In October 2012 Jane and Graham attended a Rotary conference in Torquay where they heard Jane Walker give an update on her talk on the Philippine Community Fund (PCF) (more...) she'd given two years ealier. We asked Jane Walker if we were to come in Sprng 2014 to the Philippines could we visit the school and help. She said yes. In December we met Jane to tell her what we could do. The next day Graham started work on the PCF internal Beneficiary Management System and started adding a contact database function. From then on he worked with Claire, the PCF administrator (and a lot more) to produce the web site. In February, Clalre switched from using her contact database to using the one Graham had built. This trip to Manila was for Graham and Claire to find out what further functions were needed by the PCF staff in the Philippines.
|Monday, 3 March - Flight to Manila
Wednesday, 5 March - First view of the PCF school
Thursday, 6 March - ManCom meeting and IT review
Friday, 7 March - Baguio support plus Health and Nutrition
Saturday, 8 March - Intramuros and Fireworks
|Sunday, 9 March - Taal Volcano
Monday, 10 March - Finance and HR
Tuesday, 11 March - Education and Livelihood
Wednesday, 12 March - the Dump Site
Thursday, 13 March - Returning home
We set off from home at 3pm and drive to Southampton to pick up Claire and some presents for Christian's family. We meet Jane Walker briefly. We drive up the M3 to Terminal 3 at Heathrow. Jane leaves her passengers to go to Bill and Mary's. We check in and find a bar where we have a relaxing drink. The Cathay Pacific flight leaves on time and at 4pm, Tuesday, Hong Kong time, lands. At 5:45pm we take off on our Dragonair flight to Manila. We clear customs quickly and make our way to the extended arrivals area for people with surnames beginning A-L. Claire then thinks that Philip, the local PCF manager, is meeting us elsewhere so leaves Graham guarding the luggage. It is 28C. Graham changes £20 in to 1440 pesos. At just after 8pm Philips meets Graham and then goes to find Claire. We make our way to our transport and meet a volunteer called Sarah, and a driver. The driver, Jhun, with the aid of some strangers, ties the suitcases in the back of a 5-seater pick up truck. Philip tips the strangers. We are whisked off to Pioneer Highlands, a large complex of apartment blocks. We drop Claire's cases with Sarah at the apartments on one side of the entrance road. We drop Graham's suitcase in Philip's apartment. We cross the road to Burp's and have an Italian meal. The manager agrees to buy some beer for Graham from the shop next door and charges 70 pesos corkage. Philip kindly insists on paying for us. We return to our apartments after having purchased 4-litre bottles of drinking water in the shop next door. Philip gives Graham an oscillating fan to use in his room as the aircon unit does not work. It is now 10:45pm on Tuesday. The apartment has wi-fi albeit 0.47 Mbps (15% of the speed at home). Graham retires to bed somewhat tired.
Graham gets up, has a shower, and uses his plug in the plug-free basin. He meets Philip at 8am and walks back across the road to Burp's to have a coffee. It is closed so they walk to a nearby Starbuck's. They don't finish their coffees and stroll back with the drinks to the apartments to pick up the ladies at 8:30am and have Jhun take us to the school. It is rush hour so there is a lot of traffic - not as many bicycles, scooters and bike as expected but there a lots of Jeepneys , locally built with lots of shining stainless steel and imported engines. We stop at a McDonalds to pick up an egg muffin for Philip and black coffee for the driver and Claire. We arrive at the school which is at the base of Smokey Mountain (more...) after going under as small underpass where 21 families live. The school is built from 72 ship containers, has four floors and a central trapezoid atrium open to the skies. We are introduced to the HR manager Sally, two social workers Kidrick and Ryan, the staff of the sponsorship section, the nursing section where Sarah works and the Livelihood section managed by James where the part-time ladies crochet ringpull accessory items. We also meet the head of maintenance, Connie. At 9am a dozen representatives from Hyder arrive for a tour and Claire and Graham join them. The Hyder people have come from Hong Kong and Shanghai. From the top floor you have a good view of the area in which the school stands. The top floor has twenty solar panels providing 15% of the needs of the school. They would produce more if they were cleaned more regularly. We visit other departments, including a computer room with 20 computers. Philip very eloquently explains how it all works. After the Hyder team leave we go back to Philip's office which he shares with the HR manager and the social workers. We have a lunch of tuna fish and boiled rice. After lunch Graham talks to Owen about the sponsorship section which he runs. Graham returns to Philip's office. At about 6 we all leave to return to the apartments, drop our bags and wander off to find a pizza restaurant. It is called Big Guys Pizza. We sit outside. It sells Red Horse beer, Claire's favourite Philippino tipple. The ladies have veggie pizzas and the gents have super supreme pizzas which contain meat. We return to our apartments and retire to bed.
Graham has not slept well. He wakes about 2am and works on some PCF bugs. After a shower at 6am and some further he goes out with Philip to Burp for breakfast. He has a French toast sandwich with ham and maple syrup washed down with coffee and water. The ladies join us. Jhun, the driver reports that he has locked the keys of the truck inside it so Philip orders another PCF taxi. We could have been stopped by a Traffic Enforcement Officer who would check our emissions and charge us a very high amount without giving us a receipt. We don't get stopped. We arrive at the school about 10:30 am. Today there is a monthly management meeting (known as the mancom) so whilst this is taking place Graham is asked to do an audit of the IT staff, well at least two of them as the unpaid student has just finished. The morning is taken up with questioning Ricky who looks after the staff computers and the network connections. At lunch time Philip collects Graham and the management go out to have a Chinese meal - soup, rice, noodles and beef and chicken dishes followed by slushy ice seaweed dessert. It is washed down with sweet iced tea. The afternoon is spent with Kiko who looks after the computers in the computer lab. At about 3pm Graham is called into the management meeting and is introduced to the staff. Meeting are arranged for the next three work days. We are taken back by Jhun to the apartment blocks. We meet up at 7:30pm and walk in slightly uneven streets to the newly sprung up Greenfield where the large green space is holding a Sunsilk event that evening. We opt to dine in the Kanin Club. No Red Horse to drink but there is San Miguel Pilsen. We choose various dishes accompanied by rice and the largest Spring rolls Graham has ever seen. The waitress takes a photo of the most expensive meal we are about to consume. It costs 2145 pesos. We return at 10pm and retire.
Philip and Graham have coffee at Burp while Sarah and Claire go to Starbucks. The Filipinos are brought up in the Catholic faith with a strong sense that doing wrong will be severely punished by God and they must respect their elders. This leads to them tending to be subservient but open to exploitation by less religious people. We all meet up at 8:30am and Jhun ties Sarah's bags in the back of the truck as she is moving into a studio apartment nearer to Smokey Mountain. We get to work just before 9:30 in time to interview Raquel from Baguio where she looks after a PCF site which supports children in state schools. Lunch today is mung beans and boiled pork with rice washed down with Coke. At 1pm we interview Tess who is head of the health department. Sarah is a volunteer with Tess along with two nurses. Tess tells us about how she keeps a monthly check on the pupil's BMI. Next to be interviewed is Owen who is head of the sponsorship department. Claire shows Owen how to upload photos to the web site so they can be viewed by the sponsors of the children. Philip has a backlog of emails so we don't leave till after 7 and the roads are clogged going back into Manila. We go out back to the area we were in last night and find a Persian restaurant which sells Red Horse and has fish on the menu so it is suitable for Claire. We share a starter of humus and other dips with pita bread. Two of us have fish whilst Philip has an unsatisfactory beef curry. We drink more Red Horse which they like to serve in glasses filled with ice but we decline the ice. Claire demonstrates her proficiency at pull the ringpulls off the cans as she has become so proficient in doing so - bend it forward, bend it back, twist it round and yank it off. The wife of the owner comes round and tells us we have thick accents just like what her daughter has from always watching Pepper Pig. We drink several more cans of Red Horse which lubricates the regaling of anecdotes relating to PCF. On the way home we stop in the 7-11 which is still open where Philip buys a bottle of Mou Mou for Mel and Claire buys some toothpaste, crisps and a bottle of Red Horse as Christian's sister Ezra will be coming at 7am in the morning. We return to the apartment shortly after 3am.
At 9:30am Graham goes to Claire apartment to have a cup of coffee and to wait for the arrival of Ezra, Claire's 28 year-old sister in law. Ezra arrives with a shy friend of hers called Ram. He is taking a Women in Development course at a nearby university. Ezra lays out the goods she has brought on the dining table. We tuck in to the boiled peanuts, salty eggs, rice cakes, barbecued pork (not for Claire) and Jack fruit. Part way through the meal Ram leaves to go to an International Women's Day rally. After breakfast Claire performs acupuncture on Graham's elbow with a view to curing his tennis elbow. It is an amazing pain-free operation with the occasional tingle. The whole process is captured by Ezra. After twenty minutes the five needles are extracted. We leave the apartment and take a taxi to Intramuros where Ezra lives. Her parents run a set of boarding rooms with up to six people per room. We walk to the city walls which have partly been restored as the Japanese heavily bombed Manila during WWII and committed may atrocities including the decapitation of Ezra's grandparents as witnessed by her father. The Americans liberated the Philippines in 1945. There is a golf course on the outside of the walls which is as wide as two fairways. At one point we watch three people hit their balls into a pond . We buy water and continue walking around the walls. All the buildings inside were destroyed so many have been rebuilt to their original design. No building can be more than three storeys high. We arrive at Fort Santiago where we pay the entrance fee of 250 peso (no allowance for foreign OAPs) and learn about the history of the national hero, Jose Rizal (more...) , wrote scholastic books about the abhorrant occupation of the Spanish which led to a revolution and he was executed. After his death no one was allowed to mention his name so he was called 'The Dead One'. The fort overlooks the Pasig river. We go back to the gardens and admire the frangipani trees and wait for Ezra's cousin to pick us up. Ezra's cousin arrives together with his wife and the very shy Bella. We drive to Marakina to the Kapitan Restaurant where the reception is being held for one of Ezra's nephews, nicknamed Red so there is go colour coordination. We have a good Chinese style buffet washed down with iced tea and water. We end the meal with a fruit salad. We say our thankyous and Ezra's cousin drives us to the Mall of Asia to watch the annual international pyromusical (fireworks to music) competition (more...). We make our way through all the crowds of people who are having a free viewing to where we pay 500 pesos for VIP tickets Tonight's dual is between China and Germany. We are a little late so the Chinese display is part way through. We make our way towards the VIP area and have an excellent view across the water to the raft from which the fireworks are being let off. They are magnificent. At the end of the display we go and, after much telephone correspondence, meet Philip who is seated with Mel in the VIP section. We grab some chairs and sit with them. Philip buys the ladies a Tanduay Rum and chocolate slush concoction whilst the men have a slush fruit and rum mix. The German national anthem is played and we all stand. The show takes about twenty minutes but is not as good as the Chinese. Last year the UK beat the Chinese in the final. Jhun drives us to Ezra's house where she can pack some things as she will be staying with Claire tonight. The rest of us are taken to the Hobbit House (more...) where a large range of local and foreign beers is served by little people. Some of us continue to drink Red Horse. The ladies are give a rose. Ezra texts to say she would like to be picked up so Jhun drives us back to Intramuros and then on to Pioneer Highlands. We retire at 2am.
Graham gets up at 8am and goes over to Claire's apartment at 9:30am where he joins Claire and Ezra for breakfast - salty egg, cold barbecued pork, Jack fruit, very ripe mango and coffee. At 10:15 we are picked up by Jhun to be taken to the volcano south of Manila. Jhun has 1000 pesos of diesel poured into his truck and Graham pays for it by credit card. Diesel costs 44 pesos per litre and comes from the Middle East. In Greenfields City we stop to buy three coffees from Macdonalds and some water from the 7-11 next door. We wend our way through Legano, the birthplace of Jose Rezal, and at Tagaytay we descend to the lakeside where we park. Ezra does a deal with a boat owner to cross the lake and climb the volcano (more...) and return to the truck for 1500 pesos for the four of us. We cross the lake in a blue and white wooden boat with outriggers. The warm water sprays onto our faces. We walk along narrow planks to get off the boat. Te beach is black sandy and gritty. We buy face masks for Jhun and Graham, at 20 pesos each, as the path will be very dusty. The ladies will use their scarves instead. People on horseback pass as we climb up through narrow gullies . After an hour we reach the top having had a few stops to admire the wonderful views and drink water. At the top Graham has a beer and we take a look down into the green hot water of the crater. Ezra takes us up a narrow path to get better views and away from the crowds. When we get back to the shelters Graham and Claire have a beer. Ezra gets a text from Philip to say that Jhun is waiting for us at bottom! We finish our drinks and descend to meet Jhun close to the bottom. Graham and Ezra wash their feet and shoes in the warm water. Claire has sensibly chosen to wear pumps but they are greyer than the white ones she had crossed the lake in. Wearing sandals as Graham did was not a good idea as stones get trapped between the sole and the sandal. Trainers would have been better. We walk up the narrow planks to the boat. We return across the lake to the truck. We wind up the long and winding road to the top of the outer crater. We stop at a Buco pie shop in Tagaytay and Ezra buys us a pie. It's like apple pie but with soft fleshy macapuno coconut instead of apple. While she is doing so Graham and Claire share a sample of malagkit - it's a bit like Turkish delight but made from glutinous rice. The traffic going into Manila is endless. We return to Pioneer Highlands about 7pm. Claire and Ezra freshen themselves up. Graham has a coffee deletes poor photos from the camera and iPhone and writes his diary. We leave at 9:15pm to stroll to Greenfields and eat at the Kanin Club ('kanin' is the Tagalog for 'rice'). It appears that Ezra was thinking Philip was joining us and therefore waited in her room reading a book so we could have eaten earlier had she known better. We have a good meal but fail to finish the tofu dishes so that it is packed up in a bag to be taken back to the apartment. The meal costs 1707 pesos. From the reception desk Graham speaks to Philip who comes down to pick up Graham as you need a special card to activate the lift's keys in this block - not so in Claire's block. Philip texts Claire to say we will be leaving at 10am in the morning and at Burp at 9:30am. Graham struggles to turn down an offer of a beer with Philip but eventually gives in. After the beer and a shower Graham retires.
Graham and Philip go to Burp at 9:15am and are joined by Claire shortly after. Jhun picks us up and takes us to the PCF office on the 16th floor of an office block in Ortegas. Philip and Jhun go off to have their annual medical checks. Graham and Claire interview Linda the Finance manager about her processes and how they might be transferred to a global database. Philip rejoins us with a tell-tale plaster on his left arm. We cross the road and enter a shopping mall where we go to a Mongolian fast food stall. Graham has Sizhuan beef and rice. Philip has fried mixed vegetables and Claire has spring rolls, tofu and rice. We talk to two ladies about the work of PCF and we get thanked for our help. Jhun picks us up and takes us to Tondo. We pass the headquarters of the Philippine Army and further along the headquarters of the Philippine police (pulis in Tagalog). Apparently the cocks displaying themselves at the side of the road are used in cock fighting which is a major entertainment form in the Philippines. In fact the stadium where the Thriller in Manila was staged occasionally serves as a cockpit. At the school Graham sees Owen to fix up a time to see the boy we sponsor. Graham finds our further information about the fingerprint clocking in machine PCF is using. Claire and Graham interview Sally who is the HR manager about her requirements for database access. Graham and Claire interview Kid about what the social workers require of the system as reports of social visits are required to be held centrally. After Philip has replied to numerous emails, Jhun drives us back to Pioneer Highlands. We reconvene at 9:10pm and wander to the Bug Guys Pizzas, the place we ate at last Wednesday. The area is bereft of really good eating places. We have the same as last time. Anecdotes about PCF and its staff are exchanged. We walk back to the apartments and arrive at 11:15pm. It's straight to bed tonight.
Graham and Philip have coffee at Burp at 8am though they seem reluctant to serve them eve though the notice says they are open 7-11. At 8:30 Claire joins them in the truck together with someone who is going to help design a new set of recycled goods. As usual the traffic is bad. The Jeepneys stop where they want to and cyclists weave in and out of the traffic. Some of the PCF staff take three hours to get there on public transport. Everybody avoids having an accident although there are lots of near misses. Just after 9:30am Claire and Graham visit Anita, the school principal, to discuss her database requirements. She calls in Wabel, her assistant, who is the wonderful author of the PCF Facebook reports. Wabel checks the daily attendance of the pupils and enrolls the pupils into their classes (or grades as they prefer to call them here) at the bgeiining of the school year - start of June. At 11:30 Graham visits Owen in order to meet Joshua, the child we sponsor. Joshua does not speak too much English so Owen translates. We are able to play a game of travel Connect 4. Graham gives it to Joshua together with a travel bag and soaps. He returns to the Admin office to have lunch - local boiled fish, rice and vegetables. At 1pm Claire and Graham interview James in the Livelihood unit on the the top floor. Philip joins us to give us further explanations. All the workers are paid by the type and number of goods they produce per week. Any that fail Jame's inspection can be resubmitted on the following Monday. We return to the office having completed our requirements gathering. It is now time for Claire to convert her mind map into a document and for Graham to code some changes. We leave the office at 7pm. Back in the apartment Graham can't find his pile of dirty washing. It is hanging up drying in the utility room. The maid has washed it all and hung it high up on drying racks. What a wonderful service! At 8:15 we wander to Greenfield centre and decide to try a different restaurant in the same street as the Kanin Club. We are ushered to a table by a television and close to where a musical entertainment is being set up. Claire has noodles and vegetables. Philip has salmon in a sauce with potatoes. Graham has over cooked double cooked Adobo pork and rice. Apparently Christian makes a much better version of this dish. We wash it down with Red Horse. Three women dressed scantily one in yellow, one in blue and one in red, appear together with a man as the male voice and another as a guitarist. They ruin many well known songs whilst a blue laser light flashes over the walls. It is ghastly. We finish the meal and go and find another bar. We have a bucket of ice in which are six bottles of Red Horse. We wander back to the apartment. Claire suggests we buy some Red Horse at the 7-11 and go back to her apartment to settle a disagreement between Philip and Graham. Out of Claire's window you can see a tower where the lighted windows display T W I N 2 5 C 4 vertically. Graham says its the tower at Greenfield. Philip says it cannot be. Philip now has the right to boast that he won the argument. We retire at 1am.
After coffee at 8:00, Jhun drives us to the office. We stop at a Macdonalds to pick up Philip's breakfast. We have a morning studying Claire's mind map in Excel foe. The ladies we met on Monday arrive for a visit conducted by Philip. The school lunch of vegetables in coconut milk and rice is supplemented, thanks to Sally, by hot pork pieces and hot chicken pieces. Graham present Philip with a Fareham Meon Rotary banner. At 1:40pm Kidrick takes Graham in a van with a driver and some children to the temporary housing in Barangy where people are sorting out the recyclable rubbish. Graham is shown where PCF first started. It is in a disused warehouse and part of it is now used for a church. Just across the 'street' Graham is shown the home of one of the parents. It is in part of another disused warehouse. The home has two floors. A downstairs living and cooking area with a gas cooker and television and upstairs via a ladder to the bedroom which is not viewed. The family sells drinking water. We travel to the dump site. It is awful. Flies are everywhere and they attack the delicately skinned Graham. The PCF water station is visited and the near by PCF clinic . Next we visit some of the newly built wooden housing which replaced those burnt down last year. At nearly 4pm we leave because Sally has had a phone call to say her nephew has died. She'd been looking after him after his parents had died. The nephew had bone cancer. When we arrive at Pioneer Highlands, Claire takes Graham to the Robinsons shopping mall where she buys him a typical Fillipino shirt and an English-Taglog dictionary for the project manager - a title Claire has given to Graham's wife Jane to distinguish her from Ma'am Jane, the founder and CEO of PCF. We return to Claire's apartment and Graham is given another dose of acupuncture for his tennis elbow. We meet Philip and Mel and walk to the Kanin Club in Greenfield and have soup shared amongst the four of us. Graham has tempora shrimps, a large spring roll and brown rice. We leave and find a bar opposite where we were last night and have a bucket of Red Horse but there are only 5 bottles in the bucket. After a second bucket we return back to the apartments. Philip concedes that Graham was correct about the 'T W I N' tower.
Graham gets up early at 6am, says goodbye to Philip and Jhun takes him to the airport. There is a charge of 550 pesos to get out of the Philippines. The Cathay Pacific flight leaves on time. Graham sits by Hubert McPherson, the Express Newspaper's production manager and with a bit of luck Hubert will try and get a piece about PCF published. There's a five hour wait at Hong Kong so Graham finds a seat in the food area which has a socket and selects and names the photos from the trip. The flight to London is a little delayed. It lands at Heathrow at 8:45pm but getting the baggage is slow. The Project Manager is there at arrivals waiting to drive Graham home where he arrives at 10:30pm a little tired.
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