Sunday, April 22, 2012

April 8th- 15th:
I spent the entire week in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. I went there with students and teachers from Marinduque to compete in the National Schools Press Conference for Journalism. Just a little background about Journalism- elementary and high school students are given the opportunity to participate in journalism. There are different categories that they can study and practice such as: editorial cartooning, photography, editorial writing, feature writing, broadcasting, and school newspaper committee. Each category has an English and Filipino contest, the young writers can chose which language they want to compete in.

The students compete at the local level (for me, right here in Marinduque). Then they go to the regional level (remember when I went to Tagaytay?), and then they qualify for nationals. At nationals, all 17 regions of the Philippines had a group of candidates who were competing for top recognition!

Palawan was an adventure from start to finish- I can’t decide where to start! I will just write about random details that capture and highlight the trip. When we arrived in Palawan we had lunch and then went to the school that was assigned to host the candidates from Marinduque. Each region had a host school- where they would sleep and eat for the duration of the conference. This had me thinking about when I would travel for swimming- we always just stated in hotels that were booked by our own individual families. Here, schools volunteered their space (plus foam, sheets and pillows) for each guest! There is an organizational committee that put everything together and it was very impressive and a more affordable and friendly environment. The best thing about it for me was the friendships I made with the teachers and students who I was living with. From braiding all the girls’ hair, to playing Monkey Monkey (my favorite card game- similar to old maid), taking walks at night, enjoying meals together- it was all a great way to get to know people from all over Marinduque. I actually went to visit one of the teachers I made friends with in Palawan yesterday; it was full of splashes and jumping in the waves.

On the second day we were there, we had to attend a parade around the town. Each region had a color (ours was blue) to represent the region they were from. We had matching hats, t-shirts, and backpacks- it was super cute! This was the first day that I was around people who had never seen me before. In Marinduque, most people already know me so the stares have already gone away. Hearing, “Can I take a picture with you Barbie, and Oh look, an imported person” was manageable but overwhelming too. Luckily, as I tried to hold in my frustrations, the smiling faces of my new friends helped me to keep smiling in all of those photos. I have no idea how many photos were taken of me that day, but it was a lot- no doubt about that. The parade ended with a presentation to help inspire the young writers to keep writing and following their dreams. They held the event at the coliseum in town. The eyes of so many people were wide open- they had never seen anything like it.

What else? There was another PCV who was there for the conference, Brian. He and I decided we had to see some of what Palawan had to offer. One day we climbed through a broken bridge covered with branches, dirty muck below our feet, to reach the seashore. It was a beautiful view and the feeling when my toes dig into the sand and salt water splashes onto my legs is always calming and enjoyable. The next day we went to Honda Bay to go island hopping. Once we had our neon gear we were ready to swim. The highlight of this trip was the snorkeling. As soon as we jumped off the stairs, tiny bright fish kissed our skin and the view we saw through the goggles was pretty amazing. I was happy that another volunteer was there to go on adventures with!

Palawan was a memorable experience from take off to finish for so many reasons. In the end, I will admit I was homesick for Marinduque. I missed my community, my bed, the food, my house, everything. It was a good feeling to have though, wanting to go back to my home away from home. Was a little taste of realization about how much I like doing what I am doing. Great feeling to have!

Lunch date in Palawan on the first day.

Mimaropa outfit for the parade! 

The swimmers are ready to snorkel.

Sabang, Palawan. Simply Gorgeous!

Crocodile Farm in Palawan! 

This is the classroom that we turned into a little house for the week.  It was a lot of fun but a  challenge to share one bathroom. 

There was an entire market or dried fish and squid- baskets and baskets full and it was hanging everywhere. The smell is not one of my favorites I must say, I prefer to smell mangoes. Many people who travel to Palawan buy this as pasalubong (something they bring back home with them). 

This was the last night- we had a dance party. 

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