• Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
Hi! My name is Glory. I am 28 years old and was born and grew up in the Island of Palawan. I am married and have 3 children, 2 boys and 1 baby girl. I live in the village where our programs are located. I have been working here almost 3 years now. I am responsible for all the participants once they are in the country.
• What makes the Philippines so special and what do you love about living here?
The Philippines is known for its beautiful beaches, scenery, world heritage sites and the local people’s charm and hospitality. I love being here, especially living in Palawan as it is the safest place in the country, known as the most beautiful island with the white sand on the beach and clear water.
• Where are you located?
We are located in a small village called Tigman in Aborlan located in the island of Palawan. We are located right in front of the beach, although you cannot swim here when there are a lot of jellyfish.
• What kinds of programs do you have here? How do volunteers get to placements?
We have 8 different programs such as Cultural Week, Healthcare, Environmental, Construction, Teaching, Kindergarten, Palawan Experience and Beach Week. There are placements located nearby and some are located in the neighboring village. Volunteers are going to their placements via walking or cycling.
• Have there been many international vollies in your programs? (solo or groups, male or female, older or younger, age of participants, etc) Do you enjoy working with them?
Most of the volunteers come from different countries. We also had a Filipino participant who came from Manila but only a few. The ages of the participants are varied, mostly 18 to 30 years old, male and female. We also accept groups.
I enjoyed working with them. I love my job very much. I also like talking with the participants, as I can learn a lot from them and am be able to know them as well.
• Once guests arrive, what can they expect? What is the arrival process?
We pick up volunters who arrive Saturday and Sunday between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm. Once they arrive, they have to look for their names on signs first, which would be held by the local staff at the waiting area outside the arrival gate. It takes 2 hours in a van to get to the camp which is around 72 kilometers. We will take them to the shop first, in case they need to buy something, such as a sim card and mosquito repellent lotion which is very important to avoid mosquito bites.
• How do international participants manage with the language and culture barriers?
Volunteers are provided with coordinators who are proficient in English. With regards to culture, as much as possible, every aspect such as gesture or events that a participant might find “strange” are explained to them so that they know that it is normal in this country.
• Can you share some important cultural customs, traditions, norms, or “need to knows” that would help prepare a new guest?
As in most of Asia, we are very similar to our neighboring countries. For example, before entering a home you should leave your shoes outside. We cover ourselves as much as possible as we are both a Catholic and Muslim country. People find it ironic because we are in tropical region. On the contrary, based on conversations with people who have traveled around Asia, they said the Philippines is quite different. Most facilities and establishments are westernized and the English language is widely used compared to other Asian countries.
• How has international participation had an impact on your programs and the community?
It has brought about a big impact especially with the community. The “ghost town looking” community before has now turned into a “children’s park looking” community. With its colorful fences, nice huts everywhere, flower boxes which are full of colors. The people’s behavior has changed as well. They have become more responsible, since they have been seeing a lot of people from all over the world helping out the community.
• What has been the response from the NGOs and community about interactions with international volunteers?
NGOs and community were all very happy to work and be with the participants. They have been inspired with what the people from different countries have done for the people in the community.
• How can a volunteer tell if your programs are a good fit?
They can tell it’s a good fit if they know that they are making a positive impact with their program and if they are enjoying it as well.
• What can you expect to experience on a typical day here?
A typical day in the camp is composed of sun, ocean breeze and island life. But at the same time they get to help people. They get to teach Math, English, Science and art to the kids, construct necessary facilities for the community, save and preserve the environment and help at the local hospital.
• Can you tell me about the food and accommodation?
Accommodation is basic. Four to Six people in a non air-conditioned room with a private toilet. It doesn’t have a good shower but we have a “bucket shower”. Rooms are segregated gender. We also have dormitory type of rooms which can place up to 8 people by gender as well. And for food, since we are in Asia rice is staple. We serve rice twice a day but not every day. We also serve pasta, noodles, seafood, most of the time chicken and pork, vegetables and fruits. For breakfast, we may have eggs, sausage, oatmeal, breads, pancakes, chocolate, coffee, tea and fruits.
• What are the best places to visit or things to do on days off, while here? Weekend trips, local sightseeing, activities, food, etc?
There are a lot of activities and trips for weekends here in Palawan. For starters, you can visit the Underground River, it’s one of the 7 wonders of nature and it’s what the island is quite known for. There’s El Nido which is a 7 hours bus drive from the camp but the travel is worth it with amazing beaches, majestic rock formations and crystal clear water in their lagoons, it’s definitely one of the million awesome things that you can do here in the island. You can also visit the Islands at Honda Bay in Puerto Princesa, aside from that there are some places where you can also visit for a day such as Butterfly Garden, Crocodile Farm, Cathedral, Plaza Cuartel and more. For restaurants, there are a lot of that in the city. They serve different cuisines and most of them are specialize in seafood.
• What facilities are available nearby and what can a participant expect to spend on weekly expenses here?
There are no available facilities nearby. We are located 72 kilometers away from the city. Most of the participants spend their weekends in the city, so it’s easy for them to access everything especially ATMs and shopping centers. The nearest shop and supermarket is at Narra, the next town which is 30 minutes in a tricycle, but limited access with ATMs. The money that participants might spend for a week in the city is up to around 100 USD and if they want to do some tours and visit some places like El Nido it is probably around 200 USD.
• How can volunteers best contribute to their programs and their own experience?
The best contribution to the programs is efficiency in working, being able to speak English and having lots of patience. It would also be great if participant give some effort to learning the culture and customs of the country.
Volunteering Projects in Palawan, Philippines:
- Kindergarten Teaching
- Primary School Teaching
- Rural Healthcare
- Street Children Support
- Environmental Conservation
- Island Agriculture and Fishing
- Community Construction
- Cultural Orientation Week