Prior to heading off to the Philippines, I had the chance to talk to several IBMers who were in the Corporate Service Corps program. They shared their experiences and some advice: I remember one saying that you need to be "flexible". This has proved to be the case this week for me. The plans to head back to Manila were very slow in materializing. When the IBM team finally gave confirmation late Friday that the trip was still on, it became difficult to get the travel arrangements sorted out. I was supposed to fly out Monday but that spilled into Tuesday and this afternoon I learned that the agreement with the NDCC needed some more work and the project had been delayed. So, bottom line, I will now be in Bacolod for the rest of the trip.
I had mixed emotions because the Disaster Relief effort sounded like a nice project to be a part of; however, it's also nice working with the La Salle University and the rest of the IBM team. I need to rethink what I can do some of the additional time I have available. Tomorrow, I'll join Guillermo to help with the IT assessment we have planned at the school.
Today I spent the day at a seminar our team put on in conjunction with BNEFIT; of course, I was only a listener this time since I hadn't expected to be in town. One interesting thing about meetings here in the Philippines is they often begin with a prayer. I wasn't too surprised that was the case at the University, since it is a Catholic school, but it has been a pleasant surprise in other meetings. The link to religion here is much stronger than in the US. Approximately 80% of Filipinos are Catholic, and from what I have seen, Mass is well attended. The strong Christian influence makes the Philippines very unique in Asia.
On the first two Sunday's of my stay I was able to attend my church's services: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was nice to be able to get to meet the local congregation--it didn't appear that they were very accustomed to having visitors from out of the country. I've been quite impressed by the volume of LDS churches in the Philippines: it seems that most every town has a well maintained chapel. In Bacolod alone there are 15 wards. When I talk to others about they church they are all very familiar with the church and have positive things to say.
Yesterday during lunch Guillermo and I went to the local "wet" market to see what it was like. The best time to go would have been in the morning when there is more fish. But we got a good feel for what it was like (along with the strong smell of fish parts baking in the heat)--quite a difference then the European markets I'm accustom to. We also explored a local alley way and ran into a basketball court that had a large pickup game going on. We created quite a stir: all of the guys stopped the game and started yelling "hey Joe" (the name they give to all Americans). I couldn't resist and joined them for a brief game in my flip flops--which is the standard basketball footwear here. It was fun but I severely aggravated my knee--I've had pain and been limping ever since. Hopefully, this is a temporary problem but I may need to get a first-hand experience in local medical care.