End of the year

I joined the grant committee.


Going clockwise from me: Annie (my new RM), Charlie (CRM 272 PCV), Ben (CYF 271 PCV), Sheila!! (grant person), Andrew (CRM 271 PCV), Donna (Educ. 271 PCV),  Dani (missing… she came in the next day).  We are in the training room in the Peace Corps Office in Manila.

At school:

It’s graduation time and ranking time.

Ranked number 1 in SSC (Special Science Curriculum) 1st year, Kathleen (I think that is her name) decided to celebrate with spaghetti and fish cakes.  YUM!  My first time trying street food.  I didn’t have a tummy ache or the runs afterwards.  I have assimilated.  Her dad is the one frying the fish cakes and balls.





Practice day without chairs.  Galileo hiding from the sun with their backpacks.

IMG_3831All 4th years! 361 of them.

IMG_3809My principal and superintendent, Sir Eco (my principal’s brother) cut the graduation ribbon.  Sir Eco knows me by name.  I must be important.

IMG_3810He throws the ribbon like a bouquet.


Galileo girls and me.  I made some of the red flowers on their gowns.  In the Philippines, they call “cap and gown”—-> “togas.”


Maushay sira (They are beautiful)

IMG_3819Lobos Family

IMG_3842Sir Chris (SSC Math). Ma’am Julienne (SSC English), Sir Femmy (SSC Physic), and Me (Regular 4th year English)

Femmy inspires me to try harder and be a better role model for the kids.

IMG_3846Do you recognize them?  Natalia’s brother, Natalia, John Paul, and JLo.  My boys are graduating.  Just JLO and I next year.

A week is not complete unless I see my sitemate, Laurie.

IMG_3799Us at our favorite coffee place in Catarman.


IMG_3796A tree fungus

IMG_3798peanut pasta… The green noodles are made from the miracle leaves



Something New

- It seemed like the beginning of March was the start of something new.  My friend moving into her new apartment.  The school has a new student government.  A teacher getting married. A new volunteer.  Lots of new things…-

At School:

The academic school year is ending.  Graduation is around the corner.  Lots of testing. Lots of preparing for graduation.  Lots of singing.

Welcome PNHS new student government:


Filipinos love certificates.  They’ll probably get another certificate at the end of their term too.

In mid- February, our school fundraised for new instruments.  We got a drum set, two electric guitars, an amp, and some sort of sound thingy.  It arrived in early March.




Celebrating the incoming student government with sweet spaghetti and coke.  We keep it classy by opening the coke bottles against the door lock.

The office is silly.  For each graduating senior to receive their financial and academic clearance, they needed to sing “Time for Us” in front of their beloved school principal.  These are some of my boys from Galileo and Newton.




Me with Aristotle



At Laurie’s new apartment!


It’s Papa’s bear oatmeal, Mama’s bear oatmeal, and just right bear’s oatmeal.

We also made chilli on a separate day.  It’s spicy and yummy in a mama’s bear bowl.


A Day at the Beach!

Meet the newest addition to our Northern Samar crew.  His name is Mike.  He is a Response Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV), who completed his service in Mali and Kenya.  He is helping the local government on disaster management.  He will be with us until June/ July 2014.
IMG_3691Laurie, Mike, me, Tasha, Aimee. I am surrounded by tall people that they created a wall shadow. Lol

IMG_3689IMG_3693Laurie and her broken shoe

In the Community:

This is a really special story.  One of the teachers, Ma’am Rizza, got married.  She got married to her best friend.  It sounds like the normal classic story.  But her husband was married before, this is his second marriage and wedding.  Four or five years ago, his wife was sick and past away.  His wife’s best friend is Ma’am Rizza.  They apparently started bonding right away during the wake.  The next year, they became best friends, and of course later on they started dating.  Now, they are married.

This is them releasing their love doves.


IMG_3746One day these little ones will be just like the gentlemen behind them

IMG_3748IMG_3768Ladies in Red (Lady sponsors)


I pinned him with money. Haha literally.



Part 2: Trainee

First off, I do not have many photos of our SUPER-IST.  Super-IST comes around our 6 months in service.  This really gives a chance for the volunteers to see each other and discuss how they feel about service and their sites.  As part of the education sector, there were many things said.  We also had a language camp, IST, and PDM (Project Design Management).

Meet Romy, our language instructor…

IMG_3661Romy is from Tacloban.  He teaches High School.  Although life right now is challenging in Tac, he is doing well and carrying on that Filipino persistent attitude.

He also helped me translate some of my Jersey slang words into waray-waray.

It’s a process = processo iton

He did use this phrase a lot in class.  After he would say “processo iton,” he would chuckle and then look at me. haha Romy is great!  What a jokesters!

shortie = hamubo-y (doesn’t really translate well)

Other slang phrases in tagalog/english translated by Jibril, another PCV:

gucci ka ba? gucci na ako.  chillin’ na ako. hell hindi!

What’s gucci?  Gucci. Chilling. Hell no!

The Northern Samar crew loves bets/ competitions and anything dorky.  During Super-IST, we had a competition of the most documentation of our Regional Manager’s shoes (RM).



IMG_3649Aimee won with six pictures.

I was the most obvious.  I just get too excited.  In the end, he asked Aimee, “what is wrong with Stephanie.  She is acting really strange.”  She ended up telling him about our competition. lol He laughed.  I think it shows our love.  Next month, he is stepping down as a RM.  Sad times.  But Annie, our new RM, seems nice.

IMG_3656Nothing says you are a white foreigner in the Philippines unless some random Filipinas scream and ask to take a picture with you.  Aimee at the Rizal Shrine.


This is a candle tree.  It produces candles. Haha no… it produces things that look like candles, but you shouldn’t really eat them.  I am not sure what the purpose was.  But it was a nice nature walk in the Botanical Gardens in UAP.

Super-IST was a lot of fun.  Each day seemed like it took forever.  When looking back, it seemed like the days and week moved on so fast.  Its only been a couple of days since I have been at site, and already I miss my friends.  They are my support.  They are clutch.

Part 1: Trainer


I guess February is the month of training.

Rustum, the supervisor of English in Catbalogan (Western Samar), asked the education volunteers in Northern Samar to do a mini English review for 600+ teachers.  Haha None of us has ever done that before but we can try.  So this is how it went…

The training was broken into two groups, roughly having 300 teachers per group.

IMG_3624Group 1 working on a writing assignment.  It is really hard to train people ALL day starting from 8AM to 5PM.  After training, you have to prepare the next day’s training.  It was like teaching ALL DAY!  I have a new appreciation for my regional manager/ training person.  Shouts out to BONI!

I learned a lot about training, how to manage a large group, and how to give clear and concise directions.

IMG_3638The ladies with Rustum.


Northern Samar education volunteers going from biggest to smallest head size.  :D


Beautiful sunset… oh yeah I do live on a tropical island.

We had to return to our site early because an important Peace Corp person will be coming to Northern Samar.

Kathy Rulon is the Regional Director of Asia, Europe, and Mediterranean.  She is super nice.  She even brought us American candy.  YUm!  And Denny, our country director, came too.

I love listening to worldly conversations.  When they (Kathy and Denny) talked about their past experience with details like which hand to use for eating or transportation,  it feels as if you are there in their past experience.  I felt like I was mag-observing their past lives.  They talked about global issues and the emotional and mental mindset of different countries based on their history.





After my evacuation to the States, I returned to my site.  At first I was afraid that things would be awkward between me and my community.  But honestly, it is as if I never left.


PNHS is the same.  Activities… birthday celebrations…singing…dancing… some classes.


Celebrating our principal’s birthday.  You notice the pig on the right.  Mmm…marasa!


Tatay says, “This is LECHON!” (The skin of the roasted pig)

Meet my kids.  I picked two 4th year English classes.


4th year Faraday.  They enjoy singing and dancing and apparently contemporary art.


4th Year Galielo.  They enjoy long walks along the beach…tambaying (walking around) along the streets of portobello road.  They additionally put on a super performance of Oedipus.


Nico, the student in red, actually tried to stab his eyes!  WHY!?  We stopped him once we realized what he was doing.


We did an tribute to Marina Abramovic’s Imponderabilia

Ati-atihan and Kadayaw Festivals:

These festivals are to celebrate St. Nino, baby Jesus, or the moon.  More specifically the festivals represent the meeting between the tribal people and baby Jesus.  So people from different towns and baragays dress up in various tribal outfits, and compete against each other for money and recognition.

At Pambujan…


This is my baragay.  We won!  Listening to the 3AM drumming was worth it because we won.


Friends came to see the moon festival in my town.

At San Jose…


Rickey is bipartisan.  There are two groups in his town who are rivals.  He is showing off his mutual love for both teams.


Rickey is the prefect height for his house.


His Nanay’s chicken.  She is laying an egg.


A multi-cab.  I was inspired by “Portraits of Boston.”  I didn’t talk to the guy with the chicken.  But in my head, we talked about the unusual weather and how the chicken keeps his hands warm.

After visiting Rickey, Laurie and I went to Lavezares’ Ati-atihan festival (Tasha and Aimee’s site).  This is how we got into the plaza.






We got premium sitting.


Three dishes “ibang pagkaon” (non-filipino dishes) and one filipino dish.  Try to guess which one is the filipino dish.



IMG_3573Another sweet dish:  Taro with coconut and rice.

Peanut noodles! IMG_3588 IMG_3587

Stir fry mixed vegetables


Something smelly and fat :D



November 8, 2013

Typhoon Yolanda
IMG_3245These people are trying to take cover in city hall.

IMG_3253IMG_3255You can’t tell, but it’s really windy.  Cat and Tasha, my sitemates.  Cat (on the left) is my closest sitemate.  She only lives 10 mins by trike and a 15 minute boat ride away East of me.  Tasha (on the right) lives 2 hours away in the other direction.

Northern Samar was not damaged. According to my host mom, we have a coral reef along the coast, which protects us from waves during a typhoon.  After the typhoon, we had no electricity and limited communication.

Peace Corps thought it was unsafe for us to stay at site, so we were evacuated to Manila.  It took 2 days of waiting for our van, and 2 more days to get there.


By plane: 1 hr.

By land: 1.5 hrs to get to Allen.  We waited maybe around 1.5hrs for a ferry that goes from Samar to Luzon.  1.5 hrs to cross.  5.5 hrs. from port to Naga.  We had MacDonalds for lunch!  9hrs 20mins from Naga to Manila.  We had MacDonalds again for lunch!  In total 19hrs and 20mins of just travel time.  (We did not include our meals).

IMG_2019Kid jumping off the ferry


When we got to Manila, we essentially had a week to collect our emotions and mental stuff.  Peace Corps said that we will be going home for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  After 30-45 days, we were given a choice to continue service in country or not.

Here are some of activities that we did in Manila…

IMG_3310We packed rice for the masses.

A quick weird story:                                                                                                                   As we (Shubira, Joe, and I) were trying to leave the packing area, we (I really mean just Joe) had a lot of trouble leaving the packing area.  For some reason, Joe attracts a lot of attention from girls.  It must be a beard thing.  As we were leaving, a lady is following us.  This lady is so persistent that she tried to hop in the same cab as us.  We ended up jumping on a random jeepney to get away.
IMG_3334We went to the aquarium.  The Aquarium is very Filipino, half aquarium and half mall.  This is Josh dipping his feet with the fish doctors.  It’s an odd sensation.


Joe, Laurie, Rickey in his smashing new clothes, and I on our way to the Peace Corps office.

37 volunteers were evacuated.  5 decided to stay or finish their service in another country.  32 of us are returning to the Philippines!

I returned to my original site.  I am sitting in my room listening to the lovely drumming outside for the Kadayaw festivals.  I so can not wait until Thursday!

American Cook Day!

This month we made pizza with mulled spiced wine.  Two of my favorite things!

How did we do it?!

Step 1: Make the cheese.  2 gallons of milk + vinegar + heat and time = cheese.  We didn’t do this but did you know carabao is a water buffalo.  Mozzarella comes from a water buffalo milk.  Can you see the potential?



Tasha ready for us to pour in the cheese, so it can sit.


The cheese is sitting.  We got many strange looks from Laurie’s host family.  What’s that?  Cheese?  *jab* *jab* Resourceful Laurie used the lye from the cheese as tasty treats for her tomato and bell pepper plants.


Step 2: Make the dough.  ”You have to knead the dough.”  Laurie is kneading, and Aimee is holding it steady.



“it’s like a happy little loaf.”

Step 3: Cook the pizza.

As we were chilling and chikka-chikka (probably about Rickey’s frightening Halloween stories), of course we had a brown out.  How are we going to cook our pizzas?  Because we were planning to use the small electric toaster oven…
IMG_3168We “wokked” it.  Then magically we got electricity again, so we started to use the toaster oven.  But the wok pizza was not bad and got the job done.


It totally tasted like pizza!  Success!


The remnants of our mulled wine.  We went Peace Corps on it by pouring out tea from a tea bag so we could pour in the ground cinnamon.

Sliced orange + brown sugar + ground cinnamon + cheap wine = mulled spiced wine.  We have ground cloves, but forgot to get them.  Catarman is full of hidden treasurers that we don’t know yet.

Next month: Fish tacos and ice cream (without heavy cream)


46th Founding Anniversary 2013.10.21-25

Filipino schools really like their activities!

This past week, our school celebrated their founding anniversary.  It wasn’t until after the first day when I realized that this whole week is actually to fundraise money for the school.  HaHa!  We did “canvassing,” which student who can raise the most money wins “Mr. & Miss. PNHS” (Pambujan National High School).  We had a variety show and sold tickets.  (I didn’t pay.)  We had an educational Bingo game, where each card cost 5Php.  Lastly, we had a night event in the community.  Teachers would dance to the cucaracha and solicit money.

Most of the teachers at PNHS.  58 of us?


1st Day: Canvassing 


Canvassing is when students ask for donations, whoever fundraised or donated the most money will be Mr. and Miss. Pambujan National High School.


-The Winners- Mr. and Ms. PNHS 2013.  He fundraised around 6,000Php and she fundraised a little less than 60,000Php.  (around $1,535) <- that’s a lot of money for us.

2nd Day: Variety Show



The group shot of people who participated in the variety show.  The painted faces is this awesome modern dance group.  I want to be part of their crew.

3rd Day: Matho Don’t have pictures

4th Day: Coronation and Matho 


Let’s just say it started “Filipino time.”  The Coronation and afterwards dancing!

IMG_2964My family getting ready to dance the night away.


My entourage… haha JK.  Probably my most closest girlfriends at school.  Emily, me and Loreen.  Our nicknames are Breadcrumbs, Stefunny, and Miss. Urhi (late), or Breadcrumb 1, Breadcrumb 2, and Breadcrumb 3 (me).

5th Day: Festival

As the closing number of our week’s celebration, each grade did their interpretation of a festival held in various areas in the Philippines.

IMG_3001The 7th grade flower girls


The 7th grade did their interpretation of a festival from Northern Samar.

8th or 9th grade presents scarecrow festival…



It had interesting music- a combination of folk instruments with electronica.

IMG_3081 4th year (10th grade) did Sinulong festival.  It’s a festival from Cebu. (Cebu is East of Bohol, the island with the big earthquake.  Both islands are recovering.)


It’s a pagan dance.


The SSC kids (honor students) in their panagbenga festival from Baguio City.


In unison!  Sexy feet!  It was super hot that day.  I don’t know how the students were able to dance on the hot concrete.  Ouch!

After the fun filled activities in the morning, we what any other school would do in the Philippines.  We had lunch with something really tasty…

One large piece of meat on a “kabob” stick



Post-lechon with tatay ko.


Meet two of my favorite people in Pambujan. JLo (David) and Natalia (Harvey) are baklas (transgender males).  Once I was sitting in the student garden enjoying the view and mag-observe the fields,  JLo sits next to me and we instantly bonded.  She told me about her school life and being bullied.  There are some students who can be cruel, but for the most part they (baklas) are beloved in school.  Well I at least love them.


Welcome to Pambujan!

We are a small beach community.  In our entire municipality, there are around 30,000 people and 23 bargangy.  The center of town are the inner bargangys 1-8.  I live in bargangy 5.

Pambujans are early birds.  We go to church or magexercise (mag+ an english verb = Filipino verbs) at 5AM.  Tombying is one of our favorite past time, where we stroll down the sandy streets just walking.  If you are a bakla (gay), your “tomby” would be “rampa.”  (Note: in Pambujan, you need to speak the following languages, Tagalog, Waray-waray, English, and gay language.  Gay language is not just some slang words.  There is different vocabulary and phrasing).  After taking a stroll through the streets, you’ll see the teenage boys playing basketball.  The older man at the merkado (market) gambling and drinking until its roughly around time to go home.  The ladies working, running errands, hustling to Catarman to get their groceries, or finishing household chores.  If they are not doing any of the above, they are probably chik-chika (friendly gossip).

From Manila,  you take the one and only plane ride to Catarman at 5:30AM.  An hour into your flight, you land in Catarman.  This town is densely populated and definitely filled with hidden treasures.  From the Catarman airport, you take a pedicab (the bicycle with a side car) to the bus terminal.  Then you catch a jeepney that says “Rawis.”  Pambujan is roughly 34Km away from Catarman, which usually takes about an hour with all the stops.

This is my town.  We are a quiet little town with frequent brownouts/ blackouts.  But we have internet.

IMG_2745This is where you tell the jeepney to “para!”


That’s the back of a jeepney.  Say bye to personal space and say hello to your passive aggressive this is my area and I am not moving.

IMG_1983The 5 cent lemonade stand is actually a gasoline stand.  It reminds me of an episode in I Love Lucy, when she fills up the lemonade container with gasoline.


Pambujan’s beach.  The water is clear and blue.  I am also surprised whenever I go to the beach because nobody is ever there.  Apparently during low tide, you can collect snails to eat.


Nanay says “welcome!”


A house on the highway.  I Spy a yellow ‘x’.  The ‘X’ means that the government is expanding the highway, and you need to move your house back.


“scary spider…scary tree…”  It’s actually infested with lots of parasitic plants.  The vines are eating the tree inside.  The small leaves making the tree look “hairy” is another parasitic plants.


A typical street.  Look at all the sand!


Our streets also look like this too…paved and wide.


The street where I live on


One of our three cock fighting roosters.  His name is “Talisay” (Talisay is the color between the white and cream feathers).


Our water pump.  I have running water too.  We pump water when there is a brownout/ blackout.






The following dishes vary from eh to mas marasa (really delicious)!

Fresh water snail with gulay dish (snails with vegetables). The snails are smaller than your usual garden snail.  You take the opening and suck, and supposedly the snails comes right out.  There is an art to it.  The larger ones are easier.  (see later the salt water snail dish)



Delicacy from Tacloban (that’s 6-8 hrs. away by bus)

Yum!  It’s peanuts and taro.  It’s the prefect amount of sweet and savory.  Binagol is not native from Pambujan or Northern Samar.  This little beauty came from Tacloban that’s a 6-8hr. bus ride away.  Mas harayo!


Pambujan represents!

This is a “halo-halo” mixture with rice and coconut.  They pour in the mixture and then steam it with the banana leaf.  Pambujanians invited this! (It’s not my preferred dessert).


“I don’t remember” what this is called.  But it’s some sort of gelatin mixture.  I think it was caramelized with coconut sauce on top.

This oily supposed to be crunchy chicken intestine comes with a sweet sauce.

This oily supposed to be crunchy chicken intestine comes with a sweet sauce.

Chicken Intestine… I think dried and then fried.  It’s super oily and hard.  I think it’s supposed to be crunchy.  It comes with a sweet sauce, which is surprisingly tasty.  My other host family loved eating this dish.  You buy it in a bag.

Powder Milk

Powder Milk

It is exactly how it seems.  Powder milk in one of those metal sauce packets.  You suck the powder like a pixie.  Yeah… also not my favorite.


This was one of the last meals that I had with my first host family.  The noodles are pancit with vegetables.  Unfried lumpia is the burrito looking thing with a peanut sauce on top.  A stuffed fish is wrapped in tin foil, and right next to the fish is of course chicken adobe.

IMG_2833Salt water snail dish with soy sauce.  I like this dish more than the fresh water snail with gulay dish.

IMG_2895simple and classic.  Carabao with potato and bak choy.  Excellent on a semi cooler and rainy day.

IMG_2834Langka (Jackfruit with coconut milk, garlic, and ginger).  Don’t let this colorless dish fool you.  This is one of my favorite vegetable dish.  The jackfruit soaks in the milk and savory flavors.  yum yum!

IMG_2832I feel that every culture has an eggplant dish.  The french has ratatouille.  Moroccans have their own version.  Filipinos have their own eggplant dish with their key vegetable ingredient with coconut milk.

IMG_2835Carabao fried!