Lola Carmen's 80th Birthday

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

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Flag of Philippines  ,
Monday, October 15, 2007

Greeting's to all!

I have been very busy the last few months which has been good because otherwise all I would have been thinking about is my vacation home! I fly out on Wednesday! It really is amazing that in a matter of hours we can be in an entirely different country! I am looking forward to this vacation but also know I will be ready to come back. My time here is going by fast and there are many projects to finish up before June.

Last month Lola (Grandmother) Carmen celebrated her 80th birthday and we had a wonderful party at the farm to honor her. While on the surface the Philippines might come across as a patriarchal society. When one digs deeper or is immersed in the culture, as I have been the last year and a half you quickly learn that the Philippines is a strong matriarchal society. Lola Carmen is the picture of this role; she has raised her 11 children with love, morals and most importantly instilled in them a strong land ethic and the importance of preserving our environment. She has done a tremendous job because her children are all following her and Lolo Enrique's example and working together to protect their ancestral land. Lola's birthday party was wonderful, nearly 50 people came to the farm to celebrate her 80 years and wish her many more. There was horseback riding, great food and in classic Igorot (collective name for mountain people) style butchered a cow to feed the masses. Lola motioned to me a the week prior that she so hoped her brothers and sisters could come so they would be able to see all the work she has been doing at the farm and understand why she loves being there. They did indeed come and saw all of the beautiful flowers she has planted and the many other touches she has all around the land, from spending her mornings working. In fact Lola works all day with very few breaks, she works harder then all of us combined!! But does it with her humble spirit and strong love for each flower she plants or pile of compost she prepares. My forever image of Lola is getting up early to see that she has already been up and is washing clothes (by hand mind you) singing many of her sweat little songs!! We could all learn something, and I know I have from her years of hard physical work and her patient and calming presence! Another wonderful homecoming occurred at Lola's birthday party. Lolo Enrique's Brother, Lolo Andy, who was the lawyer who successfully fought the 30 year land battle to help his brother legally be, restored their ancestral land returned to the farm. Lolo Andy had not been there in nearly 40 years and it was a wonderful homecoming for him. His return to the farm brought back all of his boyhood memories of the space and his appreciation for the work being done to maintain the land and preserve it for generations to come.

Two weeks ago despite the rain four other Peace Corps Volunteers and I headed to the farm to do trail work. Tom (PCV) was a trail boss for Student Conservation Association as well as the National Park Service so has years of experience and knowledge to share. The main trail leading to the farm is working for now but when it rains the trail washes out in areas and is extremely wet! The weather, as far as getting a lot of work done, did not entirely corporate with us; it rained pretty hard the first two days we were there. However, this was also a good thing because we were able to see how the water ran down the trail and identify the high priority areas to fix. The last two days we were able to get some work done. We built a water bar at the base of the trail to divert run off as well as put in rock steps. According to "Trail Boss Tom" if one person can carry a rock it is way too small for a step. So in classic industrious Igorot style Uncle Bob made a rock carrier and we were able to gather rocks from the river large enough for the steps. Doing manual work like this is so fun and it was wonderful to see the results of our hard work. From now on every time I walk on our steps I will remember the fun we had that week!

Last Tuesday I headed to a near by PCV's site to facilitate a grant writing workshop. One of the most useful skills I have learned here is grant writing (Many thanks to my Sister for this). Suzie works at an orphanage/shelter for street kids; her NGO has only been around for three years and in this short time has accomplished a lot. They have a home for the kids, daily school for them and 20 plus dedicated staff members, most of whom live at the shelter and work 24-7!! Suzie is really trying to help them access outside funding so it was very important for the staff to learn about the grant writing process and be aware of the substantial amount of time that needs to go into writing a good grant proposal. Their project ideas consisted of livelihood projects for the kids building hallow blocks, an enhanced library and new sleeping quarters for the children. It is difficult to work with abandoned, abused and street kids in the US. So I am always amazed with the level of dedication and compassion in my fellow PCV's that are willing to do this same work here. Working with these issues and for that matter every issue in a Developing Country is an entirely different ball game!

Hope all is well! All my love and Peace!


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