Monday, March 15, 2010

Schools Almost Out For Summer!

Friends in the Philippines

Can you find me?

Learning the Tausug Dance

Yes, proposal writing is so much fun!

Teacher Syd

Can you find me again?

Yes here I am.

The campus I work on is quite beautiful.

Students learning to use chopsticks in Motor Behavior class

My Godchild, Alika, and below her mother, Kim.

Native folk dances and costumes

Yippee..sliding down the waterfall

A sunset on campus.

Kuting Reef

More pictures can be seen at...

Happy Spring to all of you!

Life in the Philippines has been interesting. Since I had last written, we had experienced volcanic disturbances and tsunami warnings though nothing transpired from the cautionary advice. However, last Tuesday, this time without warning, a small earthquake rattled its way through Samar and Leyte. I was sitting at my desk at the time when I felt a rumbling noise, similar as if a big logging truck were to pass through campus. But as a looked up, silence grew and the mirror in the office swayed ever so leisurly. Within six seconds, nothing was left but a swift memory and my second earth rocking experience. The quake center was about 120 kilometers from my site. However, there is a rather large mountain range, valley and the Leyte Gulf all in between. Needless to say,the 5.2 measured “linog” (earthquake) feared nothing and growled its way across the Eastern Visayas, leaving its mark through small cracks in the walls.

Despite the exhilarating natural experiences living in the Pacific Ring of Fire, the way of life continues to move forward with optimistic approaches and gentle smiles. At this time, the university, to some extent resembles the calm before the storm, as final exams and graduation requirements are being completed this week. My eyes have checked various papers, edited diverse thesis reports, and doubled verified grades in preparation for the final calculation. While spring seems be to beckoning in your part of the world (or fall for my southern hemisphere friends), summer has arrived and everyone feels the warm pressure to conclude the 2009-2010 academic successfully.

This year graduates a batch of future teachers and development communicators that have really been a driving force in my Peace Corps experience at the university. These students and I had much bonding time in the classroom as well as outside the classroom though implementing HIV/AIDS workshops for high school students and adopting an elementary school for Saturday reading lessons. In all regards, these students could be equivalent to “my first students” here in the Philippines. I taught the majority of their major courses and we united deeper when we inculcated various nonformal educational programs in our outreach programs. I am excited for the students’ future, and a part of me wishes that my Philippine Peace Corps Journey would extend to see them in their respective fields, hopefully applying the knowledge that so earnestly yearned for.

Summer brings less time at the beaches than one would think. Due to my ability to say “yes” to anything, I have found my summer schedule packed with conferences and trainings all throughout the Philippines. I am even squeezing in one summer Eco-Camp as well. The exciting part of all these wonderful but very arduous events, is that I will be travelling out of my region, thus indulging in a new cultures, new languages, new territories, and new food as I hope to edify an assorted number of teachers in several concepts of teacher and English education. I can’t wait to tell my story, upload my pictures, and reflect on my upcoming experiences to all of you. In 60 days this summer, I will be travelling to five regions, doing 33 days of conferencing. Mind you, some places will require me to take boat, airplane, bus, van, bike, etc; thus taking countless days to reach the destination.


The past four months have been prosperous as I became a godmother to my dear counterpart’s child, presented a project design and management workshop to the Siasi people, judged various competitions, and wrapped-up annual academic activities. Definitely, the freshest memory is that of the project design and management workshop. This workshop was held in conjunction with USAID to the people of Siasi, Sulu, Philippines. If you Google this location, you will find it as a very small island near Borneo, though still part of the Philippines. So by nature, I was completely intrigued with their way of life. After the workshop, we (PCVs) had opportunities to really get to know our participants by listening to their stories.

Their stories are the ones you read about in development communication journals. A floating school, in which classes are held depending on the tide; during high tide, the water envelopes the walkway to the school thus disabling the students to leave or get to the school building. Or a school beneath a palm tree, providing shade as basic education is conducted. No electricity, no running water, no salaries for the teachers, etc. The stories continued to flow, but doing so in the most sanguine manner; all knowing it is better to have something rather than nothing.

Then came the fun part, the cultural exchange. The people of Siasi come from the Tausug tribe, and most practice Islam. Their manners and behaviors are so sincere, reminding me of the Islam culture colliding with the Hawaiian way of life. The music is refreshing, calm as the wind blows, the garb is full of influence and elegance, and the language has a rhythm and pride in its origin and secular world. Despite the odds, despite the lack of government funds that rarely trickle down to the smallest islands, the people of Siasi are the friendliest of the friendliest in the Philippines. I only wish I had more time to learn with them and see their world with my own eyes. Your eyes, however, can see some, as the pictures above show the smiles, the dress, and the optimistic eyes as I familiarized myself with a small part of the Tausug culture.


As the months wind down, I realize that I probably will only update this blog a few more times. Reflecting upon that creates disturbance in my soul as it means my time in Peace Corps is in its final miles of the marathon; my identity that has shaped me into who I am today, will slowly be in its final stage. This has all come into perspective to me in the last month, as the university president and other administers kindly gestured for me to stay an additional year. Half of me wants to ignore the fact that I cannot stay, though I really wish I could. So to satisfy the yearning soul, I have been extended the opportunity to come back after the completion of my doctoral study. Thus, giving me another aim to reach for in the years to come, and satisfying my desire to return.

The school hunting process has been fun, interesting, and challenging with the internet situation. I don’t understand why the develop world needs all these flashy pop-up features on their websites. Yes, I am sure it is eye-catching, but is a major pain for people with dial-up connections to research the pros and cons of an institution for potential application. Whatever the case or opinion, the websites should get right to the point, emphasizing the educational attainment instead of flashing me all this nonsense and wasteful excess that is suppose to “lure” me into applying to the institution. Instead, from the developing world, it makes me not want to ever step foot in that institution. Probably something I would have never mulled over if I were in the US.

Most of the schools that have struck an interest to be seem to be on the East coast, either in the DC or NYC area. I am not sure who will take me, but let’s just hope someone is willing, especially as the education systems are experiencing high tuition rates, stiffer application requirements, and smaller faculties.

So I know that this update is rather insipid and a bit vague, but I am due for some time of informational notice to acknowledge to you all that I am alive and well. I promise the next update, probably in June, will be more electrifying :)

Lastly, to my Armenian friends and family, it was a pleasure to finally speak with you over the phone. Dzez ampi chap em karotel...

Thus I conclude, wishing you all a merry spring. Enjoy March Madness and root for the Lady Huskers. Enjoy Passover, Easter or the weekend; Pick a flower for one you love, and hug another for no reason at all.

Peace to you all and forever,
March: Monica, Whit, Cliff, Jan, Lindy, Tatev, Satenik, Steck, Jamie, Laurel and Joey’s Anniversary
April: Danny, Aunt Barb, Nancy, Matt, Leigh, Mom and Dad’s 31st
May: Heather, Jeff, Alex, Ant, Bern, Torgom, Jamie, Pam, Laszlo

Extra info on the Tausug Tribe... Retrieved on March 15th, 2010 from:


Tausug (people of the current) were the fisrt tribe in the archipelago to be converted to Islam. They are historically, the ruling people of the ancient Sultanate of Jolo, and regard themselves supeiror to other Philippine Muslims. They generally live a combative, "very mascular" life, where violence is often an expression of the social process. They are traders, fishermen and artisans of fine Muslim textiles and metal works.

Tausug Wisdom - To the Tausug, a proverb is masaalla, a word of Arabic origin. Some are pittuwa, or advice about life. Proverbs are part of daman or symbolic speech, which includes riddles and courtship dialogue.

Some proverbs follow:

Tausug: In lasa iban uba di hikatapuk.
Tagalog: Ang pag-ibig at ubo ay hindi maitatago.
English: Love and a cough cannot be hidden.

Tausug: In ulang natutuy mada sin sug.
Tagalog: Ang natutulog na alimango ay matatangay ng agaos.
English: A sleeping crab will be carried by the current.

Tausug: Wayruun asu bang way kayu.
Tagalog: Kung walang usok, wala ring apoy.
English: There is no smoke where there is no fire.

Tausug: Atay nagduruwaruwa wayruun kasungan niya.
Tagalog: Kung ang isa ay hindi makapag disisyon, siya ay walang kinabukasan.
English: One who cannot decide will have no future.

Tausug: Ayaw mangaku daug salugay buhi.
Tagalog: (1) Huwag aaminin ang pagkatalo haggang ikaw ay nabubuhay. or (2) Hanggang maybuhay, may pag asa.
English: Never admit defeat as long as you live.

Sources: Insight Guides: Philippines and Filway's Philippine Almanac Centennial Edition


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