Thursday, July 06, 2006


The plan at the beginning of the SCALA Volunteers training was that when it was done Martin & I would travel right away with our set-up partners to two different cities in Mindanao, Illigan and Kotabato. But then it quickly became apparently that not all the trainers had been warned to be ready to leave and that the computer shipments were going to take longer than expected. (The regular shipper went out of business but didn’t tell his clients). So Martin and I were left with a week to kill while we waited to be mobilized. One of the trainers from the Iloilo centre had mentioned that their centre hadn’t been able to use any of it’s funding even though they’ve been operational for a year and didn’t have a technician and had asked Sara to intervene. So Sara sent us for that week.

It was a pretty positive experience, although that may be because we couldn’t stay long enough to see if it bore results or not. Basically, we visited the centre for a week, talking to people to find out what the issues were, what the situation was and should have been, the processes and the people involved. Then we asked for meeting with the people where we raised the issues and asked them to work through what the solution could be and what timeline it could happen on. It seemed like a positive experience; the budget issued seemed to stem in part from a lack of strong advocacy to the budget committee on the importance of the SCALA budget and also maybe a lack of follow-up on the budget status. But people were stepping up to say ‘that’s my role, and I’ll make sure to do this and that in the next week and we should know X by this date’….and for the technician issue they agreed to try to get a technician hired which was more than Martin and I had hoped for. At the same time, it was very strange to have the authority to say what were issues when we hadn’t ever been to the centre before – because we’re from the organization that donated the computers, because we’re from Canada. We listened to what people said the issues were and their solutions were their own but we certainly set the “we want to talk about these issues, we want you to find a solution, we want you to find a timeline” stage.

At any rate, we spent an extra week in Iloilo, which is now one of my favourite cities in the Philippines. It’s got wide avenues with lots of trees and flowers and a river running through the city. The bridges over the river were wide and white and very pretty. Martin and I stayed in a pension house (a hotel basically). Last time we were in a hotel in Ormoc we were both frustrated by how hard it was to integrate or feel at all connected to people, but this time we were able to connect with people and it was really rewarding. The trainers at the centre were great and they and some of the program’s graduates took us to two neighbourhood fiestas one jam-packed Saturday. We played basketball with the workers at the pension house (I only stopped the ball with my face twice!). We bought all our fruit from a certain lady’s stall, and discovered amazing food at a sidewalk stall. Also it was perhaps the first time I started to feel like I could pick out and understand words in a Filipino dialect (Illongo this time), which was really nice. By the end of the week I was even remembering to duck so I wouldn’t hit my face on the cables hanging down from the overpass on the way to the supermarket. Unconscious competence indeed :)

And now, for the photo retrospective of Ilo-ilo! (Anyone have any hints how I can set up my blog so this doesn't take a year to load each time?) And Josh, if you're still counting blog word counts I insist you take into account that a picture is worth a thousand words :p

The trainees in Ilo-ilo

What are they laughing at?

Oh. (Dancing at a barangay festival)

The most picturesque bridge repair ever!

Walking to the San Juan barangay fiesta

Barangay San Juan

You know you're comfortable in a hotel

when you make your own screen door :)

You didn't believe 9 people could fit in one of these, did you?

This food stall served amazing food. The women worked from 5pm to 4am.

This one's for Kir - tofu and melted muscavate (raw) sugar!

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