A Year in Pictures

I realized I haven’t been the best at uploading pictures of my experiences in the Philippines, so I figured I’d go through all the pictures that I had (and steal a bunch from my fellow YAVs cause they take better pictures than me) and see what story they told. They leave some gaps in my time here, naturally, but I think they paint an interesting portrait of my time here. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into my life here as much as I enjoyed compiling it!

So I guess I should start at the beginning? I was so young back then…

Being dropped off at the Memphis International Airport to head for orientation in New York.
First up, some introductions are in order. One of the major tenets of the YAV program, and of the Philippines site in particular, is relationship building. The people I have met during my YAV year have by far been the most influential part of my experience here. Far more people than I could possibly count have made this all possible, so this is just a small sampling of the wonderful lives that have left a mark on mine.

There are no words to describe my love, appreciation, and gratitude to have these two be a part of my life. My fellow YAVs serving in the Philippines with me, Katheryn and Akilah, have challenged me, kept me grounded, provided listening ears when all I wanted to do was scream or cry or both, and have been there for me in all the ways a human possibly can be. We’ve gotten pretty good at taking ridiculous pictures, so you’re gonna be seeing a lot of them.

Akilah officiating the marriage of myself and Katheryn at orientation. We’ve been pretty close ever since.
I would say we have  a healthy, respectful relationship.

Katheryn practicing her skills with a traditional Filipino Bolo knife during our visit to an indigenous community on Negros Island
Temple of Leah, outside of Cebu

During our last retreat, on Negros Island

And then there’s my host family. The Quizos are the epitome of the hospitable, welcoming Filipino spirit. There are no words to describe all they’ve done to make Dumaguete a second home for me. They have been there for the highs and lows and have put up with my weird self through it all.

The Quizos hosted Katheryn and I for Christmas at their family’s ancestral home in Bais City.
One of the many fun perks of the office I work at is the opportunity to meet countless local artists who use their creativity to give voice to countless issues. Considering I have all the artistic ability of a raccoon, I’m so grateful for all I’ve learned from them, for the relationships formed, and for ways they’ve helped me explore the Philippines.

On top of a mountain with Loushan, an officer in YATTA, while visiting an indigenous community near Dumaguete.

#GroupSelfie at an office party celebrating the 10th Anniversary of YATTA
Aziza, John, Rojan, (all members of YATTA) and I on a mountain overlooking Dumaguete.
Over the course of a year, I’ve met countless people from a variety of backgrounds representing the diverse tapestry of Filipino life and culture. Whether I talked with them for months or just for an afternoon, their stories have been what have taught me the most about life in the Philippines.

The three of us meeting the children of a church in an indigenous community in Northern Luzon
During our exposure in the mountains of Northern Luzon. They taught us how to pick carrots!
I was also able to reconnect with friends I met when I came to the Philippines in high school. I even got to briefly revisit the high school that hosted my group.

Michelle, who was one of the students who hosted my group during an exchange trip in high school, showed me around the high school we visited 5 years.
I’ll never forget the first time I flew into the city that would host me for the majority of my time here. The runway at the airport juts a little bit into the sea, so all landings have their final approach over the water. Right before the plane touches down, there’s one final drop onto a runway you can’t yet see, and, for a split second, you can’t help but feel like you’re just going to crash into the ocean. Thankfully, land appears at the last second to catch you and bring you home. I feel like Dumaguete does that a lot for me: catches me when I feel like I’m falling and provides with a home. Whether you look east to the sea, or west to the mountains, it’s not hard to figure out why they call this place “the City of Gentle People.”

Final approach to DGT
Only in uploading this picture for this post did I noticed the little kid hiding in the ‘D’
Weird Orb of Rainbowness over Silliman University, near where I live and where a lot of my friends here go to school, and where I most frequently attend church.
View from the Boulevard, one of the main streets in town and where I like to read and people watch
Dusk over the Boulevard and ferry terminal
Me being sexy af with Dumaguete City and Cebu Island in the background
As part of our commissioning as volunteers in the Philippines, our site coordinators presented us with malongs. They can be used as everything from clothing to bedding and have become quite the aid during our year here. Here we are discovering their potential.

Meals have been an adventure of their own. Whether drinking water from a freshly picked coconut or sucking a partially formed  fertilized chicken embryo straight out of the shell, Filipino food never fails to provide a fun story.

I had never been too big a fan of coconut before, but it’s hard to beat fresh buko juice (young coconut) straight from the tree to you.
Our first balut (fertilized egg) experience. Love it or hate it, it’s a popular street snack here.
Ben Franklin said only two things were certain in life: death and taxes. If he had spent time in the Philippines, he might’ve added fish. If you love fish, you’ll love the Philippines. If you don’t, then you’ll learn to once you get here.

A new favorite pastime of mine since I’ve been in the Philippines: staring contests with my food.
This fella was already my new favorite when I found out it’s called “Unicorn Fish”, but then I took a bite and he was delicious
My personal favorite: isaw ng manok. After growing up in Memphis, I’ve been taught that barbecue only means pork. After coming to the Philippines, I’m happy to include chicken intestines in that.
No explanation on Filipino food is complete without a shoutout to lechon baboy (grilled pig). It’s the go-to food for whenever there’s a party or large celebration. The hosts bring out the whole pig and then everyone goes in at once carving out as much as they can with knives and forks.

This used to be a pig. I never moved quick enough to get a ‘before’ picture.
Whatever I find myself eating, it always goes well with a glass of fresh mango juice.

Living in an island country also ensures that travel is also always an adventure.

Because of the Spanish influence, horse drawn carriages are common in more touristy areas. Here we are on one with our site coordinator, Dessa, in Manila
We spent our first in the Philippines in Manila/Quezon and there we had our introduction to Filipino transport. As one of the most densely populated cities in the world, the subway gets quite crowded. During rush hour, the train would pull up impossibly full with computers to a station equally crowded, and somehow everyone would squeeze into the car. When I breathed in, I could feel the space where my stomach was fill with 2 or 3 more commuters.

Here we are, rocking the front packs. A necessary move to conserve as much space as possible when commuting in Manila and Quezon City
Thankfully, Dumaguete isn’t quite as crowded as Manila. Motorbikes and tricycles dominate the streets here, and nowhere is more than 15 minutes away.

During orientation in Bohol. Although it’s common to see entire families on one bike here, we figured we’d just stick with the picture.
When traveling around the country, boats and buses are the cheapest and easiest. Inter-island travel requires a good bit of patience and willingness to expect the unexpected.

The ultimate Filipino form of transport–the bus I was riding on a ferry, going from Cebu to Dumaguete.
Of course, more boat rides means more opportunities for grand pictures.

Headed to the Mangrove Forrest in Bohol
Including my one true dream of becoming a ship’s figurehead.

And naturally, Titanic references galore.

And of course, there’s always time for crazy adventures.

On a cliff overlooking Sagada, in Northern Luzon
Caving in Sagada
Pit stop during road trip through the mountains of Northern Luzon

Learning about the Hanging Coffins in Sagada. Distinguished members of this indigenous community honor their dead by placing their coffins on the sides of cliffs, so that the light of the sun may reach them.
Our Thanksigiving Celebration with our site coordinators in Siquijor

Through all the crazy adventures, food, travel, and friendships of the past year, I’m so grateful and humbled by the communities that have welcomed me, and no picture can depict that. Still, I hope this post conveyed a little bit of why I love this place so much.

I suppose all I have to say now is:

Food
Sunsets/rainbows

Our first sunset in Manila
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