Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Buhay sa Donsol

It gets harder and harder sometimes to express in words the things I experience here. Kind of silly for a writer, eh? But life becomes somewhat normal once you live in a place for a while. Even if you are living in a hut. Without running water. And your evenings are spent hauling your water by da bucket, gutting your fish and picking the bok-bok bugs out of your bed!

But I will attempt to update and share a bit of the not so mundane. I feel like a proud momma today. I have mentioned that I have a secondary project outside of the school. I am working with an environmental group and the Donsol Mayor and some other folks to build a Marine Ecology Learning Center called Bahay Kalikasan (or Nature House) at the beach in my barangay (village). Yesterday, we finished the proposal...18 pages in submit to Peace Corps for review and release of funding. We have a donor -- Salamat po, Bob Waters, with the Thomas P. Waters Foundation! -- and 25 percent of the project will be paid for by the local community. Ito ay maliking proyekto, talaga! (It's really a very big project!)

In short, if realized, we will conduct seminars on environmental science for children, solid waste management seminars for adults and we will create livelihood programs for the local fishermen who live in my neighborhood. The hope is that we can bring a whole community awareness to the pressing environmental problems here in Donsol. And there are many! You can start with the families dumping trash into the mangrove swamp behind my hut. The center will act as a community center for people to work for the preservation and protection of the local environment.

But yesterday was the first big accomplishment for the Filipinos involved. They met and finished a proposal to receive the funding through the Peace Corps Partnership Fund. For one reason or another, things don't always get accomplished here. Deadlines are missed, the money disappears, politics get in the way. And the process of meeting deadlines, making decisions and writing proposals is new to many folks here. But they did it and I am very proud of them. Now, we await panel review from Peace be continued.

In other news here, our reading program at the school -- Read First -- a program for remedial readers in the First Year of high school was finally approved by the principal. We've been discussing it since last August. Like I said, things don't always happen on time here...if at all! We will do a training for the teachers in May and implement the program in June. More than 70 percent of the students at school can't read English or are well below grade level in English. You might not think this is unusual because it's not their first language...but Filipinos are required to learn English and study it beginning in the First Grade. Plus, their math and science courses are taught in English! Kind of hard to learn math and science if you don't know English....

The Punta English Club (in my neighborhood) is alive and kicking thanks to Jerrold "Tong" Lopez, a 16-year-old high school dropout who is helping me teach the younger children English. He is very smart and very excited about the club. As president, he has started the kids on a number of projects, including writing Valentine's letters this week in English. Very cute! We meet on Sundays and Tong was elected the group's president. I am hoping Tong will go back to school in June. He is sooooo smart.

On the homefront, I'm enjoying my nightly "usap-usap" (chats) with Ate Basing even though it means sometimes I am not alone. They are all still worried about me being alone in my own house so nobody dares leave me until I am ready for bed. Sometimes it gets exhausting, but it's definitely helping my Tagalog! We talk and she helps me with new words and I help her with some English, so works out just fine. Although, I must admit that sometimes I really don't understand everything she says...sigh! I have a sometimes pet, Pretty Boy, a cat, who comes around every now and then to sleep in my bed and eat my leftover fish. He doesn't however like the rats in my house.

I have made a few home improvements. Queer Eye guys, watch out! Painted my "dirty kitchen" a bright apple green! It was so, well, dirty, and dark. I have ordered some furniture made of bamboo to be delivered in March. And the house will actually be connected to water next week. The hauling is cute but my back is aching....

Other exciting news in the neighborhood is that fiesta is next month. Everyone is getting their pigs big and fat and they will kill them all on the same day. I don't think I'll be around for the squealings! But every barangay has a big fiesta once a year for their patron saint. Ours is St. Joseph. Don't ask why. But basically, it's a big party for a few days. Everyone eats meat and drinks gin. I will offer vegeterian food and see if I get any visitors. Probably not. There are singing and dance contests, and a Miss Gay competition. Yes, Miss Gay!

Oh, so recently, I went to my first cockfight. I was avoiding it but figured I should go eventually since is such a huge part of Filipino culture or at least the male side of things, for the most part. It was as dreadful as I expected with blood and guts spewing everywhere, a bunch of sweaty screaming men and a dead or half-dead rooster in the end. Lots of money changing hands though. Wonder where they get the pesos for the betting when most here have trouble just putting food on the table.

The other thing that is changing in Donsol is that a lot of white people keep showing up in town. It's the strangest thing when you are not used to seeing white people and then you see them walking down the street. I have begun pointing and staring just like my Filipino friends. Tourist season has begun in Donsol. People are coming into town to see the whale sharks, of course. I met an Australian guy teaching English in Taiwan and a Canadian girl. Today, I met a couple of Swedes. This could get fun. I am expecting 15 Peace Corps volunteers to visit one weekend in March. My neighbors might be overwhelmed. I mean, there's me...then, there's 15 of me!


Blogger wrcampiii said...

Great blog! Lots of news about Donsol. I think you are beginning to adjust to your stay there. Take care.

5:30 AM  
Blogger Kai said...

You are a very kind soul. I have read all your posts, and some of them make me cry, for all our helplessness and poverty, but that you're doing something to help my countrymen.

I swam with the whale sharks on a Valentine day six years ago, with a friend and about four Japanese PCVs. Looks like Donsol is still the same now as it was then. I would love to go back, if I could.

Thank you, although I don't think I can thank you, with all my kababayans, enough for all that you're doing. I hope more books are coming your way. And you're right on the spot on that garbage thing - it's the same everywhere in the country - kids are not taught to dispose of waste properly.

I'm so glad to know you'll have water soon! And oh, the reason we don't have toilet paper is because we use the tabo to rinse with water. But I don't like that practice, it's unhygienic, so I stock up on tissue.

You inspired me. Maybe I could join the corps one day, when my kids have all grown and flown the nest.

Good luck for all of your missions, and take care always. And advance happy fiesta, I wish I could be your visitor and devour your vegetarian fare. ;-)

12:34 AM  
Blogger mightydre said...

hey lady,

i followed a link from the lonelyplanet thorntree (of all places) and am glad i had the internet surfing insomniac night to do so. you've put together a vivid account of small town philippines (though i have yet to see it, i can imagine much clearer now). i'll soon be one of the "white faces" coming through town to catch a glimpse of your immense underwater neighbors; but am also looking for meaningful ways to spend my above water time. is there anything we travelers can do to add your projects around donsol? - bring books, supplies, volunteer teaching time, etc.

myself, i'll be coming from small town s. korea and can relate to the some of the teaching and bureaucratic woes. my fella and i are happy to lend a hand if needed, or at least meet up for some veggie cooking with word from the road in late may/early june.

fingers crossed you get the peace corp funding and your local group keep their motivation!


9:49 AM  
Blogger houdeani said...

g'day Julia!

I must say, that you have documented great travel moments in a place alien to your normal existence. As a person of Filipino parentage (I grew up in Australia), I am always happy to read stories and hear of people's appreciation for the Philippines. What made your benevolent act commendable is seeing the sacrifices you made to everyday comforts of life so that you could be one with the very people that needed help.
My mother hails from Donsol. On her behalf, I would like to THANK YOU for enriching my mom's hometown. Thank you for your generosity, the support and the knowledge you've imparted to them. I know that a piece of Donsol is in your heart now and I hope that more and more people can 'chip in' to do great deeds to people that have much less than what we have in the West.

10:42 PM  
Blogger houdeani said...

We have a brand new beach house for rent to transients in Donsol. Our house is a spacious 3 bedder house with modern appointments and is located 400 metres away from Donsol 'city centre'. A picture of this house can be viewed in
The whole house is hired out at a nightly rate of P3,250 which includes a private butler at your disposal and a local tourist guide who can take you to the little 'hidden' jewels of Donsol unheard of by tourists. The property is surrounded by Mango Trees it has a private beach for the guests personal use. If you are interested whizz me an email on

10:47 PM  
Blogger tash said...

thank you for serving our town(donsol)may you rest in peace!!!

8:43 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Im one of millions of filipinos being touched by your story..

What have you done to our country and to my countrymen, you were our hero.

It really makes me sad you're life ends that way.. You deserve to be in heaven.

Julia, Maraming Salamat. 'Til the end.

8:21 PM  
Blogger jb29 said...

Julia, you will always be in my prayers. God bless your soul. Thanks for the years you spent in my country.

12:14 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

It was while reading about this tragedy that I found your blog. Wow!!! Never before and probably never again am I likely to ever see a greater example of what is grace, and the world is in such desperate need of graceful women!!!
I never knew about you before and I feel like I lost a great friend, but I feel at peace as I am convinced that because of what you did and why you did what you did, your time on this earth was so well spent, that there can be no greater example of what is a truly successful life.
You will from here on in be for me, a model and a source of strength for me to fulfill my own destiny and I will never forget, so your spirit lives on, and it is for an ever expanding and continuing positive effect which will reach far beyond what you could not possibly have imagine while you were with us, especially since I am sure that you must have touched a lot of people and even now continuing to do so, and you are a perfect model on how we should all conduct our lives.

12:26 AM  
Blogger canngogui said...

you are now in heaven im sure - i am so humbled by your story. i thought i was a filipino but im so overwhelmed by your compassions to my needy countrymen-you're more than what a true filipino should be, julia may you rest in peace, i and my son would be praying for you always.i cried countless times while i read your blogs. you will not be forgotten by the so many hearts you have touched and i know you will continue that even you have left us.may our Lord tjake you in His arms

5:14 PM  
Blogger roke said...

thank you very much for serving our countrymen

12:39 PM  
Blogger Lindy said...

Wherever you may be I just would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for telling good things about the Philippines and Donsol in particular. How I wish I had known you when you were still alive.

Thank you for sharing your life to my kababayans, Julia!

9:55 PM  
Blogger arianne said...

Ms. Campbell as said in the news is a very helpful person. Imagine that she choose to be away from her loved ones and voluntarily stayed here in the Philippines to help unfortunate people, educate children and many things that helped allot of rural places here in the Philippine.

You can learn allot and be inspired in her blog, and be thankful that we had a Ms. Julia Campbell who made sense of her stay here in the Philippines.

I admire her... I wish I have knew her before she passed away…Sana nasa tabi na siya ni God ngayon…

--Arianne Azarcon Alcantara
14 yrs.old

1:03 AM  
Blogger arianne said...

Ms. Campbell as said in the news is a very helpful person. Imagine that she choose to be away from her loved ones and voluntarily stayed here in the Philippines to help unfortunate people, educate children and many things that helped allot of rural places here in the Philippine.

You can learn allot and be inspired in her blog, and be thankful that we had a Ms. Julia Campbell who made sense of her stay here in the Philippines.

I admire her... I wish I have knew her before she passed away…Sana nasa tabi na siya ni God ngayon…

--Arianne Azarcon Alcantara
14 yrs.old

1:06 AM  
Blogger melvinnogales said...

Dear Julia,

I was born in sorsogon from the place u called it your second home its really annoying that people like u suffer from this tragic moment.I wish that your attacker may soon put in jail.Its too late i dont have time to chat with you.Since youre gone i almost spend my time reading your blog, up to now i feel so sad for you.I love you for spending your time for us here in the phillipines.We will not forget u in behalf of all the bikolanos out there.We will miss you may you rest in peace

8:59 PM  
Blogger sweetmyles said...

Sadly we didn't even met in Donsol. The place where i always visited during my official travel. Its very touching reading real testimonies about Donsol like you did. Wish all the people visiting the Philippines may set as an example in terms of humility...may your stay in our country serves as a lesson of INJUSTICE to our PARALYZED government, PNP or AFP.

May you find real justice and peace. We love you Julia...ur a good Sheperd.

7:54 PM  
Blogger alma427 said...

I have been reading your blog since last year. I enjoyed all your stories, especially about Fred but I did not leave any comment. Now, I wish I had, so I could thank you then for helping my poor countrymen.

It is sad that something like this would happen to good people like you. I hope you find peace with our Lord and thank you very much Ms. Campbell. You're an inspiration.

8:12 PM  
Blogger tess poling said...

Like you Julia, we are called to preserve our environment, God's resources, that includes all ie,people, land, sea, air and all that we buy and use. You have made your mark in educating others on the environment. The whale sharks are Godsent - it is our obligation to respect and preserve their habitat and ours. We can change the world, one by one, thru our actions, each day. There are many pristine areas in the Phil,like Donsul. It's like heaven when we swim with nature in their habitat, in clear blue waters.
less is more (do not pollute)
reduce, reuse, recycle, purchase recycled products.

11:44 PM  
Blogger filipinas said...

Help promote the Philippines while we help promote your blog.


7:55 AM  

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