Tuesday, October 21, 2008


This weekend marked the biggest event that the people of Bacolod celebrate. In other parts of the the Philippines the San Mig brewing company will sponsor Oktoberfest events, but in Bacolod MassKara dominates the month. The festival coincides with the founding of the city, but remembers a point in the city's history when the sugar industry almost failed. Supposedly the people of Bacolod weren't about to let a failing economy get in their way. So instead they put on silly masks, got drunk, and had a three day party.

Decades later there is a whole month of mask-themed events. The culmination of which is on the three days before October 20th. For those three days there are dance competitions to see which schools and barangays have the best dances and masks. First there is a street dancing competition which ends in the plaza, where the troupes perform a full 10 minute dance sequence. The troupes spend weeks and hundreds of hours preparing their routine and a lot of pride rests on being a winner. The city is dedicated to making the event famous the world around and dishes out 150,000 pesos per barangay entry, on top of which there will also be additional corporate sponsors. The dances are a sight to see, especially if you like being hot, hearing the same song 50+ times, and outrageous colors.

After all the dancing is done the locals close the major streets, have dinner, drink, and dance. The party starts around 9PM and most people get home around 5AM. We ventured out to see what everything was about. Needless to say, we stayed out late and had a great (but safe time). I'm still a little pooped out from all my adventures, but staying up for 24 hours and then having class the next day will do that to you. Overall, its a really cool cultural experience and something that I'll get to see at least two more times. It definitely lifted my sagging spirits. Two more weeks of training and then its time for the real deal!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wound up/Winding Down

So I got back from site visit to find that my whole host family had, while I was away for a week, all gotten sick. I walked in the door, threw down my bags, and we caught up. Sitting there with them it was like the whole bad experience that was site visit was washed away.

But that was last week, and in PC Training every week is totally different...

This week I'm still not back to 100%. I've still got a Gollum-like cough and some sinus stuff. I'm sleeping lots and taking my vitamins (thanks Rachel). Despite the cold I've got a lot of responsibilities to attend to this week:

1. Swearing In Speech- By winning a daring game of rock-paper-scissors against my esteemed colleague John I was selected to represent all 18 Bacolodians(?) during our "graduation" ceremony. I'll be giving a portion of a speech in Hiligaynon! The stressful part is that my collaborators are hundreds of miles away.

2. Community Project- We're putting on two fairly large programs at our host-schools to say thanks. PC lost my paperwork and so I got to do it twice. Awesome.

3. Language Interview- In two weeks we have our final language exam. I really want to do well, because I can speak this language and want to have that acknowledged. Here's hoping I learn how to compare the US to Philippines in Hiligaynon.

4. MassKara- This week is also the MAJOR festival in Bacolod. Every night there is lots to do. I'm trying to strike that balance between work and play.

Busy week means I need to run. Missing everyone lots, but still loving it here! MassKara pictures coming next week.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Family Matters

In the last 36 hours I have had something of an epiphany. I've moved in with my new host family while I am on what PC calls Site Visit. During site visit we are all shipped off to meet the people we will be working and living with for the next two years. We are given three days to make our first introductions, understand the basics of our organization, meet our co-teachers, and meet the new host family. Theoretically, that's a lot to do in three days. In actuality its been really boring and awkward. My first day to meet people was lost due to a national holiday. Instead of being productive I took a three hour nap and then watched TV that I don't understand for 6 hours. Yesterday I achieved all my objectives at the college so today I also have nothing to do (hence two posts in one week).

I've also developed a sore throat which kept me up all last night. So I had plenty of time to reflect on the past 6 weeks. Sitting under my mosquito net (which is used to keep the big roaches off of me, not mosquitos) I realized that I love my first host family. I think my first interaction with my host father is the best example of why they are my favorite.

Host Father: So what's your name?
Me: Justin
HF: Do you have a girlfriend back home?
Me: No
HF: Do you like to drink?
Me: Yes
HF: Do you want to go to a cock fight?

I'm not even making this up. After this short round of questioning there was a good minute of silence while we contemplated each other. After that its been all fun. Its not just been my host father either, but my mother and two brothers too. Our schedules line up really well so that I get time by myself in the afternoon and then spend the evening talking, drinking, and singing with them. Its an environment where cultural exchange is welcome and a source of interest. At times I'm like their American toy, at others just another member of the family. They told me before I left for this week away that they were going to miss me because "lving with you is like living with a Filipino."

Maybe its because I have something so good that I'm having a hard time with the new family...Or really it could just be the mice and roaches, let's be honest. I'm not ruling out a positive experience with the new family, but the relationship is not going to come as easily as the first. Maybe I'm also down because I'm exhausted and sick. Anyways, I reached my first wonky moment of PC.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Site Placement

Wednesday was the day that we all found out where we will be spending the rest of our two years. The last two weeks have been filled with lots of chika-chika about where we’ll be placed, who will be our neighbors (closest PCVs really this can range from 10 minute walk to 2 hour bus ride), and expected jobs. We had the chance to give as many specific requests as we liked, but we were not guaranteed any of our requests would be filled. If you read the previous post you’ll already be aware that PC is basically a big rumor mill. Even before this week’s conference we were pretty sure that we had figured out about 10/18 placements, including mine.

So then we actually find out where we’re for sure going. There was a lot of build up and a surprising amount of emotions. In typical PC fashion we played a little game to discover our sites. Our facilitators would list off fun facts about our region then we’d guess where it is and then they would list out who is in that province. Many of the rumors turned out to be true, but there were also plenty of people who were shocked by their sites. My rumor turned out to be true, but I was pretty much assured of that by some very well certified chika.


I’ll be spending the next two years here in Bacolod City. I’ve already been living in a barangay 20 minutes outside the city proper. In a month I will be moving into the city with a new host family. I will be teaching 2-3 classes at a local teaching college. I’m not totally sure what classes I’ll be teaching yet, but my supervisor assures me that I will like my co-teachers. I can't really be anymore specific than that, so if you want more details let me know.

This is the beginning of the end of training. I'm excited to be a full volunteer and get down to actual, useful work. Even though I'm living in a city that I feel like I know pretty well it is still daunting to think about not seeing my clustermates everyday. The closest volunteer to me will be 30 minutes away in the barangay I was living in. Sitting at home in my new host family's house it is very clear to me that I will need to get out in the city and make some friends to make this a good experience. Immersion into local culture is a PC goal, but also a necessary part of keeping one's sanity.

One of the girls who lives near my new host family has introduced me to her sister and the sister's group of friends. They're really cool and exactly what I need in my life right now. I think these friends will probably merit their own post at some point. I think that things in Bacolod are going to be great and I foresee a positive two years!