Getting Back into the Swing

It’s been a month since I got back to Bohol, a year since I arrived in the Philippines, and it’s been a busy couple of weeks. Things are really heating up at both of my jobs, so I’ve been doing a lot of facilitating. I recently had my first meeting of the semester with the ESGP-PA students at the University. I will begin leading evening sessions with them every-other week (starting this coming Thursday) on topics ranging from “Goal Setting and Planning for the Future” to “Leadership Skills”. We also had a brainstorming session for other activities, and they came up with a number of ideas including; mangrove planting, a youth facilitator training, and tutoring elementary students. All of the grantees are beginning their final year of college, so this will be a busy year if we manage to do half of the things they have in mind.

Last weekend I met some fellow Volunteers in the city for lunch at the Buzzz Cafe and decided to spend the night because it was a three day weekend. I went out to a videoke bar with my counterpart, Jovie, and we sang the night away (see Facebook for an example of Jovie’s amazing voice).

Monday evening I made my way back to site and played with Cooper and the puppies (“Blacky” and “Whitey”).

Wednesday through Friday I returned to the high school to conduct Youth Development Sessions. Over three days I lead about 400 students in various activities, including pictionary, skits, and a body scan. We explored emotions, how they change in adolescence, and practiced controlling our emotions when they get out of hand.

July brings more ESGP-PA sessions and YDS, so I’ve got a lot of planning to do. I also get to help train the new batch of Volunteers in the last week of July, so I look forward to traveling back to Bataan in a few short weeks.

Visiting a Real-Life “Witch Doctor”

Last night, at dinner, my Ate told me that they were going to see a quack doctor. When I asked her, “What do you mean by quack doctor?”, she said, “An albularyo.” (pronounced al-boo-lar-ee-o), which is a sort of spiritual healer. Else, the student who lives with us, had been having some troubles with her eyes for about a week, so they needed to see the “quack doctor” for help.

After a ten minute car ride, we pulled up to the outside of a nice house with a large, red gate. My Ate shouted “Ayo”, the Philippine-equivalent to “Anybody home?”, and we were called inside. An older white-haired man wearing a large white t-shirt and green and black shorts printed with Heiniken bottles asked us why we were there, and then disappeared through a curtain into the back room. It turns out that this was our albularyo. While we waited, my Ate discussed the wallpaper and where it had come from with two women who were eating supper.

When the albularyo came back, he sat down, told Elsie to sit in a chair perpendicular to his, and asked what the problem was. She told him about the sty-like bump that had appeared in the corner of her left eye at the beginning of the week, and then pointed to the one that could be seen in the corner of her right eye. If these were styes, it’s pretty unusual to have two form in different eyes in the same week. The albularyo grabbed a bit of cotton, dipped it into a dark brown bottle, and then dabbed it on to both of Elsie’s eyelids. He then told her to stand up, turned the chair so that it sat in front of his, and instructed her to sit back down. He stood up behind her, asked for her name, and began to say what sounded like a prayer, while placing both his hands upon her head.

The albularyo’s prayer lasted several minutes. When it was done, he instructed her to stand up again, and rotated the chair back to a perpendicular position in front of his own. Elsie sat back down, closed her eyes, and then the albularyo blew three strong bursts of air on to each of her closed eyelids, ending the session. He told Elsie not to wash her face until Sunday. We then said our ‘goodbyes’ and ‘thank yous’, and drove off into the night.

Building a Seat for Cooper

My pup, Cooper, almost doubled in size while I was gone, and now seems even more determined to accompany me wherever I go. The other day when I had to leave him at home, he made a hole and crawled under the fence, then ran down the road to catch up to me. This means that I when I go somewhere, I either have to lock him in my room until I’m out of sight, or take him with me. Before I left for consolidation, Cooper rode everywhere with me on my bike in a little pink basket but, unfortunately, he no longer safely fits in the basket. I can easily walk to one of my offices, but my other office is about six kilometers away, meaning that I needed to solve this issue before the school year started next week, and my office at the college opened up again.

Cooper in his basket before I left for Manila

I decided that I should try to make Cooper a larger seat on my recently-acquired second bike, but that is easier said than done. I figured wood would be the easiest material, and made the trip to the local hardware store, only to find that they only had large sheets of plywood, no lumber or boards. This lack of material stumped me for a day or so until I brought up the issue to my host family, who promptly led me outside to the pig house and gave me a board of just the right width.

I began by sawing off a piece about half a meter in length, then cut a small groove in one side so that it would fit securely around the frame of the bicycle. I then rode the bike around block a few times, marking where my legs would rub against the board, so that I could remove those sections. After hand-sawing off those sections, I handed to rough seat over to my Kuya, who quickly use his machete to smooth out the rougher sections (it’s really hard to cut a curved line with a hand saw). I then sanded down the board a bit more so that no rough edges would rub on my legs while biking.

The newly sanded seat

Now I had to figure out how to attach Cooper’s newly formed seat to my bike. You can get tie-wire at a number of nearby stores so I decided I should drill some holes in the seat and wire it to the frame of the bicycle. Unfortunately, drills for wood are a bit tricky to come by so, with my limited tool set, I had to use a hammer and nails to create holes for the wire to go through.

I then wired the seat to the bike, and took Cooper for a test ride.

We’ve been riding for a week now, but only over short distances, we’ll get a real road test when I commute to the University next week.

Me and Cooper on the road

Back to Bohol

After almost seven sleepless, draining, seemingly-endless weeks in Manila, I was able to return to Bohol this past weekend. While Manila is a wonderful place to visit, it is a very hard place to call home if you are used to mountains, trees, and elbow room. The heat, grime, and crowds of the city were a hard adjustment for me, and I also struggled with the lack of purpose and the uncertainty of the situation. It didn’t help that the entire time I was there, a short flight and bus ride were all that separated me from my second home. It was almost maddening. Luckily, I was consolidated with a number of amazing volunteers and supported by the staff at the Peace Corps office in Manila. I was even sent out to visit the sites of other Volunteers and help with camps and other special programs (see my blogs on Pampanga and Negros).

After an hour-long flight, and a couple of hours on the bus, I got down in my town and walked home. I was greeted at the door by my pup, Cooper, who whined and licked a every available inch of my skin for about an hour (this made it a bit tricky to unpack). Later that evening, my host family, who had been out for the day, arrived and I was given a nice welcome-home/belated-birthday-party.

Anyway, I’ve only been home for about two days now, so there isn’t much to write about, but hopefully I’ll have more to recount in the coming weeks, now that I’m back to site and back to work. I’ve got to make up for the lost time.

A CYF Packing List

A new batch of Volunteers is preparing to leave the US, and begin their service in the Philippines, so I figured it was a good time to revisit the items I packed over ten months ago.

CYF Specific Items:

I had a bit of trouble separating “CYF specific items” from the list, so I tapped some other CYFers for ideas.

Bluetooth/wireless speaker-

Great for events with kids and for personal use. Music is huge here, so it’s a good way to relate to the people you will work with.

Nice Markers-

You can buy these in country when you get to site or “borrow” some from Peace Corps at the end of training. If you have the room, you could also throw some in your suitcase.

Projector-USB Connector-

Unless the computer you are bringing has a projector port built in, you will likely need this. A lot of CYFers lead presentations with a few slides to help with visuals. I personally didn’t bring one, but it would be pretty helpful.


Great for quick file transfers and such. I use mine all the time to print stuff out for events.

USB Condom-

“I just found out about this here.  It can stop viruses from getting in your usbs.  It would have been nice to have one since all my usbs carry some virus.  Practice safe data exchange guys and gals!!!” Viruses are pretty common on office computers, so it’s easy to get a virus when you’re just trying to print out an attendance form. They’re pretty cheap on Amazon too:

Everyday bag/backpack-

I use a 25L REI day pack every day to help get me and all my stuff/presentation supplies to work and the various schools around my communities. Other CYFers use a nice big purse or tote to take to work instead of always using a backpack.

Waterproof cover for that bag-

Whatever you chose, try to get a water proof cover for it. I think I found mine on Amazon: I know it says it’s for a 45L, but that’s not quite true- it bungees around my 25L just fine.

A nice journal/personal planner-

As CYFers, we have a lot of meetings, trainings, and other events to keep track of. A journal/planner helps you keep track of things.

A nice pair of shoes-

I get by at my site with flip-flops and sneakers, but most other CYFers are in slightly stricter placements. Another Volunteer said, “I personally would recommend (for ladies) nice sandals. I can’t get away with Tevas every day and I can’t imainge wearing closed toed shoes all the time.”


To play with youth. Frizbees, a football, UNO, friendship bracelet supplies, baseballs and mits, coloring books and colored pencils, ect, anything you’re in to that kids might enjoy too.


Clothing I use:

The most important thing is to bring clothes that you are comfortable in.

6 work shirts- (polos/lightweight dress shirts)

I didn’t really wear polos in the states, but I have been so happy to have some here. One of my offices is not super strict, and I could probably get away with t-shirts, but the other office expects a collared shirt, so I’m glad I have both. I also bought a couple Peace Corps polos when I arrived for more official events. Bring a variety of colors as some offices have a specific color they wear every day.

3-5 pairs work pants- (jeans/dress pants)

I wear jeans every day, as they are considered dressy here. It’s not everyone’s style, but it works for me. If you prefer dress pants or skirts, bring those. Capris would also be acceptable.

2 skirts-

I only wear these for special events (weddings, anniversaries, christenings) because I usually have to ride a bike to work.

2 jackets/fleeces/flannels-

I come from a pretty cold place in the states, so I couldn’t really imagine only needing one sweatshirt for the next two years. I brought one lightweight flannel and a hoodie, and while I haven’t really needed the hoodie, it’s been a comfort item. If you won’t need it for comfort, just bring on sweatshirt item.


I brought a lot of really cheap really lightweight socks (like fifteen pairs). I have large feet, so I wasn’t sure that I would find my size in the Philippines. About half the week I just wear flip-flops and don’t use the socks, but I’m glad that I have them for the other half of the week.

~6 tops for relaxation-

Every day when I get home from work I peel off all of my sweaty clothing, take a cold bucket shower and put on a t-shirt or tank top. I would recommend about 3 tees and 3 tanks for the evenings. For girls, I recommend tanks, not spaghetti straps. I can also wear these items outside on the weekends (but with the tanks I usually wear a scarf or sarong).

2 pairs of athletic shorts-

I can’t wear these out in to my community, but they’re great for the evenings inside my house. I only brought one pair of these shorts with me, but I was able to find another pair at a used clothing booth.

3 pairs mid-thigh-knee-length shorts-

I can get away with wearing mid-thigh length shorts in my community, but usually stick closer to knee-length because it draws less attention. These are only for weekends though, could not wear them to work.

2-3 pairs Leggings-

I usually wear these when biking long distances, but could wear them to work if I wanted to.


You will need at least one of these for wearing over tanks or for covering up on chilly buses. I recommend bringing or buying a sarong even if you skip the cardigan – they are super flexible.


Bring as many as you can. I think I packed the suggested 20 pairs, and they’re pretty beat up now from a lot of hard scrubbing. I’m not sure about males, but females definitely do not want to buy underwear in country. Also, bring some spandex for use under dresses/skirts.

5 bras-

This is the bare minimum. I brought 3 with underwire and 3 sports bras. You can buy more in Manila, but you will likely struggle to find the right fit in the provinces.

1 dressy outfit-

You will need one really nice outfit for swearing­-in. I decided to buy a dress in country and found one without too much trouble. Peace Corps gave us a guided day in Manila for this purpose. If tend towards sizes larger than 16, you should bring your own dress/nice-top-skirt-combo.

 Men should bring a nice pair of pants and a dress shirt, but can also buy a traditional dress shirt in country.

1 pair of dressy shoes-

Needed for swearing-in. I have only worn mine once or twice at site, but I definitely needed them for swearing-in.

1 pair sneakers/running shoes-

For biking, running, hiking, ect. I usually also wear mine to work.

1 pair nice flip-flops or sandals-

I wear my Rainbows for half the week. I also brought some Tevas but don’t wear them quite as often as I wear my flip-flops. You will get tired of wearing close toed shoes, so bring some sandals you can wear to work. You will also need some flip-flops (tsinelas) for inside the house, but you can get some cheap ones in country.

Swim wear-

This is really about personal preference. I have a once piece with board shorts and a swim shirt/ rash guard for swimming near site, and a bikini for vacation. I know other girls who prefer a tankini top with their board shorts or leggings.


Gotta protect your face from the sun!!!


Clothing I don’t use:

Croc flats-

I bought Croc Flats specifically for Peace Corps based on the advice of currently serving Volunteers. They are super easy to clean, but I hate the way the plastic feels on my feet, and haven’t worn them since Community Based Training.


I brought a pair and never wear them. It’s too hot!

Clothes that I didn’t wear in the states-

You style may change a big in the Peace Corps, but pack for who you are now, not who you think you’ll become. Bring clothes that make you feel like you. I brought a lot of capris and flowy blouses that I would never wear in the states, and I haven’t worn them more than once.




Anything but a Google Chrome Book (they’re not compatible with the Peace Corps reporting software). I had to buy a new lap top for service, and I wish I had gone with something smaller and lighter than my full-size HP.


Not for everyone, but you will have A LOT of downtime, and reading can help. You will get a bunch of book files from folks at Initial Orientation

2 pairs of Earbuds-

Great for listening to music, podcasts, or risqué TV shows/movies. They will break, and I haven’t found any good replacements in country, so bring more than one pair.

Music device-

I brought my iPod Touch, and it is by far my most prized possession. When I have wifi it’s basically a smart phone (but with no bill). When I don’t have wifi, it plays music, podcasts, and functions as my camera.

External Hard drive-

Bring a 1TB hard drive (or maybe a 2TB). If you are not techy, no worries, others will help you fill it up with everything you need when you get here. I would have gone crazy months ago if I didn’t have a hard drive with shows, movies, music, and books.

Crank flashlight-

Brown out happens, and sometimes power just doesn’t find its way to your house for a while (a fellow CYFer went without power for 3 months). I didn’t want to deal with batteries, so I brought a crank flashlight. It’s not the brightest, but when the power goes out, I can use it long enough to light a few candles.


I’m so afraid that my camera will get lost, wet, or stolen, that I have yet to take it out of my suitcase. My iPod Touch has been fine so far, but I hope to break out the camera for some upcoming travel.

Surge protector/power strip-

I did not bring a voltage converter – just the surge protector and nothing has been fried yet. It also gives me access to more outlets and acts as a mini extension cord.

3-2 prong Adaptors-

You will meet many 2 pronged outlets; bring a few 3-2 prong adaptors so that you can use them. You can get a two pack on Amazon for super cheap.

External Battery Power Bank-

When the power goes out for half a week, you will be glad that you have something to charge your phone. I bought this one: . It charges my iPod Touch for a week before it runs out of juice, and also doubles as an emergency flashlight.


Toiletries I have needed:

4 travel size bottles (2 shampoo and 2 conditioner)-

6 oz of each got me through Training, and then I didn’t have to carry heavy bottles to site. I bought big bottles in the city two weekends after I arrived at site.


I also bought a luffa/scrub brush when I got to site. You will sweat a lot, so it’s important to scrub.

Bar of Soap (in soap case)-

I used body wash in the states, but had to embrace soap here.

Toothpaste & Toothbrush-

Enough to get through training and the first few weeks at site


I brought a large bottle as some Filipino brands have whitening agents


I brought a two year supply because I had the weight/room and I’m picky about brand and consistency.

Razor w/ blades-

Bring a two year supply. You will regret it if you have to use the local razors.

Tweezers, nail clippers, ect-



I’m super pale, so I burn a lot. Aloe really helps when I get toasty and is hard to find in country.


Toiletries PC will provide:

Baby powder, Floss, Bandages, Bug spray, Alcohol, Chapstick, Advil, Pepto, Claratin, ect (any medicine you need)


Bring a bit of high SPF waterproof sunscreen if you burn easily.



In the beginning they provide disposable, but if you ask for a refill, they give you a digital one.



2 Towels-

I did one large towel made from regular towel fabric and a quick dry towel. It’s nice to wrap up in my big fluffy towel some times. I also brought a small quick dry turban thing because I have super long, super thick hair.


I used my Leatherman a lot in the states, and I’ve use it a lot here too, but if you’re not handy, you probably could get by without one.


Snorkel Gear-

You don’t NEED to bring this if you’re not CRM, but I’m glad I brought mine. You can get a cheap mask and snorkel in country if you don’t have one already (there’s no guarantee that your site will be near water).

 Water bottles-

I brought two 1 liter Nalgenes and a 500ml Klean Kanteen. You will gulp down water every day, and you will not regret bringing sturdy bottles.

Bike Gear-

I have to bike everywhere I go, but that is not the case for most sites. I brought a helmet and lights, but you could find those items in most cities, so don’t stress about it if you don’t already have them lying around.

TSA locks-

Great for airplanes and extra security in country.

Dry bags-

Keep things from getting wet and moldy. I have one 2L bag for boat trips that I bought here (so I can throw my purse in it), and a bunch or dry/compression bags that I used to get all of my clothes here.

Dry bag for computer-

I bought this one: It has saved my life (or more aptly my computer’s life) on multiple occasions. It rains all the time here, and a dry bag will help keep out water, ants, and dust. The same product is available in other sizes, so get one that fits your computer.

Ziploc bags-

I always pack toiletries in plastic when traveling, but I would throw in a few extra for food storage and general use.

Rain coat-

Sometimes it’s too hot, but other times, my rain coat has been really important. It’s really hard to bike while holding an umbrella (which you can buy in country).


Jewelry you really care about-

It might get lost or stolen. Stick with simple and inexpensive items.


PC provides a sturdy pair.

Sleeping bag-

It’s too hot!

Lots of leather items-

Mold is a serious issue here…


I know this has been super long and I rambled a bit, but I hope my input helps! For the non-Peace Corps folks who made it this far, fear not, my blog will be back to normal next week, when I will finally get to return to Bohol.


Negros Occidental

Last week I traveled to Negros (pronounced neg-ros) with a few other Volunteers to assist with the PYAP Youth Leader’s Encampment, where I co-facilitated a Project Design and Management (PDM) training. We arrived Monday night, and ate in the house of the future host family for one Volunteer in the incoming batch. They had delicious food, and wanted to hear advice about hosting their incoming American (which we were happy to provide in exchange for said food). Tuesday we prepped all of our sessions for the camp, and finished just in time to watch the sun set at the beach.

358 youth arrived early on Wednesday morning, and we kicked off the camp with a short parade through the town, then got to work.

The men in the truck across the street lead the parade with their awesome rhythm  

The first day was devoted to forums and trainings, covering the topics of HIV/AIDS, Illeagal Drug Awareness and Prevention, Values Formation, and PDM. Most of the 358 youth cycled through these topics, but  PDM is pretty intensive, so our forty participants, stayed with us all day (and the next day). The first night, after dinner, there was a cheering competition, followed by some team-building games.

Day two of the camp also began pretty early, and focused on Livelihood Trainings including, hair cutting, make-up, candle making, manicure/pedicure, and accessory making. Like on day one, the PDM participants stayed in the PDM training while the other youth rotated through the other activities. When we completed the PDM training, I became a model in the manicure and make-up trainings.

By Thursday afternoon, our PDM youth had created projects that they hoped to conduct in their community, and had come up with some pretty ambitious issues to tackle. They presented their ideas that afternoon to some members of the Local Government Unit, and their projects covered a wide range of topics like, educating every member of the town on proper waste segregation, an alternative learning program combined with a feeding program to combat child labor in their communities, promoting increased transparency in local government spending to fight corruption, on-going sports activities in all neighborhoods to combat illegal drug use, and many more. If all (or any) of these projects are carried out, I can’t wait to see what this city looks like in five or ten years.

Camp finished late on Thursday night with an award ceremony and talent competition, but unfortunately I wasn’t feeling great and missed the talent show (where I was supposed to be one of the judges).

Friday we woke up early one last time and headed to near-by Lawakon Island for some ocean-side event processing.

Saturday, on our way to the airport, we stopped at The Ruins, a beautiful mansion that was burnt down during World War II to prevent the Japanese from using it as a headquarters or barracks on the island. Then we boarded our plane back to Manila.

I am still in Manila this week, with my fellow Boholano Volunteers, hoping to return to my second home by the end of the week.

Manila and Pampanga

Shortly before I left for my Holy Week vacation in Malapascua, Abu Sayyaf invaded a small town on the north side of Bohol, and had a standoff with local police and military forces. Abu Sayyaf is a Jihadist group of terrorists, active in the most southern islands of the Philippines. This was the first (and hopefully last) time they planned something on the island of Bohol, and local intelligence suggests that they were planning to kidnap and ransom one or more of the many international tourists who visit the island, or attack one of Bohol’s many tourist attractions.

While local authorities deal with the group, and Peace Corps conducts assessments to see if it will safe for us to return to the island, my fellow Boholano volunteers and I are consolidated to the nation’s capital, Manila. While Manila is a city full of many places to go, things to do, and people to meet (plus a lot of really tasty food), staying there long term without much purpose is not good for anyone’s bank account. For this reason, and because worrying about whether or not you can ever return to the only place on this side of the planet that you call home, for an entire month, is enough to drive anyone crazy, Peace Corps sent us out to help other Volunteers with their summer projects.

So, after a week in Manila, I headed out to Pampanga to help at the REDLANE (pronounced red-la-nee) Sports Fest. Every year, all of the children’s homes in Region III get together to put on the REDLANE Sports Fest, and the it has been going on since my supervisor was a kid. Today it is a huge event, with at least four hundred children and youth in attendance every year. Events included:


Tug o’ War

This event got pretty competitive


Track and Field


Scrabble and Chess

Thinking hard…

And Patentero

Patentero is a Filipino game set up on a long grid. It is a bit like sharks and minnows, except it is played by two teams, and the “sharks” can only move along the lines of the grid. Each shark must stay on their predetermined line, and the “sharks” try to prevent the minnows from making it to the other side of the grid and back again. This was, by far, the most competitive game that I witnessed at the Sports Fest, and both the adults and youth got pretty worked up when they disagreed with the referees.

Unfortunately, I did not manage to get pictures of sack racing, or the stilt and coconut walking, but there was also a cheering competition and a cultural dance competition, where I did take a few shots.

Overall, I think the youth had a blast and, even though we had to rough it for a couple of days (sleeping on the floor with all the kids, and limited showering capabilities), the Volunteers in attendance had a fun too.