Blood, Sweat, & Concrete

Alright everyone—it’s tomorrow. And you know what that means? That’s right. It’s time for another blog post.

Its 7:15pm here and 81 degrees, positively a cold spell. I think this is the first time we’ve been able to have our AC off and windows open since we’ve been here and actually be comfortable. Remarkable!

Anyway, last week marked the beginning of a new policy at work: a work week would now consist of either 8 hours over the course of 4 days or 6.5 hours over the course of 5 days. L and I chose the former, as we figured we could use the extra day for long weekends to better explore the Philippines. But, that didn’t really work out since Wednesday was a regional holiday and we had to take our off day then. You win some, you lose some.

At the office I spent most of my time ring-a-ding-dinging various colleges’ student affairs offices whose email addresses weren’t available online. This has probably been my most successful attempt at gaining more signatures, as quite a few emailed back and got me in contact with environmental student organizations on campus. We are, unfortunately, still nowhere near the 500k goal. But, on the bright side, one college (Adamson University) played their fight song when they put you on hold, and I’ll tell you it was probably the catchiest fight song I’ve ever heard in my life.

Starting last week, I made a very important discovery that I wish I had made weeks ago. The barangay next to the apartment is absolutely filled with street vendors selling several different types of food—yu chi gow, fried chicken, bread, kwek-kwek, fresh produce, nuts, etc.—for very, very cheap. In restaurants, it’s typical to spend between 100-200 pesos for a meal, roughly $2-$4. I can easily spend less than 100 pesos a day on food and have 3 pretty solid meals. I cannot recommend street food enough, and I regret not embracing it more fully until now.

On Wednesday I celebrated the holiday by getting breakfast, getting a mani-pedi, and biking for a cumulative 3 hours to meet a friend at Southwoods Mall. This last activity is of particular interest because of the remarkable failures that occurred. On the way there, my front tire went flat, and I ended up having to replace the inner tube, as the one I had was punctured. Not 5 minutes after getting the tire fixed, I biked over a speed bump while I was checking google maps and completely wiped out. My bike ended up on top of me, one of my flip flops fell off, and I was bleeding in several places. Worst of all, I wasn’t even halfway to the mall yet.

A cute painting on the side of a school I passed

Luckily, the bike was still in good condition, so I was able to get to the mall. But, on the way back to the apartment, my front tire went flat almost immediately. Turns out the inner tube I had just bought was defective, resulting in my having to buy a third inner tube—I had to buy one a week or two after buying the bike because, you guessed it, my front tire went flat—yesterday at a bike/coffee shop called The Coffee Trail Cyclery in Nuvali about 15 minutes away. I’ve become quite a regular costumer.

The rest of the week was a lot less exciting, but I did get this pretty neat picture ft. a stray dog on my bike ride back from the office on Thursday:


On Saturday morning, me and L headed once more to Makati on the trusty P2P (point-to-point) bus. We spent the rest of the day in the Gawad Kalinga PWD Community, where I painted some concrete houses and helped mix concrete for foundations for future houses. We ended up getting lunch with a few other volunteers, who were all very nice and delighted in taking pictures.

Look how delighted!

I ended up touring the community with two 20+ year olds (Sheilamae and Genesis) who had lived in the community their entire lives – even before Gawad Kalinga had built the houses. They were very thankful for all that Gawad Kalinga had done, and were both employed as teachers. Sheilamae was nice enough to buy me an iced fruit tea, and we all went back to the house later to play UNO and enjoy tortang talog for dinner.

I helped paint the bottom right two units!

That night me, Genesis, Sheilamae and her brother went out to a comedy-videoke bar thing, where I received a lot of attention from the two entertainers on stage. They were both drag queens, and doubled as comedians/backup singers to whoever was brave enough to get on stage and sing some videoke. I had read that the LGBTQ+ community here is often seen as entertainment/just amusing, and I definitely understood that a lot more from this experience, particularly after talking to the others about LGBTQ+ rights. Despite the fact that they had chosen to take me to this bar, at least one in our group was still very uncomfortable with same-sex marriage.

Really neat sign we passed that says “The Filipino is Worth Dying for”

On Sunday, we left early and went to Makati, but before I left I managed to take a picture of some lotion I had found in the house that left me quite discouraged:

“Whitens in 7 days”

I talked to Gen about it, and she told me her cousin had actually quite successfully whitened her skin with similar products. I said something like “that’s a shame” to which Gen replied that if it makes her cousin happier, she’s alright with it. I think both responses are valid; her cousin is voluntarily choosing to make herself whiter, after all. But it is still very sad to me that such disgustingly colorist beauty standards exist, and undeniably were a force—however small—in her cousin’s desire to whiten her skin. No choice is made in a vacuum.

We took a bus back to Makati at 11am, and I ended up staying there until around 5pm. On the way to an Indian restaurant I ended up getting lunch at, I passed this super cool statue of Sultan Kudarat. The plaque reads: Muhammad Dipatuan Kudarat was Sultan of Mindanao during the first half of the 17th century. Brave, wise and benevolent, he was the greatest and strongest Mindanao Sultan that ever lived. He united the Muslims of Lanao, Cotabato, Davao, Sulu Xamboanga and North Borneo and resisted bitterly the Spanish invasion of his Domain. Unable to conquer Kudarat, the Spanish Governor signed a pact with him that led to several years of peace. He was a fearless fighter and Filipino hero in defense of the Islamic faith and Philippine liberty. Kudarat died about the year 1650. I was honestly surprised that such a statue would be erected in honor of a Muslim hero, considering Manila is a majority Christian city and significant tensions remain between Christian and Muslim Filipinos.

Later on, I tried sorbetes or “dirty ice cream” from a street peddler, and checked out the Guadalupe Ruins, which was in fact a functioning church where a wedding was taking place.

Alright, well, I’m nearly caught up. On Monday, as I mentioned briefly, I got my bike fixed, and one of the employees, Eric, gave me a whole cassava cake he had gotten from his friend—I wasn’t kidding about being a regular. Today, I tried some kind of Ube shake from a vendor in the nearby barangay. It was absolutely delicious, and only 15 pesos!

Look how pretty it is!

This weekend, me and some other interns are headed up north to check out the famous Banaue Rice Terraces. I am very, very excited to see them. We have finally made it to today! But don’t fret, there’s always more to come.

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