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.