An update from Lisa Butson (Development Studies Student, UoN) as she studies water and wastewater management in the Philippines as a New Colombo Plan fellow.
I finally finished my semester abroad! It is hard to believe how quickly time has gone by. For anyone considering doing exchange as part of their degree, I highly recommend it, and I especially recommend coming to the Philippines.
I took some really fascinating courses and made a lot of friends. I also got to experience things I would not be able to do in Australia. Part of my course in economic development we were given the task of conducting a community profile of an urban poor community. We were broken up into groups according to topic area (income and employment, migration, education etc..) and spent half a day surveying the residents of the Barangay. From this, we conducted descriptive statistical analysis and made policy recommendations for the local officials. During the semester, De La Salle had Professor Jeffrey Williamson (from Harvard University) as a visiting scholar. Students were able to listen to his presentation on his latest work, and my class was selected to present our findings from our field survey. Although this was a daunting task it was great to get feedback on our project from an expert in the area of development economics.
Barangay 842 (Survey area)
It is hard to condense my time at De La Salle into a few short paragraphs. There was always something new on campus, from Chinese New Year celebrations, to Venture Land, and many others. It was great experience. It can be described as being a first year student all over again, learning a new system and set of expectations, and understanding the differences in culture and how these impact on teaching practices and learning. It took some time to understand exactly what recitation points are and how to answer a modified multiple choice test but I got there in the end. I had very supportive lecturers and I was often asked to give examples from an Australian perspective on the topics we were discussing in class. And the most important, learning where the nap room was in the library.
There is also an intense rivalry between two universities here: De la Salle and Ateneo de Manila. College sport is huge here, stadiums sell out for games and all the games are televised. I was lucky to score tickets to the grand final for the women’s volleyball final between DLSU and ADMU. The mood was electric! Each side had cheerleaders, and a row of drummers, and different chants that everyone in the crowd knew. ADMU was defending a two-year championship, but DLSU won!
All of us New Colombo Plan Scholars have the opportunity to participate in a range of different events hosted by the Australian Embassy.
The most recent of these events was the IDAHOT (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia). The event had two special speakers, Ms Geraldine Roman and Mr Erick Habijan. Ms Roman is the first transgender person to be elected to the Philippines congress and Mr Habijan was one of the few openly gay candidates. Both spoke of their personal struggles with their sexuality and in the Philippines context (faith is very important to the Filipino people, the dominant religion is Catholicism) and the strength both have in themselves. Both had very supportive families and expressed the desire to serve the Philippines.
(left to right: Liam Jewell (Bachelor of Development Studies, UoN), Caitie Du Chateau (Bachelor of Teaching (Primary) UoN), Mr Erick Habijan, Her Excellency Amanda Gorely Australian Ambassador to the Philippines, Ms Geraldine Roman, Lisa Butson)
For those wondering, Liam won a prize for best dressed.
Through my internship with the Asia Foundation I have also been able to attend a variety of events. I was able to attend the book launch of Getting it Right: Reporting on Disability in the Philippines. At the event I was requested to explain and then sing to the sign language interpreters the Australian National Anthem. A forum on safe housing choices, and I attended a workshop on Thinking and Working Politically in Development with the Asia Foundation, DFAT, and other aid partners.
A few weeks ago I travelled to a northern province of the Philippines, Ifugao and stayed with a local family in the barangay of Ducligan. Ifugao is known for its historical and breathtaking rice terraces, another region Batad, being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is estimated the rice terraces took over 2,000 years to build.
The trip was organised by a local non-profit agency Kubo (which means house in Tagalog). It aims to give people the homestay experience within the Philippines, learn about the history and culture, and be engaged with traditional practices. Kubo also provides some funding for the local school through scholarships for some of the students
The main source of income for those in Ducligan, and the broader region of Ifugao is from agricultural activities, specifically rice production. Tourism is growing in the region, but the locals are concerned of the risk of increasing commercialism.
Staying in Ifugao and trekking through the rice terraces is not for the faint of heart. Tap water cannot be consumed in the Philippines, for the homestay in Ducligan their water sources are either bottled water, rain or water from the river. As a homestay experience I was expecting to use the typical bucket shower but due to the prolonged El Nino season, the home did not have any water as it hadn’t rained. Bathing then become a swim in the river.
We spent the day travelling through the rice terraces of Ducligan, I fell in the mud and almost lost a shoe! (thankfully I was not the only one to fall in).
In the evening we ate pako and kachiw, ferns and fish that were collected by our ate Gina (big sister) from the river that day. Gina has lived in Ducligan all of her life and partners with Kubo for the homestay experience.
The rice terraces of Batad have an elevation of 1,100m and takes around 4 hours to trek to the top and back down again. Aside from the rice terraces, there is the Tappiya waterfall. The trek takes about 45 minutes once you have reached the highest point of Batad. The waterfall was one of the most beautiful falls I have ever seen, and after a gruelling hike, the cool water was refreshing.
One of the things I love about living in the Philippines is the weekly community markets on Saturday and Sunday.
The markets have food, food, and more food, in true Filipino fashion and also have a range of handicrafts available.
One cool find (thanks Liam) is the business Siklo, they make bags and belts out of old tyres as part of the upcycling movement.