Ten weeks in The Philippines…

by Bash Lory

photo of a guard..

Guard: “Sir! Sir!”
Me: “Yes! Hi-”
Guard: “Please take a picture of me and my shotgun!”
Me: “Haha..yeah.. sure…like how…do..you..-”
Guard: “Just here, with this background is good. Okay… Wait.. No! Here! Okay, go!…. This will be for my Facebook!”
Me: “Yeah..haha…”

…took the picture (below)…

Guard: “okay! Thank you! I have to guard now! Bye!”

…not entirely sure how he expects this to get to his Facebook profile.

I do not think he took his job too seriously…

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some snapshots..

Here are some quick pictures I took today..

The man in the blue shirt sitting on the chair is the principal, just chilling with a couple locals at the front gate.

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A picture of the whiteboard with the timetable I was told to copy down my schedule from…

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My neighbours playing in the driveway leading to my hut.

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This is one of my neighbours making a right mess of my driveway…he actually diverted that water to make some sort of river that I have to cross on my bike every time I leave my house now. I was not pleased, but still just smiled… he’s only young…

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An introduction?

Teacher: “Okay, so erm just wait outside”
Me: “What .. like here?..I –
Teacher: “Just here, by the door, so the students cannot see you.”
Me: “Oh okay, yeah sure..”
Teacher: “Yes, okay. Oh, and when I will ask you to introduce yourself, please don’t say too much. I want the students to ask you questions.. Okay, One second!”

…. The teacher enters the classroom without giving me time to reply. I hear –

Teacher: “Please stand!”

… I hear the shuffling if chairs, and assume the class stood.

Teacher: “Goodmorning!”
Class: “GOOOOOOODMOOOORRRNINNNGGGG SIR!!! IT’S NICE TO SEEEEE YOUU AGAAAAIIINN!!!!” (it was very loud)
Teacher (smiles): “Yes, thank you. Okay, please sit”

… Class sits down.

Teacher: “Welcome to El Nido highschool school year 2012 2013. I will be your biology teacher for this year. Before I distribute your textbooks, I would like to introduce to you a volunteer teacher, Sebastian Lory.”

… 2 seconds went by, and then I stuck my head through the door, thinking that may have been some sort of cue for me to enter.

Teacher: “yes yes, please enter now!”

… The class clapped.

Me: “yeah, er, hi everyone!”

… The room was filled with 70 kids aged about 12. The classroom was segregated, with the girls on the right and boys on the left. They were all very well dressed and had all clearly spent at least 10 minutes in front of a mirror gussying up before coming to school (some of the girls were still at it, combing there hair and applying some sort of white powder to their face). After my entrance, the children all started giggling and exchanging little whispers. I can only assume they were talking about me. Made me feel a little on edge.

Teacher (to me): “Okay good. Now, please tell the class a little bit about yourself.”
Me: “Yes of course! Well, my name is Sebastian. I will be volunteering in the school for about two and a half months. Today I have just come to introduce myself to you all and the other classes, and I will begin teaching a few of you starting tomorrow!”

… Kept it short as instructed.

Me: “…..Do any of you have any questions?”

… I look over to the teacher who gave me a discreet nod of approval. So far so good.
I expected little, if any!! questions. The classroom exploded. It was as if I had just thrown a flaming torch into one of those extremely overpopulated bat caves. I literally moved backwards and lightly hit the wall behind me. I looked over at the teacher again, who was now quietly laughing to himself and clapping. I just froze there like a deer in headlights.

Teacher: “Okay okay okay. Thank you Sebastian.” …maintaining his smile, he said quietly to me, “Okay, you can exit now, and I will see you tomorrow.”
Me: “But don’t I need to answer the questions?”
Teacher: “Haha, yes, I think they have had enough for today. See you tomorrow!”
Me: “…haha yes (forced laugh), okay then! Bye!”

…I leave the classroom feeling like some sort of bizarre exotic pet someone had brought in on show-and-tell day. I start walking back to the principals office to find out who wanted to show me to their students next. As I walk away, the class still in chaos….

Teacher (to the kids): “Yes, yes yes… I know, I know… Now let’s all calm down”

… I walk about 10m further away from the classroom…

Teacher: “Wait! Wait!”

… I stop and turn. The teacher is jogging pretty fast towards me, almost a sprint really …

Teacher: “I forgot! Today is blue, so we wear a blue shirt. And tomorrow is a different colour, so please wear purple.”
Me: “I erm, I don’t know if…. I have pur-..
Teacher: “Haha yes okay! See you tomorrow, bye!!”

The teacher turned around, and ran off (this time it was definitely a sprint). He had to stop and walk the last couple meters.

I get to the principals office and the principal meets me at the door. I think he was about to leave.

Principal: “Hi Blass! Have you had lunch?”
(it was 10am)
Me: “Erm, no.. No haven’t got round to ….-”
Principal: “Okay, and breakfast and coffee or tea?”
Me: “Well.. I had a bit of bread before I came in.”
Principal: “Yes okay. Come, come. There is a fish.”

He led me out of his office with a polite hand gesture, and then headed for a nearby classroom. He seemed to be walking quite fast, and so I trailed a pace or two behind casually keeping up with him. We arrived to find there was indeed a fish, cooked, and about 15 teachers getting ready to dig in. The principal looked mildly disappointed. I think he was hoping to get there sooner. They all insisted on me getting a sizeable piece of fish. Turned out to be quite nice. The principal didn’t get any.

I will try and take some pictures of the students tomorrow, and perhaps film a little in class if the teachers let me.

Staff meeting..

I walk into a room and there are about 10 teachers discussing the timetable for this coming semester. The principal sees me out of the corner of his eye, and suddenly leaps over, grabs my arm, drags me to the front of the room and introduces me as “Bastion”. I almost corrected him but then thought.. how many of these teachers are gonna remember anyway? So I left it. He sits me down in between two women. At first I was fully engaged in trying to understand what was apparently a timetable written on a whiteboard at the front. It was only until about after 5 minutes in, that I’d given up trying to follow the meeting, and had a little look around. Woman to my left was flicking through a magazine about washing machines. Woman to my right was sewing (with a sewing machine). Woman sat behind me was sorting out her kid that she’d brought along.

…I was utterly confused.

It’s moments like these, that I wished I had invested in a spy camera… I’m always thinking about getting one, but never do because I don’t think think I’ll ever be putting it to use. I will definitely get one for my next trip – because it’s moments like these, that no words can really do justice. It was mental.

After the meeting finished, I went up to one of the teachers..

Teacher: “Oh hi! Sorry what was your name again?! Haha”
Me: “haha.. It’s Sebastian, but you can call me Bash…”
Teacher: “Basss?!!??”
Me: “Err yeah sure yeah haha… So… When is it that I have to teach?”
Teacher: “oh it’s on the white board!”
Me: “yeah no, just having a little trouble understanding it.. with it not being in English and that..haha”
Teacher: “ahh okay, I will write it down for you!!” (didn’t appreciate my humorous remark…)
Me: “yeah! Haha… Thanks!”

She wrote it down on a piece of paper in non-chronological order for some bizarre reason and kept on mentioning something about pearls and daisies… With all the stress trying to understand the meeting while dealing with all the distractions around me (people sewing and raising children), I couldn’t be bothered to ask her what the daisies and pearls had to do with my timetable.. So again, I left it.

First day of teaching is tomorrow, 8:45, biology, 70 kids.. Not quite sure what I have gotten myself into.

Here are some pictures of the school:

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Visiting the school

I visited the school today and met the principal. Seemed like a nice guy, laughed a lot… The school was amazing. I unfortunately didn’t take any pictures while I was there today, thought that would have been a bit much, didn’t want them to feel like this was some sort of touristic endeavour of mine. It was fascinating though; imagine your everyday western high school, then imagine a bomb exploded on it, and then coming back to visit 50 years later. Tree roots covered the paved paths and vines hung down from the roofs. The classrooms looked like they hadn’t been touched in 50 years. Each classroom had metal bars in place of windows (for some reason?) and a door held closed with a padlock. The IT room had about 10 computers from the 90’s, covered in dust with the odd finger mark on the monitor. The rooms were dark with no lights and had broken blackboards with the remnants of lightly erased chalk markings from yesterdays class….But I kinda liked it. It had this eerie post-apocalyptic awesomeness to it that made it all seem interesting. It gave me the feeling that I will have plenty of stories to tell once I’ve finished here. I wished I did have pictures! But I am going back there in 20 minutes for my first ‘staff meeting’ (ha!) … And will try to whip out my camera and take a few pictures and upload them later!

Meanwhile, this is what a progressing monsoon shower looks like. And where I eat my lunch.

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Getting there…

Two nights ago I arrived in El Nido, Palawan – link to map – after two days of travelling, 4 flights, 16 hours of flight time, followed by a 6 hour bus journey, I had arrived. Not much excitement happened on my travels, slept most of the way, bit of turbulence here and there, but mainly just got to where I was meant to go. Bus journey was horrendous though. If there was a bus journey that took you to hell, that would probably be it. It was literally 6 hours in a bus (night bus, from 22:00 to 4am) jam packed with Philippinos, driving on a dirt tack littered with pot-holes that could have easily been mini craters as far as I’m concerned – massive. This didn’t stop the driver from going 60kmh+. I don’t know who or what he thought he was, what kind of average speed he was trying to achieve, or whether he was simply trying to make the trip as uncomfortable as possible. He barely braked on corners, and I swear to you, on a few occasions he two-wheeled it – everyone on the bus screamed.. Well I couple laughed, but I don’t think they understood the true severity of what was happening. I couldn’t decide whether the bus driver was extremely good, or extremely bad and very lucky. I concluded that he must be quite good, because the corners he didnt two-wheel, he drifted. I spent most of the journey figuring what would be the best thing to do should the bus roll on its side, and decided it would be to jump up out of my seat, and cling onto the luggage compartment above me, so that when the bus tumbles on its side, I’d be standing up right.

The bus arrived 1 hour early. I didn’t get any sleep.

I arrived in el Nido at 3am, got myself booked into an over priced hotel (only one that was open) and slept for a good 5 hours. Woke up, met my friend here who spent the good part of the day with me sorting out my accommodation and bike that I’d be using for the next 2 1/2 months. I ate my lunch in one of the two restaurants here ran by westerners (by accident). Wasn’t feeling like eating anything adventurous just yet, had a long few days, was sleep deprived and just couldn’t be bothered with not knowing or understanding what I was eating. I got a pizza (Hawaiian, tropical at least). You’d think a westerner would know how to make a pizza. The only thing pizza about what I was served was that it was round.

Here are some pictures of my room, my bike just outside parked outside, and the view from one of my windows! More posts coming very soon!

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