Tag Archives: philippines

Spider Webs

Is there anything quite like walking through a spider web?  For those of us with our spider issues (I’m not phobic, but nearly), the sensation rests somewhere between a shudder and a gag.  The other morning, out jogging at 6:00 am, I was the lucky human that got to tear through all…those…webs.

I use the word “tear” here quite intentionally:  while the feeling it evokes in humans is far from pleasant, I can’t imagine how awful it must be for the spiders.  And yet, I can tell you exactly what they do:  they re-weave.  They probably don’t hum and haw and go tell their neighbor spiders about how horrible it was (oh, the arachnidity!).  They just get on with it.  Far-less dignified dogs enthralled with their daily walk carelessly destroy hours of intricate labor, and they re-weave.  Screaming little girls flail their arms madly about them in horror, certain there is an army of 8-legged creepy-crawlies making a home of their hair, and they re-weave. Depending on the type of spider, it could just be a particularly windy day, and they re-weave.

We humans aren’t quite so zen about it all.  Home is a word that means a lot more than the place where we sleep and trap flies who we’ll bring to a demise worthy of the most horrible horror films.  Home is where we raise our children, where we make love to our partners, where we break bread with the people we love most dearly in the world.  Home is – or should be – where we seek sanctuary.

Only sometimes, that just isn’t the case.

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Spit it out. Or don’t.

Picture it:  we’ve just flown into Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.  It’s nearing midnight, we’ve been flying for 12- and 16 hours respectively and are destroyed.  We know that our accommodation won’t be perfect – the last time we stayed there, we had to wait an hour for the room to be prepared, the trash bin in the bathroom was strategically placed under the sink’s piping since water gushed into it each time the sink was turned on, there was no air conditioning and no screens on the windows to keep out potential roaches, mosquitoes, etc.

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It’s the little things.

Probably one of the hardest parts of life in London for me was the difficulty I had in differentiating between what were cultural differences, and just my own stubbornness/bad attitude/personal issues. It feels hard to articulate now, but at the time it was impossible.  I was dealing with the pressure of being a new grad in a completely new profession, with with a less-than-zero understanding of the way that field worked in my own country, let alone in a new one.  I didn’t even have a clue how finding a job worked generally in England.  I had just moved from one of the sunniest places in the world – Southern California – to one of the greyest – London.  I had a partner but no other friends, a goal but no idea how to reach it, and a lot of natural-born impatience with which to contend every day.  The fact that everyone spoke my language (although that’s debatable in itself, and many of my Brit friends would concur) and none of the food was that surprising (and therein lay the trouble!) made me feel like there was no culture shift I had the right to be shocked about.

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An Appeal…Please take a moment to read

As you all know, Chris and I moved to France in October after a year of living in the Philippines. We stayed in Cagayan de Oro, and I worked both in CdO and Iligan, for the entirety of the time we lived there. And if you’ve turned on a TV, read a newspaper, or listened to the radio in the last few days, you’ll know that there has been a terrible disaster there, the effects of which cannot yet be surmised.

I think it’s important to give context to what has happened. Washi was not a typhoon – it was a tropical storm during which roughly one month’s worth of rain fell in less than twelve hours. Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City were the worst hit for three reasons: 1. They are port towns, so they are highly populated; 2. They are both home to vast river systems which were unable to withstand the rainfall, and which also contribute to the high population; and 3. As they are so populated, they are home to many poor people, and as is usually the case, the poor were the most affected in this tragedy.

Neither Iligan nor Cagayan de Oro could have been prepared for this; in all the time that we lived there we were constantly told how “safe” it was there as compared to Luzon, where typhoons are the norm every year. People with no access to electricity could not have known the danger that was coming. Worse yet, many people lived in shanty towns along the riverbanks, and were the most affected.

However, one of the reasons that the disaster is on this scale – that is, why so many people have died and have lost their homes – is not the storm itself, but the landslides that followed suit. These landslides were the direct result of irresponsible logging and mining practices that have been taking place in Mindanao for decades. And the vast majority of the companies who run those operations are not Filipino at all. Millions are made every year off of the hard woods and minerals that are found on this amazing island, and the end result is unsafe working environments for miners, loss of habitat for indigenous species, loss of ancestral lands where the mines exist, deforestation to the point of desertification in several areas, increased conflict in the face of increasingly fewer resources to exploit, and landslides that have been the source of lost homes, destroyed livelihoods, and loss of life for a long time. This horrible tragedy is in large part just one side effect of the greed of these corporations and their disregard for the impact of their business on people’s lives.

There are certainly tragedies like this every year – sometimes a few times a year – and we realize it is difficult to part with funds right now, particularly as it is Christmas/Chanukah and times have been rough. But right now the opportunity to pitch in is a whole lot different. That’s because we’ve got friends on the ground there who we have worked alongside and trust explicitly, and who can see to it that anything you can donate will go directly to the source. That is to say:

1. If you want to donate to an organization working with children, we can make that happen.

2. If you want to give money to a specific family toward rebuilding their lives, that is completely doable.

3. If you want to donate to a grassroots organization working in the most profoundly affected areas, with specializations in disaster risk assessment and disaster risk reduction, that can be done.

And I’ll do anything I can to make it as easy for you as possible.

This tragedy, like all the others, will pass out of the limelight eventually. But remember that anything you can give would mean so much. To give you an idea, US $20 is the equivalent of Php877. That’s enough to buy food for a large family for more than a week, to provide safe drinking water – although how much, I’m not sure, because I know there are severe shortages at present. 20€ is Php1,146. £20 is Php1,370. Our friend Laura, who works for the German development branch DED/GIZ has raised 5000€ in the last few days, and while it’s a drop in the ocean, it’s a pretty nicely-sized drop, and will be spent directly on the people experiencing this disaster. She’ll be helping us to make sure your money goes right where you want it.

Again, I know times are tough. But I also know that you are amazing people with huge hearts, and that some of you will be able to part with a little to help a lot. I’ve never done something like this before, but I feel really compelled, knowing how bad this has been and how directly you all can help. Please consider – and if you can help, just email me at ann at presentpathway dot com and let us know which of the three methods I’ve listed you’d like to take. For what it’s worth, we seriously appreciate you taking the time to read this, and we really look forward to hearing from you.

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Out of our hands but close to our hearts

At some point – now I don’t remember when – on Friday, I decided to glance at the headlines.  So much happening in the world lately…as much as the news depresses me, I’ve been trying to stay up-to-speed.  Right away, I noticed a story about a typhoon in the Philippines…this is nothing too shocking, because, as many of you will have heard and read in the news over the last few days, typhoons hit the Philippines several times a year, particularly in Luzon, where Metro Manila, with its 11.5 million people, stands at the as-ready-as-it-can-be year on year.  But this headline said “Southern Philippines,” which was unusual.

Mindanao, the second-largest of more than 7000 islands in the Philippines, is called the breadbasket of the Philippines for good reason.  Fruits, vegetables, and fish are abundant there, but also minerals and hard wood, with the potential to bring a weighty income into the country.  Of course, it has never played out that way – all the resources of the island are routinely exploited by the “haves,” while the “have-nots” are tasked with honing the skills and producing the labor necessary to line the pockets of foreigners and a few very wealthy Pinoys.  Without a doubt, extensive logging and mining take their toll, and most recently that toll has been human life and livelihood.

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And we’re off…

It’s 7:36 am on our very last day in the Philippines.  In 16 hours, we’ll be high in the sky, en route to Paris via Dubai.  I’m not sure whether we should be overcome by emotion, but for the moment we’re feeling pretty mellow.  Also, I’m personally glad that we had some time to hang out in Manila.  It’s not that we had the chance to do anything touristy – in fact, outside of some excellent dinners, our stay here has been decidedly uneventful.  But it’s fitting, I think, to bid adieu to this city, as well as those we got close to in Mindanao…I can’t say that my heart went out to Cagayan de Oro…maybe a little bit more to Iligan…but I’d completely forgotten how much I love this crazy town.

So here we go…off to the land of warm baguettes, proper mustard and wine…of family and seasons and new beginnings.  Oh, and…ahem…new languages.  Yeah – wish me luck, will you?

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