Tacloban - Volunteer for the Visayans

Trip Start Sep 18, 2005
Trip End Dec 20, 2005

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Flag of Philippines  ,
Monday, September 26, 2005

Hey all,

Well I've arrived in Tacloban City...

My stay in Manila was absolutely amazing but I was looking forward to experiencing the more tropical and less urbanized aspects of the country. The night prior to my departure Leo took me out on the town and we went to a few of Manila's 'hip' spots. It was quite interesting to see that a culture so far from Canada and the US tend to live almost exactly like us by night.
While my night out was very fun, I had yet again much difficulty sleeping (I only got 2 hours). This added my total sleep within the last week to approximately 22 hours... not good!!! It caught up to me and the next morning I felt like I was going to die. It was raining like crazy and my mood was not much better.
The airport in Manila is an experience in itself as there are like four security checkpoints. It was interesting to note that there were stationary metal detectors but that security guards had none of those portable ones. Rather, we would get frisked (one line was for men the other was for women).
I got into Tacloban at around 2:00pm and immediately realized that this was no longer urban Philippines. First off, there are no baggage carousels (it's just a bunch of porters who take your luggage off). Also, there were about seven roosters in cages screaming atop their lungs. It was awesome!!!
I was greeted at the airport from people working for the NGO that I will be volunteering with: Volunteer for the Visayans. There were a few Americans there to greet me and I found out that one of the volunteers is from France. They all seemed to really be enjoying their stay... although it's deadly hot here... much more than in Manila and the sun is shinning like crazy.
At about 3:00 pm I arrived and met with my host family. They all seem very nice and very eager to speak to me and find out more about me. I'm living in a Barangay (neighborhood) about 15 minutes from Tacloban City. There are stray dogs everywhere. The people here are very nice and all of the 'Americanos' (as we are called) are somewhat of celebrities. There are about 20 kids who are constantly surrounding us and asking us 'What is your name' or 'What is my name'. It's really quite surreal.
While I was enjoying myself I did have to recover a serious amount of sleep and at around 7:30pm I went to bed and did not wake up the next morning until 8:00 am... it felt good!
The next morning I met with Ethel (the volunteer coordinator) and Carley (a volunteer from New Jersey). We went on a tour of Tacloban city and I was given some more information about my volunteer placement. The city itself is beautiful as it is surrounded by a bay on one side and mountains (covered with lush vegetation on the other side). After the town tour we returned to the Barangay and ate lunch... then, we were taken to see a coq fight.
The cock fight was absolutely surreal as it was in the middle of a first class stadium. The atmosphere was similar to a boxing match with people betting money on which coq (rooster) would be killed first. It was at times bloody and dirty (the coqs seem to have some serious strategy going). I did bet some money and managed to come out winning about 80 pesos ($2.00). This is without a doubt one of those memories that I will carry with me forever!!!
The next morning I woke up and headed out to Tacloban city to meet with my placement agency (The Social Welfare Development). It seems pretty well organized and I even have my own desk space. Basically, I will be staying and helping out with teaching computer skills and English to the Street Children. I've been told to be quite weary as the majority of the kids are highly addicted to sniffing glue (as it appeases there hunger). In the afternoon I accompanied the head of the Social Welfare Development to visit the site on which a 'Street Children Center' will be completed by December 2005. It was really quite interesting as it turns out that the governor is leasing the land beside the Center's lot and it seems that it is causing an issue (ahh politics). The conversation was pretty stern and it appears that we will have to contact the mayor who will then speak to the governor.
Well, I'm just sitting in an Internet Coffe while exploring the city. It's raining a little but it feels amazing so I'm not complaining. I also found out that paying about $1.00 per hour for Internet in Manila was a serious rip off as I can get it here for about $0.50... sometimes $0.25.

Well, I should probably let you guys go.



P.S. One of the volunteers had to be confined yesterday as they believe he has contracted Dengue Fever. It's a really risk here so I should definitely be applying mosquito repellant at all times. I've gotten bitten but it's mostly by ants!!!
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