7th December – 15th December 2017
Has it ever happened to you? Arriving at your destination only to discover that your baggage is missing? I arrived Manila capital city of the Philippines, with my colleage Sridhar after a long 10 hour flight via Kuala Lumpur (KL) on 7th December (Bangalore>KL>Manila) and to our disappointment our luggage did not arrive in the same flight from KL. After waiting for our bags, patiently watching the multilevel system baggage carousel go round and round for at least an hour, we were informed to check at the help desk that possibly our baggage may come on next flight due to the heavy load they were unable to load all the bags. This was the case for us so we filled a form and booked a local Grab Taxi to our destination to Quezon City to Leonard Cheshire Philippines Office. This was a long hour and half drive from the airport due the to traffic. The traffic problem in the metropolis has been there for more than four decades, the number of vehicles has significantly increased but the roads do not get any wider, you can see from the below photo how congested the traffic is.
We finally arrived at the LCDPFI Office, we were greeted by the most influential lady Lourdes Lopez Reyes “Lulu” or Mam Lulu to many, as she is fondly called by people close to her who is the founder of Leonard Cheshire Disability Philippines Foundation, Inc. (LCDPFI) in September 27, 2010. I was so inspired by Lulu I interviewed her, I am dedicating a separate blog especially to her, she is the most selfless and adorable lady I have met. She is known for her commitment and passion in helping people especially those with disabilities. We also met the whole team and some students visiting the office, we had some lovely local food and I spent some time with the all the staff, they are hard working team who are just as dedicated as Mam Lulu to their work in LCDPFI. The Leonard Cheshire Disability Philippines Foundation, Inc. (LCDPFI) is a national disability and development organization operating in Quezon City. It is a non-stock, non-profit NGO that promotes and protects the rights of persons with disabilities in the Philippines, working towards the attainment of educational equality, economic independence and their active participation in social, cultural, political and civil life. They take a rights-based approach to disability and development and have three core programs – Inclusive Education, Economic Empowerment and our advocacy program for young people, Young Voices. Below slides – first day at the office – Mam Lulu is the lady in Red.
Hazel (Manager) next to Mam Lulu and their dedicated Team – there are two more colleagues in Finance – not in the below picture – Dexter and Dan
I spent some time with Hazel and Dexter and Dan below pictures to assist me to understand the functionality of the LCDPFI and to carry out an evaluation of what training needs are required at local partner level which will allow me to bridge the gap and assist in preparing a training manual guidelines for the Partner’s Financial Management and Registration Policy and align it with the LCD one.
Dan and myself with Dexter
Before exploring the most vibrant and amazing city I attended an introduction training course for Persons With Disability (PWD). This was an Entrepreneurship Programme held by Accenture Corporate Citizenship who are in partnership with LCD Philippines Foundation Inc. The training was a guide to successful business startup. The training also included how to apply the six fundamentals required by individuals to succeed in starting a business and to become an Entrepreneur. After the training I was asked by the team to give some feedback and a brief speech introducing myself as a PULSE Volunteer which was not expected but went well and was proud to stand on the stage and express my gratitude and share my personal experience of the course and the day, I learnt a lot and was happy to share this.
Quezon City is the biggest city within Metro Manila. Manila is one of the busiest and the most developed metropolitan hubs in terms of trade, business, and tourism. Prior to my visit I heard in Manila look out for taxi scammers and purse snatchers, sure they have their share of taxi scammers and purse snatchers, but don’t many destinations around the world. The thing is, focusing so much on safety inadvertently puts the city in a negative light. Arriving and exploring Manila I have fallen in love with the city and its people. Filipinos are known for their hospitality, I was welcomed like family by all the colleagues I met through my assignment and my travel around Philippines.
Christmas Celebrations in Philippines
I was very fortunate to experience the most spectacular pre-celebrations – when it comes to Christmas, no one does it better than the Filipinos. Charming, jubilant and resilient. Filipinos are also known to celebrate the longest Yuletide season in the world. As a matter of fact the playing of Christmas carols in shops can start around September. People in the Philippines like to celebrate Christmas for as long as possible! They start to adorn their houses, establishments, and streets with gigantic Xmas trees and dynamic colorful lights around the same time. The Philippines, as a tropical country, isn’t endowed with a wintry setting that would echo a typical Christmas feel. For most Filipino homeowners, no festive holiday is complete without the Christmas tree. They love Christmas sale; most shopping malls offer a pre-Christmas sale of some items. You can see from my below photos how beautiful and colorful Xmas trees and decorations are.
They also have their own Christmas traditions such as the ‘parol’ which is a bamboo pole or frame with a lighted star lantern on it. It’s traditionally made from bamboo strips and colored in Japanese paper or cellophane paper and represents the star that guided the Wise Men. It is the most popular Christmas decoration in the Philippines, below photo of Parol Decoration.
Simbang Gabi is a Filipino Christmas tradition. It is a series of nine dawn masses. The mass starts as early as 4:00 a.m. It begins on December 16 and ends on the midnight of the 24th of December, which is the midnight mass. Food portrays a big role in every special occasion in the Philippines, and Christmas is no exception. After the Simbang Gabi Shortly after the mass, traditional delicacies awaits the church goers, there are food stalls right outside the church, popular favourites are bibingka (cakes), puto bumbong (rice cakes), and usually served with tea or coffee. Hot pandesal (breakfast rolls) are also very popular.
puto bungbong bibingka (cakes)
Getting around – MANILA (Reuters) – I experienced their local mode of transport called Jeepneys, the flamboyant passenger trucks of the Philippines (below picture). Jeepneys sometimes called simply jeeps have been the most popular means of public transportation in the Philippines. At a cost of 8 pesos ($0.16) for a journey of 4 km (2.5 miles) in Manila, they are easily affordable, but the ride is far from comfortable, sitting knee-to-knee on twin benches, and lacks air-conditioning or windows to shield occupants from the heat, rain and choking fumes.
Jeepneys have evolved from surplus army jeeps left behind by the U.S. military after World War Two to become brightly-painted vehicles festooned with religious slogans, horoscope signs or family names.
There is a possibility government might be phasing these out making it safer and more environment friendly, will put the brakes on a mode of travel that has long been the surest and cheapest option in a country of 105 million people.
Hope you have enjoyed reading… part 2 coming soon:-)