautiful city to begin with. We drove past Mall of Asia, which we knew we had to visit later. We then got to the building, where there were nutrition booths everywhere and FNRI friends. We entered a big hall, and there was a stage and multicolored lights shining everywhere. There was a lady on the stage asking questions and giving out prizes. We then watched the presenters, which was really interesting. These people had all done a project to help with nutrition and fitness in the Philippines. One that stuck out to me was a lady that worked with Robinson’s Supermarket. She described how they changed tags on certain foods to the color red, which meant that it was approved by DOST as a healthy option. I think this would be a great thing to implement in the United States, as I personally have trouble finding healthier options and I know many others do too. The rest of the seminar consisted of speakers and more prizes. We enjoyed watching people present their research, like Ma’am Chona Patalen, one of the heads of FNRI.

After this fun week, it was time to head back to the field. This time, instead of a 5 hour drive, it was only one hour. We were in Marikina! We quickly found out that field work in an urban area is vastly different from the rural area. We went out to eat for almost every meal in the city, which we rarely did in Benguet and Ilocos. There was also a large difference in respondents in the city versus in the provinces. Those in the city tended to be more hesitant to participate in the survey, whereas in the provinces, people were happy to join in and even eager. There were some people that, though I could not understand them, I was told they spoke rudely to the team members to leave their household. But, I still met so many amazing respondents in Marikina. And the team members, of course, were incredible. They were so helpful and so fun to hang out with outside of work. One night, we all went out to eat and they surprised me with a cake for my birthday!

We had an incredible last day with the team. We started the day with an amazing breakfast at Rustic Morning. Then we visited the shoe museum! I wanted to go to this museum because Marikina is actually the shoe capital of the Philippines. This place had a collection of former first lady, Imelda Marcos’s, shoes. She had a lot… she left behind around 3,000 pairs of shoes after leaving Malacañang Palace. She is even in the Guinness World Record book for the most pairs of shoes. So I knew we had to go! She definitely owned a lot of extravagant shoes. Dare I say they were a tad bit impractical.

I am so thankful to the team for allowing us to do these fun activities. It was so great spending time with them for our last day in Marikina! After the museum, it’s was time to had back home to Bicutan and prepare for our next trip… Cebu! I will write all about that trip as well as our second time in Ilocos Norte in my next blog… stay tuned!

Adventures and Work

As mentioned in my previous blog, I will be writing about my experiences in Ilocos Norte and Benguet, which include hiking, swimming, and working. I will start with our hike. This was the most insane thing that I’ve done, and I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. The mountain we hiked was called Mount Pulag, located in Benguet. I really thought this would be a simple hike, up and down, maybe an hour or two and we’re done. Then we all got there and found out we would be camping and waking up at 1 am to begin our hike! We also found out during this orientation that it would be about 4 hours to the top, and then 4 hours back down. This didn’t sound so bad when I was hearing about it. I have done some light hiking in my past, but it was nothing like this. The 4 hours honestly felt never ending. It was dark (keep in mind we started at 1 am) and the way up was pretty much straight up steep. I really was not in the physical condition to be doing that much strenuous work! We were all panting, and Mimi would fall every 5 seconds. I had seriously never experienced anything like this. The hike started in the “mossy forest”, which was definitely the worst part. It was moist and the steepest part of the hike. Then, we got to the grassland. I thought this would be better, because I typically associate grassland with flatness. It was better than the mossy forest, but I was very wrong about the flatness. This portion was also pretty steep. After this perilous journey up the mountain, we finally reached the summit, and I guess it was worth it…

It was honestly one of the prettiest views I’ve ever seen. It didn’t even look real – it felt like I was just looking at a computer wallpaper. We arrived just in time for the sunrise, which was at about 5:15 am. We stayed up there for about an hour, relaxed, laughed, took loads of pictures, and then it was time to head down. By this time, my legs, shoulders, feet, everything was aching. I was not prepared to hike all the way down. Going down was better than going up, because we could actually see and we weren’t climbing up steep paths. The biggest issue was that all of our bodies were so fatigued. My ankles, especially, kept giving out and I would fall over nothing. But, after another 4 hours, we finally made it to the bottom and we were able to eat, wash, and rest. That was the best feeling ever. This was definitely a worthwhile experience, and I have no regrets about doing it, although I’m not sure I would do it again!

After everything I talked about in my last post, I never even mentioned the work we were doing! The field work is one of the most interesting things I have ever done. It’s something that we don’t really have in the United States, in that we actually visit people’s houses, random people, and conduct a whole survey. And the people are so welcoming and so willing to let us into their home, most of them even provide us with coffee and food. The hospitality I have experienced here is incomparable to anything I have seen in America. What I observed in the houses was our team members conducting interviews, taking anthropometric measurements, and dietary measurements. The interviews include questions about disease history, types of food regularly eaten, sun exposure, and a lot more. I actually got to interview someone in Benguet, which was really cool to be able to do. The anthropometric measurements consist of height, weight, waistline, hipline, and blood pressure. I did get to take some people’s height and weight, but I mostly recorded the numbers from the trained worker. I haven’t learned how to take blood pressure yet, but one of our team members actually tried to teach me how to do it! That was really nice of him. I’m still pretty bad at it, but at least I have an idea of what to do now. And lastly, the dietary measurements. This includes weighing the food and doing a 24-hour food recall. The dietary researchers have the most time constraining job of them all, because they must go to the house before each meal. This means that sometimes they might have to go to a house at 3 am, depending on the family’s schedule. They have to weigh all of the food the household is about to eat.

Teaching me how to take blood pressure

After being in Benguet for about a week and a half, we headed up to Ilocos Norte. The temperature change here was drastic, as it is quite cool in Benguet and very hot in Ilocos Norte. However, we had something to help cool us down: the ocean. On one of the days we were there, we got to have our own little beach day. The tide was quite high so we spent our time chasing the waves. It was really nice to relax after our hard work.

This and my last blog post covers most of the activities we did during our first trip in Benguet and Ilocos Norte. There was definitely a lot to get used to, but by the end the teams made it feel like home for us. And this was only the beginning; we still had two more trips left! But, stay tuned for an update on our week back in Bicutan.

Out in the Field

Well, the past two weeks have been eventful, to say the least! I have experienced a lifestyle that I never thought I would be apart of. It was such an interesting perspective, hard to put into words, but I will start from the beginning.

Our first destination was in Benguet, which is up in the mountains. This was actually really great, because it was so much cooler, we weren’t sweating buckets like we had been in Manila. The first night, we stayed at the Gladiola Hostel in La Trinidad, which was a pretty urban area. We met some of the field researchers we’d be working with, such as Ma’am Juliet, Ma’am Reina, Sir Lyle, and Sir Allain. They were so sweet and welcoming, and it made me excited for our trip. We all went to the strawberry farm. It was so beautiful; here are some pictures:

This was a fun start to a trip!

After all the fun of the first day, it was time to get to work. We split up into two groups, so Mimi and I had to say our farewells to Marcia and Kenzie. We headed out to our first barangay (town), which was called Eddet.

This was the bridge we had to cross to get to the barangay. And then we were there! And all I could think was, “this is it, we’re really here” after all the anticipation leading up to being in the field. The culture was so different from everything I’ve experienced in the United States. It was so exhilarating for me to be so immersed in it. The most different thing for me was the bathroom. This was pretty hard for me to get used to, as we can’t really flush the toilet, we just pour water in the toilet. We also have to bring our own toilet paper, which was something I wasn’t quite prepared for. Luckily, Mimi was more prepared than I was and packed some baby wipes for us to use! The most different thing for me was showering. We basically had a bucket and a little pale, and that was it. It was so hard for me to get used to that, but after a while it turned out okay. I think I would still prefer the regular showers we have back home.

Something else that shocked me was the BUGS. Looking back, I guess I should have expected this, but in the moment I was terrified. We found 5 cockroaches in one hour at our second site, and I was kind of scarred from that. The flies were the most annoying things I have ever dealt with. For some reason, they were very attracted to me. But, once again, this was just something I had to get used to. I knew they wouldn’t harm me in any way.

Besides some of these things I had to adapt to, the field truly was an incredible experience. I know I have grown so much from just the past two weeks. It has made me more independent, more culturally aware, and more adaptable, among other things.

I know I have been rambling a bit, but there’s just so many emotions I felt during this trip. There were a lot of other events that occurred, and I don’t want to make this blog post too packed. Stay tuned for my next blog post to hear about our trek up a mountain, chasing the waves, long bus rides, being touristy, and our work in the field.

Weekend in Manila

It has now been a week since I left the United States. And I have to say, I don’t really miss it! The Philippines is amazing. The views are beautiful, the people are kind, the food is delicious. The two things I can’t get used to are the heat and the bugs. Monsoon season is approaching quickly, so that’s another thing I have to get used to.

We moved into our condo at Siena Park yesterday, and we are loving it. The beds are so comfortable and the AC feels great. We even have our own little kitchen! Getting to the condo was quite the adventure, though… we walked there, but of course we got lost in the 100+ degree weather. It took us around an hour to find our way. We made it to SM, the mall down the street, and then split up. Marcia, Anaol, and I decided to stay at SM and wait for a Grab (basically Uber) so we could get there quick and send directions to the rest of the group. This didn’t exactly go as planned. It took forever to find an available Grab, and before we were on the way, I received a call from Michael that they had already gotten to Siena Park! Eventually, we made it, and got to relax for the rest of the day. I learned that navigating through a foreign country is not an easy task! Special thanks to Kuya Mellord for waiting with our luggage for so long while we tried to find our way.

SM has become our favorite spot in Manila. We have gone there every day. It has everything, and it’s such a close walk from our condo. I bought this fan, and it has been such a good investment. A great way to deal with the heat!

We also found our new favorite coffee shop, called J. Co. They also sell amazing donuts. In fact, we’re there right now. This is what a just ate:

Anyone that comes to the Philippines needs to try this place. For lunch today, I had spicy squid. That was quite an interesting experience. It was pretty good, but nothing like I have had before.

Yesterday at SM, Marcia and Mimi had to buy a hotspot. While Kenzie and I waited for them, we were listening to a lady speak at Huawei. I think there was an event going on there, maybe a release of a new phone? I’m not sure, but they were giving away prizes. One prize was a selfie stick. All we had to do was post a selfie on Instagram with the hashtag #iamonewithhuawei and get 5 likes. The first person with 5 likes won the selfie stick. Well, this was exceptionally difficult for me because it was about 6 am where most of my followers were. But, guess what…

I love my new selfie stick! We made sure to get some pictures with it:

Well, starting tomorrow, we won’t be able to come to our place, SM, for 13 days. But that’s okay, because we’re going to Benguet! It will be our first time out in the field. I’m eager to see how it will be, and what kind of adapting we will have to do. It’s in the mountains, so the climate should be a bit tamer as far as temperature goes. I’m not sure how the internet connection is going to be there, so this may be my last time writing for a while. I will make sure to take lots of pictures and write a lot about my experience there.

First Week Here!

Hello world! We have arrived in the Philippines. After much preparation and anticipation, it’s hard to believe we are finally here. I have already learned so much in the first couple days. On June 12th, all of us interning in the Philippines had orientation. We met Kuya Al and Tita Vicky. They were amazing, and taught us so much! They really embodied the hospitality of the Filipino people. Today, we got to the Food and Nutrition Institute (FNRI)! We visited the mall and ate lunch with Tita Czarina, an employee at FNRI and one of the nicest people I have ever met. I had spicy paa with rice, and leche flan for dessert. We then met with the directors of the Nutritional Assessment and Monitoring Division. They were so kind and welcoming, and I am so excited to work with them for the next two months. We got our schedule for our time here and told us their expectations for us. I am so happy to be working with FNRI-NAMD and grateful for this opportunity.

While being in the Philippines is so fun and exciting, I have also faced a lot of culture shock. One example of this was the traffic. It is so different from America! It’s almost as if the lines don’t exist; motorcycles weave around cars, and cars will cut each other off so often. Not to mention, pedestrians just walk through traffic. I would not be able to drive in this traffic. We also experienced the pedestrian side when we walked to Jollibee, a fast food restaurant. We were walking right on the street, next to the traffic. It was scary, but Tita Czarina helped us stay calm. There is definitely a lot I have to get used to during my time here!