These two months have gone by so quickly. We have completed over 161 projects, including nine concrete houses (four families per house) for the Sendong victims. There are now over 80 local workers hired by All Hands/Habitat for Humanity as a way to create income for the victims of the storm and to make this project a little bit more local and sustainable. Honestly, there is no reason for us international volunteers to be here because it would save All Hands a lot of money to just hire local workers; however, having the international volunteers here allows these workers to practice their english, get exposed to other cultures and teach us about their culture. It seems to me that there is a bit more camaraderie on our sites versus the other subcontractors.
The best part of my weeks is when I go up to site early, around 7am and do stretches with the workers. We roll our heads, shoulders, pelvis, knees and ankles. Sometimes the guys get a little sexual in their pelvic rolling, but it is pretty entertaining in the morning. There is also a very randy song that they like to sing. It starts with rolling of the head and singing “Watermelon”, then “Papaya” while forming boobs with the hands, then “Banana” creating a phallic formation and then fruit salad with a grinding of the hips.
If you want to hear more stories about work and adventures here in the Philippines you should definitely check out Mike’s blog. He is the site supervisor. I met him in Haiti and he is back in town taking over this project. He is a pretty amazing guy and a detailed blog writer. Click here.
When I am not team leading, building septic tanks for the new homes, or taking mud out of houses still, I have attempted to explore the Philippines a little bit more. One Sunday, a group of us went to a strange little island in the middle of the ocean. We had to wake up at 500am to ensure that the currents would allow us to visit the island. It was an amazing day of relaxing in clear waters and white sand. Everyone got pretty sunburnt, but it was worth it. A funny thing about this island– which had been created by a difference in currents and therefore build up of sand– was that there was a hut right next to it with a security guard. Someone has to always be watching the island because the Japanese have been known to steal the sand.
Last week I finally had the chance to travel a little bit in the Philippines and ventured to the islands of Cebu and Bohol. Beautiful beaches and lots of old men with Filipino girlfriends. Since English is so widely spoken here it was pretty easy to find buses and figure out where to go and what to do. The hotels were fairly cheap and I managed to find places that were 700 to 1000 pesos a night. There are about 42 pesos to a dollar.
I traveled with a friend and we saw the chocolate hills in Bohol, explored some beaches and waterfalls in Cebu, and ate lots of the local cuisine. There was this amazing dish pronounced “chop-o” that has cooked jackfruit and fish in a coconut curry sauce. So good!
Today, I went white water rafting down the Cagayan river. The raft guides was one of the first people we worked with when we cleared out his home of mud in Emily Homes, a subdivision right next to the river. He told us that his family was easily able to escape the flooding because they had a ladder set up to pick fruit from their durian tree. They could climb up and escape the water. It rained until 3am and the water did not subside until 7am. The fourteen people whom were killed in our guide’s subdivision were all stuck in the houses. Our guide also showed us how high the water reached on the banks of the river. It was over 20 feet high in some places with a crazy current that knocked down hundreds of trees by the river banks.