Arriving in the Philippines

Hello all! This will be my first real post and there’s a lot to cover so buckle in! I plan to start updating this blog at least twice a week (or more if there’s something particularly interesting to cover). As of this moment, I am sitting in a coffee shop with free wifi for 2 hours waiting on my Vietnamese latte. But for the rest of this update, I’ll be talking about the last several days, starting at the airport in Manila.

The actual flight to the Philippines was pretty long and boring, so I won’t get into that, but the food on the airplane was actually pretty decent. What’s the deal, indeed! I exchanged around $200 and felt like a very rich man carrying around over 10,000 pesos in my pocket. The rest of the interns and I all headed outside to get rides from Dr. Amoloza’s relatives, and my glasses immediately fogged up due to the heat and humidity. I think I’m still adjusting to the weather, but at least its predictable and constant, unlike the fluctuations I’m so used to back in Illinois.

We all packed into a few vans and we were off through the outskirts of the city. One thing that I noticed (and will continue to notice, if the past couple days is of any indication) is how tangible inequality is here. On one side of the highway were newly built residential high rises ; directly across the highway were slums. Through taking Development Economics and reading up on various theories of development in my own time (would recommend), I had been introduced to the Kuznets curve, shown here below. For those unfamiliar, it essentially models how as an economy develops, inequality initially rises and then eventually decreases as a result of market forces. The [somewhat pixelated] graph is below:

Kuznets curve

Even though I was aware of this idea, seeing it in person was really rather shocking. We absolutely have similar inequality issues in America, but I’d say we’re much better at segregating the rich from the poor (yay) – evidently not the case here.

Once we left Metro Manila, we made out way to Los Baños, and settled into our hotel. A few friends and I ended up venturing into town, where I tried my first Filipino mango (incredible). A total of 6 of us representing 3 races [or 4, depending on if you want to count Latinx as a race] and two nationalities, we were quite the sight to behold in this mostly homogenous city, and nearly everyone we passed did a double take. My roommate Lark, a 6’3″ bearded white man – tall even in America – is positively a giant here. It was abundantly clear we were not locals.

Me, with a tasty mango and a jean jacket I regret not buying

Heading back into town after taking a pit stop at the hotel, me and two other friends went to grab dinner. A few minutes after we took a seat outside, our attention turned to a sparking power line across the street, resulting in a live wire falling down and onto the sidewalk. Half the street went pitch black, and we ended up talking to some people at a table nearby about it. Turns out they were students from the University of the Philippines Los Banños, and after dinner we met up with them for some – ahem – age appropriate endeavors.

An example of what power lines look like in Los Baños

The next day (Wednesday) we spent with more of Dr. Amoloza’s family to learn some Tagalog and a brief history of the Philippines. In the evening, we took a jeepney to a restaurant, where I ate two extremely hot small red peppers and enjoyed some classic Filipino cuisine. The next day (Thursday), Lark and I headed to Santa Rosa with Kuya Mellord who showed us briefly around the place. Our apartment is small but nice, with a faint smell of mildew/mold in the air that we are still combating. We are surrounded by very developed outlet malls, and didrectly next to our apartment is a shanty town – another example of the extremely visible inequality present. Lark and I walked through it an checked out some of the shops, and nearly all the children stared and smiled at us, particularly Lark the Giant.

Our time at Human Nature has been brief but enjoyable, as everyone at the office is very kind and friendly. Friday was our first full day in the office, and I have begun to conduct some research on chemical pollution in the Philippines, waste disposal infrastructure, and how to acquire 493 thousand more signatures for a petition to allow refill stations for cosmetics and household products, to reduce plastic waste. This last part is the biggest project I’ll be working on, and I have some ideas (such as reaching out to environmental groups on various campuses) on how to achieve it.

PHEW! I will be more detailed in the next blog post, and include some pictures of the jeepneys and tricyles I have so familiarized myself with. Me and Lark are planning on going to Mt. Taal soon, so I will also report back on that. More to come!

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