WOOFing No. 3, Philippines
Mar 18, 2016
|Woofing No. 3 was a different experience! Mary Jane was our contact for this farm. We were met at a big shopping mall by her brother and mother as she was en route by bus from up north. We were taken to their house in a suburb of Manila. It housed an extended family -mother, father, Mary Jane and her teenage daughter, her brother and his wife. The mother gave up her room for us and with a fan going we slept with as little on as possible it was so hot.
Mary Jane (approximately 45) explained her changed circumstances. Her boyfriend, who was running the farm, was shot just over a year ago whilst returning on his motorbike. Obviously she was traumatized and despite having local workers on the farm, because she was not there much of the time, nothing was being done, animals died and disappeared and irrigation of plants didn't happen.
Instead of having us work on the dry, parched farm, Mary decided she would like to visit some contacts she had from her volunteer church work distributing packaged food from the States. So off we went with her, her daughter, and her niece who was accompanied by two school friends. We travelled by jeepney, bus, tricycle and finally arrived at a small village at 11pm.
We pitched a small tent in the backyard of a bamboo/thatched roof house and settled in for the night. Slept on the hard, dry , dusty ground with only the tent bottom for padding! Sven gave up partway through the night and slept on a bamboo slat bed with ducks and chickens sleeping underneath. Again an extended family lived in this small house, mother, father (who had a broken ankle from a motorbike accident) two daughters, one of whom had a 10 month old baby. Electricity had been connected just last month and a hose brought continually running water from a river.
A big mining corporation is digging nearby in the river to find precious stones, but have omitted to ask permissions of the locals to excavate their land and pollute the river. Here the people are very poor, have far too many children and live in quite basic conditions.
Next day we took a jeepney to Subic Bay. (This is where Americans had a big base during the Vietnam war which has left a legacy of many brothels and bars. Americans are once again returning to Subic Bay with the Chinese building islands in the South China Sea which is only 100 km from Philippines). It is fun riding in jeepneys, sitting on two facing benches. They usually wait until they are full before setting off. Just when you think you can't fit any more people in, someone else arrives to hop on and everyone shuffles a few centimetres over to make room.
From Subic Bay we chugged by bangka (boat) two hours further up the coast to a secluded bay where we camped on the beach for two nights at some other friends place. The sand felt soft to sleep on after the hard dirt of the backyard!
We brought rice with us for the family who lived here, and this was supplemented by fish caught and shellfish collected from the rocks. The family made charcoal for a living and had some water buffalos. Their bamboo house was very basic too with a dirt floor and a wok over charcoal to cook on. No electricity here, just diesel in a bottle with a bit of cloth stuck in for a wick. It was a beautiful secluded beach with warm, perfectly clear water, a colourful sunset and bright stars.
Finally back in the city and on the last woofing day we visited the farm. They have a big house there that used to be a kindergarten, a couple of sheep, a few goats and some pigs. In the garden papaya and kalamansi (small limes) were growing but the egg plants and chilli plants were just about dead from lack of water. The farm staff had been fired previously because of lack of work done and an old neighbour man was currently feeding the dogs and pigs. Mary Jane is on the lookout for a new manager. They want to keep the farm but her two brothers don't want to be farmers, just her.
So instead of spending our week working on the farm, we were tourists, seeing different places and meeting different tribal people!