Wow it has been a shit-ton of ages since I last updated.
There is currently a typhoon (typhoon Melor) in Philippines but fortunately it didn’t affect the area where we are staying. For the whole of yesterday and today morning it was raining almost the entire day with some breaks in between. Initially there was a road trip scheduled for us but it got cancelled as the typhoon warning signal has been raised.
And so it’s a free day today arugh.
But from the bottom of my heart I feel as though I haven’t been doing anything constructive for the past 1.5 weeks. Well maybe it’s because I am a workaholic who can’t stop working. But up whatever it is, we really haven’t been doing much for the community engagement.
Anyway here’s an update of my extended vacation, and some details potential EPs would like to take note of, should they decide to take up any project in Philippines. It is not fully comprehensive since I am only typing this off my mind, and giving a day-by-day account would be too long (since I have been procrastinating in blogging only until now). Will add in more input in time to come.
There was no AISECer airport pick-up for some of the EPs and I happened to be one of lucky ones. So they arranged for an Uber to take me to the accommodation after I bought a sim card and contacted one of the local AISECers about my arrival. Sim cards can bought at the airport terminal and also street side vendors, but I would say airports are a safer option. Fortunately the Uber came rather fast (after clearing immigration stuff it was about 5 plus) but the traffic was horrendous.
Reached Project 7 (our lodging area) at 7 plus. Wanted to ask for a receipt from the cabbie for the reimbursement but was told that it was electronic and will be sent to the AISECer in charge instead. The sun sets really fast in Philippines too, at about 6pm.
Accommodation and Near-by amenities
The lodging is a 2 floor house, with 6 bedrooms in total and 2 toilets wtf. 19 of us people are staying in the house and one of the sinks went bust and the toilet became flooded with dirty water. Just imagine the queue for the bathroom everyday.
Other facilities include an old school washing machine (luckily, because I thought we would have to handwash our clothes), rice cooker, induction cooker and tiny (by my standards) fridge. The lighting in the house is quite dim and there are freaking mozzies. The wifi is surprisingly fast though.
The location is quite convenient (by Filipino standards) as it is about 10 minutes walk away to Walter Mart- a giant supermarket, and the MTR station, and 15 minutes to SM North Edsa. For an even bigger mall, there is also Trinoma which takes about 20-30 minutes by foot. Along the way there are also sari-sari stores (ie convenience stores). Other than that there is also water delivery service, at 90 pesos for 3 large gallons, just a phone call away.
Walking along the road can be a nightmare simply because of the noise and air pollution but it is the only way to get there. We are broke students anyway.
Food and such
Meals are relatively expensive since the shopping malls are located in prime districts. A regular meal (as a gauge) costs about 190 pesos at the foodcourt. And they are either very fried, very salty or very sweet. There is also Jollibee everywhere, which is the staple fast food for Filipinos. But seriously, there is no way people can survive on meals prepared outside for 6 weeks. Not only it burdens on the pocket, but also on health.
It will be a big bonus if you can cook, because you can just buy groceries from the hypermart and they can last you for a few days. Initially we set up a house fund to buy breakfast supplies like cereal, milk and bananas, but currently now we have split up into smaller groups to share the grocery cost for dinner and lunch because everyone has different dietary preferences.
And being someone who doesn’t even cook at all, I had to learn the life skill lol. Yesterday 3 of us tried cooking fried rice, but it turned into fried porridge instead because we poured in 1 cup of water at the last minute as the rice was sticking together.
This morning was a free day and so I made a salad for breakfast. For lunch I cooked the remaining chicken and veggies. Was quite happy with how the chicken turned out. *pats myself on the back*
Tried balut as well! Sadly mine was too hard-boiled. There will be a street vendor shouting Balut and you reply with the same response.
We mostly commuted by jeepney because uber/grab car and taxis are money sucking. Jeepneys have start/stop locations printed on the car bodies. Rides range from 7.5 to 12 pesos depending on distance. You board them at jeepney stops or terminals. Sometimes street artisans will hop onto the jeep and start performing (and obviously asking for money). Quite amusing actually.
There are also motobikes with cabins attached as a mode of transport. Usually it takes only 3-4 people, but there was once the driver allowed the 6 of us onto 1 vehicle while we were travelling to Uni of Philippines. It was maddness. He was going full speed on the road and I was one of those sitting at the driver seat. Fares are slightly cheaper than the jeepneys.
Other than that there is also the MTR. A single trip ticket using 6 stops as a gauge cost 30 pesos. The rush hour is way worse than Singapore’s. When you try to get out, you get pushed in by the crowd instead!
For buses, they have locations postered on the bus windows. They come with TV screens showing movies and shows like just for laughs gags (Filipino version) to kill time while being stuck in a jam. A bus conductor comes to collect the fares and hands you paper tickets as receipts. Kinda old school haha.
So far we haven’t been doing much related to our project. The first week was mostly familiarizing ourselves with the location, transportation, prices etc. And nope, there is no AIESECer to bring us around. We figured out the directions and everything else as a house.
For one day there was a 30 minute crash course related to the theory of urban farming by one of the Ateno students who is a horiculture(?) major. After which, everyone went drinking with him and his friends. WTF. Anyway, some of the EPs can really drink.
A day after that we went to an organic farm for yet another crash course, called “Joy of Urban Farming”. Learnt the ingredients for organic fertilizers, different ways of farming, healthy drink recipes etc. What I found insightful was how one of the staff related farming to the narrative of human creation (like how humans were created from soil and dust) and nature.
Then yesterday was a visit to the wet market. I can’t figure out the exact locations because we kept changing jeepneys here and there, but the trip gave me a closer glimpse of the local communities and the kind of food that is available. Tasted their street food like rice cakes as well. The locals really love sweet mates.
Other AIESEC Activities
So far there was a causal welcome party at one of the AIESECer’s house on the first friday. He is filthy rich. It was mostly eating, talking, playing some icebreaker games and taking care of those who got drunk.
Then there was AIESEC Global Village where we displayed items of our own nationalities. It felt like a welcome party part 2, or a family affair basically. Some projects got to work half day but for REAP we got a full day off. The event starts at 6pm and we were already there in the morning. So after setting up the booth and all… it was all free and easy basically. Fortunately it was held at UP town centre so there were some shops to check out.
Places Visited so Far
For once I got kinda sick of shopping malls in Manila because they carry mostly international brands like Penshoppe.
A few of us ventured into Manila’s Chinatown on one weekend. It isn’t as touristy as Singapore’s one, so it was kinda nice to see something still authentic as it is (apart from Lucky Chinatown which is a shopping mall). The buildings are freaking rustic and there are plenty of goldsmith shops around. And there’s a grandiose catholic church open to public as well.
Then visited La Mesa Nature Park on Sunday. Again it was a refreshing break from all the shitty traffic on the road and breathe in some fresh air from the plants. There is a 60 php admission charge to enter the park, and even more charges for respective activities like bungee jumping and paintball.
Visited the butterfly garden which is another 60 php. Well the visit didn’t justify the fee though. According to the sign we can see caterpillars “voraciously feasting on the leaves” but mostly they look immobile, probably due to too much feasting. The number of breeds of butterflies were very limited as well. Some drowned in the water lol and they even flew out when we opened the enclosure gate to enter and exit.
WTF I don’t think I shall talk about this when everyone is trying to scrimp and save. Will save it for a later topic.
Ok that’s about it. I took 1 entire free day to script this with all the distractions in between. Ciao.