Thursday, February 26, 2009

Amazing Antique

Max B. here with another update from the GSE Philippines crew! We've completed our stay in San Jose, Antique, and man was that a blast! I got to tour a pair of local cable stations, where I was interviewed about my trip and experiences. Later that day I went to the DYKA radio station, where I once again spoke about how amazing this trip has been. It's a strange role reversal, a reporter being questioned, but it was a lot of fun and I can't wait to hear it.

I also visited a museum dedicated to the life of Gov. Evelio Javier. He was an oppositionist to the authority of President Ferdinand Marcos, for which he was assisinated on Feb. 11, 1986. It's said his assisination was what fueled the fire to start the People Power/Philippine EDSA Revolution that year. It was an experience that made me stop and think. For someone to take a stand knowing the risk, that's a rare kind of courage, and a rarer devotion to helping others.

Afterwards we went to a sugar factory. The festivities ended with the team (minus Doug) taking a ride on a water buffolo. Later that night we attended a Rotary meeting and partied late into the night at a karaoke bar. As always , it was too little time spent in another great city. We've got pics galore, so stay tuned!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

What's your favorite subject?

These students are dressed for gym class!


This back pack belongs to a first grader who attends private school in Bacolod. The students must buy their own books and CARRY them or WHEEL them to school each and every day. They do not leave any of their school supplies in the classroom. In many cases the book bag weighs more than the student who drags it!

Shelley Visits Schools

My favorite part of the trip is visiting the schools. I brought one of my favorite books, The Rainbow Fish, and whenever possible I read to the classes that I visit. The kids ooh and ahh as I show them the shiny pages and they learn the importance of sharing. Then the students make their own rainbow fish to hang in the classroom. I brought shiny silver sticky paper to make their poster shiny, too!

As you can see, a good time was had by all!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Broadcasting from Bacolod City, P.I.

It's been two weeks since we left for the Philippines and after visiting several clubs in about half a dozen cities I am still amazed at what we are able to see and do.  I was gonna put up a different video before this one, but since that one is still in post production and this is edited for me, I said "why not?".  While visiting the ABS-CBN station in Bacolod City, we were given a chance to experience being on television or radio.  We had met with one of the hosts who interviewed us for a morning show, but I have yet to see it aired.  The next day, we came back and Doug talked about who we are and what we do on the airwaves while the rest were offered to do a mock newsreport which we were given a copy of.  I was even offered a job!  So if I decide to pack up and move here, which seems like a viable option so far, I know I at least can find work.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Snorkeling, seashells and sunburns

Max B., back on the blog from Kabankalan, with a whole lot of updates. Just a couple days ago the team and I took to the water of the Dakak Resort. Laurie, Shelley and I went snorkling while Doug and Jon took the scuba route. Now this was my first time snorkeling, and it was a blast! It was like seeing a whole new world (and no, I'm not referring to the Disney song, and no, I won't sing it. OK, maybe later). Coral of every shape and size, fish of every color, and even some blue starfish! It was with no small regret that I made my way back to the boat.

That evening we made our presentation to the Dapitan Rotary Club, and danced/sang the night away. Renditions of I Will Survive, Living La Vida Loca and Living on a Prayer (the last sung by yours truly) filled the air, and no doubt "delighted" our hosts and fellow resort guests. Well, we thought it sounded good.

The next day we were off to Dumaguette via boat. We met with the Kabankalan Rotary Club, who drove us to the Zaycoland Hotel & Resort. We had a little R&R, met with the vice-mayor and some other city officials, and Jon went through a baptism of sorts by trying balut, a delicacy in the Philippines. From what I understand, it's a duck fetus swallowed whole. While Jon was unable to keep the delicacy down for long, we all gave him an A for effort. As far as the team is concerned, he passed the test,which I was there to record for posterity.

Unfortunately, there was a shadow cast over the good times, when I realized afterwards I had developed a rather nasty sunburn that required a trip to the Southern Negros Doctor's Hospital in Kabankalan. It's no secret that I'm not the world's best tanner, so before you ask why I didn't think to apply sunblock, the short answer is, "I don't know."

All is well, however, and I'd like to extend a hearty thanks to the staff and doctors there. They patched me up good as new, and explained exactly what they were doing. I feel 110 percent, and can't wait for our next adventure.

See you all next time!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

From Cebu to Dipolog

On Feb. 13, we had a long layover in Cebu on our trip to Dipolog and were greeted by local Rotarians who took us on a tour of the City. We visited Magellan's Cross where Ferdinand Magellan planted a cross in the soil in 1521, claiming the Philippines for Spain. We just missed another GSE team from New Hampshire that passed through a few days earlier.

(Picture by Shelley: Magellan's Cross.)

After Cebu, we were on to Dipolog where we visited a hospital, a college, and a local newspaper. Dipolog Medical Center College was very interesting, combining traditional classes with hands-on experience. For example, there was a complete hotel suite, reception area, restaurant kitchen, and bar for students studying hotel management.

My favorite experience was caving in Manukan. Sporting headlamps and helmets, we crawled through a half-mile maze of stalagmites and stalactites. On the return hike, we shared fresh coconut with the locals-- a sweet reward. The drive to the cave was the first time we got a glimpse of the Philippine countryside; it is breathtaking. There are expansive rice patties, 60-foot palm trees, and rolling hills as far as you can see. Snorkeling and rock climbing at Dakak Beach Park & Resort are next!

(Picture by Shelley: DMC nursing students preparing an herbal remedy for Dengue fever.)

Zamboanga Images by Shelley

Manila Airport

View of Manila from Manila Airport

Photo by: Shelley Hamm-Moylan

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It's a Small World After All

Our third day in Zamboanga and we continue to be treated like royalty. Doug & I began with a tour of Crustacean Trading Corporation, a plant that blast freezes seafood to maintain the freshness and vitamins, so that delicacies like octopus can be shipped worldwide. It was an impressive family-run business, and standing in the enormous freezers reminded us of the frigid weather we are missing back home. Temperatures topped out just above 100 degrees in Zamboanga.

In the afternoon, Mayor Celso Lobregat treated us to a presentation about our host city. Zamboanga has a nearly 400-year history influenced primarily by the Spaniards who occupied the area for several centuries. The Latin culture is still a large part of Zamboanga’s culture today, and lead to a new branding campaign that position’s the City as “Asia’s Latin City.”

Having recently collaborated to implement a new brand campaign for the 10th fastest-growing city in the USA, I was particularly interested in the challenges Zamboanga faced in launching its new brand and communicating with its residents. Despite population differences, (Lancaster, California with 140,000 v. Zamboanga with 780,000) and the entire Pacific Ocean lying between them, these two cities shared many of the same challenges.

Thus far, we’ve been blogging about many of the differences we’ve encountered; our discussion with the Mayor was a wonderful reminder that there are many similarities as well. The opportunity to discuss our shared challenges is a priceless aspect of the GSE experience. Whether through business, or through the development of international service projects, it is amazing what a meeting of the minds from across the world can accomplish.
-Laurie B.

A memorable meeting (times three)

Whew! Max B. here, after another busy but fun day in the Philippines. Monday was spent touring several of Zamboanga's most memorable sights, including Fort Pillar and Paseo de Mar. Afterwards we had a great get-together at District Governor James Makarsiar's beautiful home, where we got to meet several members of the local Rotary, and I got to test my vocal abilities (There was a band there, so thankfully I wasn't the only one on the mike).

Today I visited the offices of the Zamboanga Times and Zamboanga Today, the city's two daily newspapers. I chatted with Roy Ramos and JV Faustino, the two editor-in-chiefs of the papers. They had a lot of questions for me about my paper and my hometown. It was quite the role reversal, a reporter getting questioned, but I learned a lot from them and hope to apply that knowledge to the Minuteman.

Later that day the team met with Mayor Celso Lobregat. We got a great overview of Zamboanga and all it has to offer, and got to ask some questions about the city, the mayor's goals, and how he plans to spread the word about its beauty. I've interviewed many a city official before, and at one point I wondered why I didn't have my recorder with me. Guess you can take the reporter out of the newsroom but you can't take the newsroom out of the reporter, eh?

Well, that's all for now. I'm off to the west chapter of Zamboanga's Rotary Club for a Valentine's Day party. I'll try not to sing this time.

Max B.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Mabuhay everyone, Jon here.  As the Filipino American on the trip, I felt it necessary to say hello in Tagalog.

After arriving in the Philippines, I have to say that I'm on the same page as Max.  Everything is amazing and just from our experiences so far I could see me staying here.  Where did I put my passport?  Just kidding.  Everyone keeps telling me about the Mangoes here and it wasn't until I had some at the airport in Manila that I can see what they're talking about.  Yes, that's right, the airport.  And I don't even eat much fruit.  Since then, I've consumed Mango shakes, Mango juice from a can and I think the masseuses from last night used Mango oil.

They've given us so much food that I'm starting to think that all Filipinos, including myself, have huge appetites.  We've had all sorts of food including Lumpia, Lechon Sisig, Bangus, Tocino, and it was all good.  Even the San Miguel beer tasted better here than in the States.  

I just got a call from my host parents that, for my vocational experiences, I'll be visiting with students studying film as well as the ABS-CBN television station in Zamboanga.  So that is absolutely amazing to me.  We just got here and I can see this trip being packed with fun and many memorable experiences.  But that's the update for now and I can see myself going on so I'll say goodbye for now and until next time.

Arrival in the Philippines

Greetings, everyone! It's your faithful Philippines blogger Max B. here, to give you our first post-flight report.

After more than 30 hours on the plane our team has finally arrived in the Philippines!

The weather is beautiful. 90 degrees with a 70 degree dewpoint, with a nice breeze to keep it from getting too hot. I've taken tons of shots of the countryside, and it always takes my breath away A couple years back I went to Ireland, and thought no scenery on earth could match it. Suffice to say, I was wrong. 
I've done some travelling in my life, but this is  whole new experience for me. The people, the sounds, the food, there's nothing here that isn't new for me.  

We were treated to a rock star arrival by the wonderful folks of the Philippines Rotary District 3850. After the greetings and introductions were done, we went to the La Vina hotel, where we we had a delicious feast. 

That evening we went to a massage parlor, and man was that needed! Maybe it was the jet lag, or maybe it's the fact I'm constantly carrying 50 years of stress on my shoulders, but I left feeling like a new man. A late dinner, and we collapsed onto our beds (literally).

Feeling rested and refreshed the next day (I think I'm getting addicted to mango juice), we're getting ready to take a tour of Zamboanga City, after which we'll head to the homes of the Rotary families we'll be staying with for the week. It's sure to be an experience like no other, and I can't wait to start!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Fingers crossed for the next 48 hours

Hey everyone, its about 5 in the morning and I finally have everything packed and ready to go.  Our flight is leaving in about eight hours from now and with well over a day of traveling ahead of us, I decided to get my sleep at a much higher altitude than I currently am now.  With an itinerary that seems to change by the minute and faith that everything will all work out in the end the excitement is ever growing for me to finally go to the root of my ethnicity, the Philippine Islands.  With that in mind, many of the group I'm traveling with has been preparing for the trip for about a couple months, yet I sit here typing with the knowledge that mine has been much longer.  

From learning to dance Tinikling to finding a family once lost for decades to me; studying Tagolog and understanding why they call it chocolate meat; my participation in the Rotary Club's GSE team was not my first step towards understanding where I come from but rather the most important one.  So much so, that I offered to document our travels while overseas.  With me being the actor/videographer it's only prudent for me to make a film.  So to take a look at a video of what we've gone through for the past five weeks press play on the attached file.  


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Final thoughts

Well, folks, the day is almost upon us. 72 hours from now, I'll be on a flight to Manila. The last few days have been busy ones. Over the weekend, I started shopping for everything I'll need (memory card for my camera, new charger for my phone and of course, oodles of mosquito repellent). I check my tickets each day to make sure I haven't lost them, and go over the checklist to make sure there isn't something I missed.

Over the weekend the team and I went to the Northeast Link, where we met with GSE teams headed to Thailand, Poland, and the Philippines (other than us). We also learned about what's expected of us and got some tips on how to make the trip less stressful and more enjoyable. We even got to don our stylish Rotary uniforms (as it turns out we were the only ones to do that. But hey, we looked fab!).

It's Tuesday night, and I'm going to start packing for the trip. I've got a new suitcase courtesy of my mother (thanks, Mom!), plus a second one borrowed from my brother (hmmmm, something borrowed, something new....). I don't think it's hit me yet what's about to happen. I just put this week's edition of the Billerica Minuteman (the paper I write for and edit) to bed, and I find myself inadvertently thinking of what next week's issue will contain, though I won't be here to write it. Today it snowed, and within a few days, I'll be kissing the frozen shores of Massachusetts goodbye and head off to far warmer climes, yet I've never really stopped to think about that. I guess that's the byproduct of a busy life. We often don't take the time to focus on what's coming up because we're so entrenched in the now. We worry if we take too much time on what may be, we'll miss what is.

Well, busy or no, my life is about to take a whole new twist. I don't know what's going to happen, but I know myself, Jon, Laurie, Shelley and Doug will have a blast doing it. Next stop, the Philippines!!
Max B.

P.S., as a final parting gift, here's a video of the Filipino National Anthem