Pineapples? Oh, joy.
So the training of SCALA volunteers was in Guimbal, near Iloilo from June 12th to 16th. It was a pretty good time – Sara, Martin and myself and then the Region 6 SCALA focal person (Sir Che, who’s a real character and one of the driving forces behind SCALA), 4 trainers from the region who will be partnering with Martin and I to do centre setups in July and August and two centre heads who have some set-up experience under their belts. It was mostly training on the role of a SCALA volunteer, which is pretty much to support the project team responsible for the new centre (the centre head, the local Social Welfare and Development Officer, the social worker, the regional focal person, and the trainers). When we first arrive we orient the project management team so that they’re clear on the roles they’ll play in the centre and understand the goals of the set-up process (to have the first batch of training start at the end of set-up along with the official centre inauguration). At the same time we lead the team through creating a timeline for the set-up (which hopefully takes 4 to 6 weeks) and try to support/monitor the team through the tasks they’ve set. Also, the SCALA volunteers set up the computers donated by EWB and spend about 4 weeks (ideally) training the trainers in the SCALA curriculum and in teaching techniques.
The number one piece of advice from the two centre heads who have set-up new centres before was “expect the unexpected.” (By the way, Ginny – Lizette & Andrea say ‘Hi!’). That’s ringing true right now since budget issues that make the Koronadal centre not actually ready for set-up mean that Lieka and I are leaving 2 weeks after we arrived. But THAT is another, much more frustrated blog entry. This entry is about pineapples.
So Martin and I left Ormoc with stomachs bursting with mango float. (That’s also another entry – and possibly a lifelong obsession. Oh, mango float. Mmmm). We took a 2 hour ferry to Cebu City, hung around in Cebu for 6 hours, then took a 14 hour overnight ferry to Iloilo. It was surprisingly comfortable, sharing a cosy room with 50 or so of our closest friends. (The room held 150, so I was kind of glad it wasn’t full!)
Before we left Ormoc, Martin & I decided to pick up a Pasalubong gift. Pasalubong is a great Filipino tradition - whenever you travel you bring back the specialty of the place, and each region of the Philippines has its own specialty. Our only previous experience with Pasalubong was when we brought mangos from Zambales (supposed to be some of the sweetest in the Philippines) back to Manila and they were a huge hit. That experience taught us two things – Pasalubong is a great way of making a good first impression, and fruit can be a pasalubong. It turns out only one of those was a good lesson to learn.
So outside the ferry terminal was the “Ormoc Pasalubong Store” and it was overflowing with pineapples. So we assumed (and we did ask someone to confirm!) that the specialty of Ormoc was pineapples. So we bought a bunch (like, 6), and strapped them to Martin’s backpack. When we got to Iloilo Sir Che, the region 6 SCALA focal person picked us up and loaded us into a jeepney. While we were riding he turned to us and said, “Why do you have pineapples?” “They’re for you! For pasalubong!” we replied, all happy that we were getting the hang of the Philippines. He didn’t say anything.
Ok, so I realize this story probably isn’t as funny to you as it was to Sara, who nearly killed herself laughing the first time we told her. But imagine – say you were invited to someone’s house for dinner and you decide to bring flowers so you bring a bunch of dandelions. To someone whose yard has a dandelion problem. Ok, the look that person would give you? That’s pretty similar to the look Sir Che gave us. Turns out there’s a huge pineapple plantation near Iloilo. And the pasalubong from Ormoc is some sort of coconut candy. The funniest bit was that Sir Che kept discreetly leaving his pineapples behind and Martin and I were so proud of having figured out the tradition and so enthousiastic about this delicious pineapple that we totally missed the hint every time. We would run after him, “Sir Che, you forgot the pineapple at the lunch table! Sir Che, you forgot your pineapple in our room!” I’m sure he thought we were mad.