A month full of activities!

Trip Start Mar 21, 2006
Trip End Oct 05, 2008

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Flag of Philippines  ,
Monday, November 13, 2006

Greeting's to all!!

I know it has been nearly a month since my last update but things have been quite busy here, which has been a nice change! Between facilitating an environmental workshop with the cave guides, helping my host family prepare for the launching of their organic farm, and celebrating All Saint's and Soul's day the beginning of the month, I have been a busy bee!

The long awaited workshop with the cave guides finally happened October 23 and 24th after many a cancellation and set back. I was quite nervous for this event considering it was my first real output as a PCV and it turned out went very well. Fewer participants came then expected but those that did come were extremely motivated and wanted to learn. The first day of the workshop consisted of introducing the community to what Eco-Tourism means and why it is important. It is a huge buzzword here and the most important aspect of Eco-Tourism in my mind is the Eco component so environmental education is a top priority. I arranged guest speakers from near by municipality's to speak of their success in establishing eco-tourism and had a speaker from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources speak on the importance of land preservation and environmental education within eco-tourism. It was wonderful to see how inspired they were by the success stories of near-by municipality's and I was impressed with their level of engagement. The second day was spent creating their mission, vision, and goals for their barangay and learning the Leave No Trace Environmental Ethics. I was reminded while facilitating this event how much I love helping lead group processes and helping organizations or communities establish their Vision, Mission and Goals for success. It was really nice to feel like I am starting to make an impact here, and most importantly I know that the community members gained something from the two-day workshop.

Friday the also long awaited launching of my host families Eco-Tourism and Organic Farm arrived. Thankfully the weather held out and the typhoon that just passed through did not arrive until yesterday. The sun was shining and there was a wonderful turn out for the event. Around 75 plus people ranging from the Vice Governor of the Province to the local women's organization in the neighboring barangay joined to participate in the public launching of this very special place. The farm has been in the Cosalan family for over three generations and my host Lolo and Lola (grandparents) spent there lives working the land and teaching their children about the importance of preserving their indigenous culture, environment and organic farming practices. Sadly when the near by mines opened they were pushed off the land and it has only been recently since the mines closed that the land has experienced a rejuvenation and newfound health. In order to educate the community about organic farming and the indigenous Ibaloi culture my host Aunt Marilyn has had a dream for many years to turn the farm into an educational and Eco-Tourism destination. On Friday all their hard work and her vision become a reality!!! We celebrated the opening in classic Ibaloi style with readings of native blessings and of course traditional dancing (Tayo). I also gave a brief speech about how special this space is and how important it is to continue the work for what Lolo began there and educate the community about the environment. It will probably be no surprise that I got quite choked up thanking my host family for all they have done and describing the importance of preserving this very special space to the guest. I can't even imagine how emotional I will be when I leave here in 2008. Needless to say the launching of the farm was a huge success and I have included plenty of photos in this update so you all can have a glimpse of its beauty.

Via some mutual friends I have connected with a gal from the states who is a traveling fellow from Vanderbilt University. She is traveling around the world doing environmental work and arrived to the Philippines on Wednesday. She is going to spend a few weeks with me up in the mountains and then head down south and connect with some coastal work with other PCV's. It has been really fun to show someone around my "stomping ground" and helped me see how much I really have learned thus far. Having Stacey here is really helping me recognize how adjusted I am becoming here and it is so fun to introduce her to the Philippines and everyone in my community. Perhaps this is a hint that I would love to have visitors and get to share a piece of this very unique journey with each of you I love so much!! (Hint.. hint)

This is getting to be quite a long update but there has been lot's to share. I do hope you are all well wherever you may be in the world and as always I love hearing from each of you! I will be heading up to Sagada in Mountain Province about 5 hours north of here for a big Peace Corps Thanksgiving bash. Including all the trimmings, turkey, stuffing the whole nine yards!! Really looking forward to that and then it feels as if Christmas is just around the corner! How time flies!

All my love and Peace!!


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