Archives - ‘Philippines’

My magnificent expectations…

October 28, 2011 | Michael, DVM, Gawad Kalinga, AFS Interculture, Philippines

It’s been seven and a half weeks since I’ve arrived on the island of Palawan. In my time here, I’ve experienced riding in countless motor-trikes, a few sun-burns, the most sincere hospitality, living with the housing beneficiaries of my host organization, Gawad Kalinga, and rice everlasting. I’ve also encountered several situations which have either helped to enforce or shake my ethical foundation.

In one of the Gawad Kalinga communities, a site named Bohoy, I was instructed to complete a ‘Community Profile’. This included surveying the community, 31 persons, about basic demographics such as age, occupation, religion, etc. but also more complex issues including family dynamics, the political structure, or reproductive practices. The findings would be used to examine potential opportunities, weaknesses, and strengths of the community for future policy. As the community in Bohoy is an indigenous population with their own local dialect, even my incredibly lacking knowledge of Tagalog proved moot in aiding my research. The children of Bohoy who attend school were able to converse with me in broken English, but the language barrier, overall was very, very strong. Originally, I felt both uncomfortable and non-virtuous, conducting research on a group of peoples I could barely hold a basic conversation with. I wanted my research, to the best of my knowledge, to reflect the actual structure of the community including the sincere opinions, needs, and wants of the community members. It seemed this would be impossible with such a strong language barrier.

To overcome such an obstacle, I was able to translate my questions from English into the local dialect, thanks to a translator. I would write down the questions in the dialect and ask members of the community either aloud (for the illiterate), or present the survey itself to the community member, to gather information. It proved to be time-consuming (for both parties), but I was able to receive more legitimate information than I would through broken dialogue. I mean, the ideal situation would include me learning the local dialect, but only staying three weeks in Bohoy, this proved impossible.

These surveys gave me information about the basic demographics required of me in the ‘Community Profile.’ The more complex issues, I actually had to choose to opt out of. My ethics forced me to. I would have felt extremely uncomfortable, not to mention embarrassed, submitting a document which compartmentalized complex issues like someone’s reproductive choices from a basic survey. Issues like family structure, political dynamics, conflict-resolution; these issues require sensitivity, dialogue, and deep knowledge. I was not equipped with the skills for such thorough research, and thereby had to exclude these community flows from my research. The people of Bohoy, like any person or community, deserves to be properly represented. I could not offer that, unfortunately. Realizing such a matter, I could not force myself to push through with researching the more complex issues.

I did, however, submit a document I am very proud of. My internship has really taught me to decipher what I am actually capable of doing versus my magnificent expectations. I was capable of submitting a document which accurately reflects basic demographics such as age structure, income levels, religious analysis, etc. My magnificent expectations of spending hours and hours rigorously discussing how political power is passed-down if there is an unexpected death or how monetary decisions are broken-down in a household of eight, etc., were out of my reach. As such, I am proud of the document of basic demographics I submitted. It held no pretense, generalizations, or unelaborated information. Yes, it only focuses on fundamental information, and as such perhaps lacks depth. But the information in that document is, to the best of my knowledge, genuine. If I had chosen to research further, with the reality of the skills I possess, I do not think the document would have held the same validity.

Whether it is the work, the people, or the island itself, Palawan has yet to cease to amaze me. I am constantly feeling both personally and academically stimulated. My internship with Gawad Kalinga has definitely been such a positive process of mental growth.

My First 30 Araw

October 6, 2011 | Michael, DVM, Gawad Kalinga, AFS Interculture, Philippines

I have been in the province of Palawan, the Philippines for almost a month now. When I reflect, I feel as if I’ve been here only a couple of days, but also months and months. There is so much to experience here in Palawan Whether it be the beautiful landscapes, a new food to try every meal (but always, always accompanied with rice), or meeting new and incredible people, everyday here in Palawan has offered me something important and engaging.
I am working with an organization named Gawad Kalinga (GK). GK is a grassroots organization, foremost a community housing initiative. Beneficiary families for the houses are chosen based on need (the most vulnerable are chosen first) and are required to complete 1000 hours of using materials and blueprints supplied by GK to construct the houses before they can move in. Such a structure means families do not merely have houses bestowed upon them, but instead work with GK for their possessions within a community framework, and the process can therefore be seen as an empowerment strategy. GK keeps in close contact with the community sites once construction is finished (and new houses are always being added to existing sites), and assist communities with livelihood strategies, gender equality, education, health, infrastructure, and sustainability.
I have visited already eight of the ten GK sites in Palawan, staying with different host families in each site. The families here are some of the most hospitable, kind groups of people I have met, and always have time to offer me coffee, a snack, and a quick chat. Of course, the lifestyles between households here and those in Canada are vastly different, and honestly I am still adjusting. But having families here let me into their home and accept me as part of their family, even if for a few days, is such an honor.
I am working to create ‘Community Profiles’ of each site, but mostly within a site named ‘Bohoy’ in the south of the province. ‘Community Profiles’ look at aspects of demographics, education, politics, family structure, economy, etc. that make up the community so as to have a historical document to note the progress of the community through time. I also have a chance to input my own recommendations for future policies to be implemented in specific sites. Creating these profiles is challenging, as it is impossible to overlook the language barrier. As well, I have little to no resources to aid me in my research. JSTOR, where are you when I need you most?!
I have used several fieldwork techniques, however. These include surveys (which I translate into Tagalog prior to handing them out), finding a key informant, and having children draw, instead of write, their educational experiences.
My internship has thus far been very fun, experiential, and principally eye-opening. I am able to use the theoretical knowledge I have fostered in my university studies over the past 3 years into tangible fieldwork.
I am more than excited to see what my next two months have in store, but I imagine them being just as fulfilling as my first month here.