Trip to Ilocos Norte + April Updates

7 05 2010

Hello once again from San Fernando!

Sorry for the lack of posting the last few weeks, we’ve been pretty busy through April with both work and play. Our work last month involved preparing site reports for potential decentralised sewage treatment pilot projects, meeting with Barangay officials to begin their solid waste management planning process, beginning the long and laborious process of drafting new sanitation ordinance, and helping to host an Earth Day conference on green technologies for local governments. For the months of April and May, the City has also adopted a 4 day work week: 7am-6pm instead of 8-5. I give it a mixed review. While its nice to have 3-day weekends for trips like the one I’ll talk about in a minute, the extended hours on the 4 working days don’t leave much time for exercise, cooking, or anything else for that matter!

Outside of work, April was Barangay Fiesta month, where each of the City’s 59 barangays hosts a party on one or more evenings of the month. We went to 3 of them and they’re pretty bizarre affairs – usually including a beauty contest, a dance or singing competition, food, and an absolute tonne of political campaigning. As you might be aware, the Philippine national and municipal elections will be held this Monday (the 10th), so all last month the councillors of San Fernando were campaigning like crazy to get re-elected (not a difficult task here – I’m pretty sure every incumbent will be re-elected), part of which involves going to all these 59 fiestas – often 3 or 4 per night! Of course, none of their talk is about policy – only personalities matter in this country, even on the national scale! The best re-election strategy here is to make up a jingle for yourself based on a popular US pop song and then blare it on loudspeakers from jeepneys all day (some of the songs are pretty ridiculously annoying to have to hear pass your office 10 times a day!).

Edit: See a great article on the election here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8665428.stm

Back to that trip now! – Last weekend was a 4-day weekend, due to our 4-day work week + a Monday holiday (Labor Day), so we decided to take a trip way up north to Ilocos Norte – the northernmost western province on Luzon, with the aim of seeing the city of Laoag and the region of Pagudpud. Things worked out really really well thanks to a couple awesome bits of luck. The first was that the week before we left, 2 ladies from the Laoag area were in our Environment Office to do some information exchange, so they agreed to meet up with us when we arrived and show us around, also telling us about a ridiculously cheap and cool place to stay (a government dorm costing only about 3 bucks a night!). Once there, our second bit of luck was that we met this super outgoing older guy who taught at the local university and happily offered to come with us to Pagudpud, wrangling us up a free chauffeur service in the form of an RV-like bus driven by his friend (who was a local bus company owner). This allowed us to see way more sites than we ever would have been able to see taking a direct bus line between cities and also provided us with cool new friendships!! Ilocos Norte is a beautiful region – lush, way cooler, and way fewer people – in short, an awesome, ridiculously cheap, weekend!  Check out the pics below!

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