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==PEACE CORPS / PHILIPPINES HISTORY AND PROGRAMS ==
==PEACE CORPS / PHILIPPINES HISTORY AND PROGRAMS ==
===History of the Peace Corps in Philippines ===
===History of the Peace Corps in Philippines ===
Revision as of 03:48, 26 January 2008
For the official Welcome Book for Philippines see here
PEACE CORPS / PHILIPPINES HISTORY AND PROGRAMS
History of the Peace Corps in Philippines
In October 1961, the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers in the Philippines arrived to begin classroom assignments in the areas of language, mathematics, and science. Those 123 Volunteers were the second group in any Peace Corps country.
Today, approximately 140 Volunteers continue to work with Filipinos to train primary, secondary, and tertiary teachers; to support organizations working with children, youth, and families at risk; to assist in the management of coastal resources, water systems, and waste management; to provide livelihood assistance; and to promote biodiversity conservation. Since 1961, more than 8,000 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in the Philippines, and it is the country in which the largest number of Volunteers has served.
The fact that more than 8,000 Volunteers have served in the Philippines is significant. Filipinos tend to like Americans in general and Peace Corps Volunteers in particular. Many of the Filipinos you meet will recall with great fondness former Volunteers they have known.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in the Philippines
In the 1970s, the growing number of qualified Filipino teachers led to a shift in the Peace Corps’ priorities to rural programming in the areas of social and economic development. In the 1980s, a memorandum of understanding between the Peace Corps and the Departments of Education, Culture, and Sports; Environment and Natural Resources; and Agriculture provided a framework for projects in these areas. Volunteers worked on projects in health and nutrition, urban community development, appropriate technology, water and sanitation, agriculture extension, farmers’ marketing coops, fisheries, income generation for small farmers, agroforestry, upland community development, integrated social forestry, vocational education, deaf education, physical education, local development planning, small business development, and income generation.
From the mid-1980s through the 1990s, Volunteers once again worked in schools, this time as teacher trainers at the high school level, while continuing the projects in health, agriculture, fisheries, agroforestry, income generation, and local development planning.
In June 1990, the Peace Corps suspended the program because of security concerns. The program resumed in 1992 with a project in small-island integrated development, with Volunteers working in coastal resources management, health and nutrition, water and sanitation, local development planning, and an integrated protected areas system project.
Peace Corps/Philippines currently focuses its programming in four sectors:
Basic Education and Technical Assistance Information Communication Technology (ICT) Resource Teacher.
An ICT resource teacher assists educational institutions in planning, designing, and implementing a variety of teacher training efforts primarily related to ICT. Activities may include troubleshooting, helping administrative staff computerize peace coRps files, working with school nurses to develop databases for tracking critical healthcare problems among the student population, working with individuals or groups of teachers to introduce basic computer education concepts, demonstrating various software programs like Excel, setting up programs to computerize the grading system, teaching Internet research skills, developing curriculum and low-cost instructional materials, and conducting in-service trainings and workshops.
Basic Education and Technical Assistance Elementary Education Resource Teacher. A basic education and technical assistance in elementary education resource teacher assists the Department of Education in planning, designing, and implementing a variety of teacher training efforts in English, reading, communication arts, math, science, and related areas.
Basic Education and Technical Assistance Special Education Resource Teacher. A basic education and technical assistance special education resource teacher assists the Department of Education, particularly the Special Education (SPED) Center, in planning, designing, and implementing a variety of teacher training efforts in special education and other fields of interest such as communication arts, reading, math, and science.
Children, Youth and Family Community Services
Advisor. A children, youth, and family (CYF) community services advisor assists in the areas of formal and nonformal education as mentors and tutors, in computer literacy, sports development, alternative livelihoods, etc. Volunteers may also assist in such activities as enhancing the image and self-confidence of clients, becoming engaged in working with parents and other community groups, and conducting staff training. CYF Volunteers can be placed in a community-based center, to include homes for girls, regional rehabilitation centers for youth, homes for abandoned children, orphanages, women’s havens, or nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and local government units (LGUs) that provide programs and services for children, youth, and families in especially difficult circumstances.
Natural Resources and Environment Management Extentionist: A natural resources and environmental management (NERM) extentionist assigned to a province, municipality or a biologically significant area will be responsible to a government office or an NGO. The extentionist’s primary objective will be to promote natural resources management and conservation and environmental management. This may entail: conducting participatory rural appraisals; conducting environmental education in the schools or awareness campaign in the community; organizing youth development and environmental activities; assisting the host agency in natural resources planning and management; working with community members in protecting or restoring degraded habitats (e.g., marine sanctuaries, mangrove planting, assisted natural regeneration or rain forestation); and conducting biodiversity monitoring.
Water/Sanitation Technician: A water/sanitation technician assists a province, municipality or NGO. The Volunteer’s primary objective will be to promote sustainable use and management of water resources and environmentally appropriate solid waste and liquid disposal. This may entail: rehabilitation or construction of water resources such as shallow/deep wells, spring boxes, pumps, rain-catchment systems and pipelines; construction of toilets and latrines; performing water quality tests and samplings; organizing and peace coRps training communities and barangay (village) water associations in construction, repair, and maintenance of water/sanitation systems; conducting water and watershed conservation/ sanitation, waste management information/education campaign; and assisting municipalities or provinces in solid and liquid waste management development plans and projects.
Small Business/Livelihood Extentionist. A small business/ livelihood extentionist assists the Philippine government or an NGO in planning, implementing, managing, and/or evaluating livelihood, micro-lending, and or small business development programs and building capacity on the part of the target beneficiaries in starting up and managing small businesses. Volunteers may be assigned to a municipal or provincial government office, an NGO, or to a church-affiliated group that targets youth, young adults, and other disadvantaged sectors of Philippine society (e.g., girls and women).
The Peace Corps manages its program based on the geographical regions of the country. This allows the Peace Corps to address specific development needs in each region it serves. A manager is assigned to each region and is the key field support. Sector managers provide technical support and training and monitor whether the goals and objectives of the Peace Corps’ project plans are being met.
The Peace Corps/Philippines program believes that capacity building —leaving Filipino counterparts and communities more capable and empowered—is one of the greatest legacies of a Peace Corps Volunteer assignment.
COUNTRY OVERVIEW: PHILIPPINES AT A GLANCE
The first people to inhabit the Philippines, the Negritos, are believed to have come to the islands 30,000 years ago from Borneo and Sumatra. Their descendants, the Malays, remained the dominant group until the Spanish arrived in the 16th century. Chinese merchants and traders settled in the islands in the ninth century A.D. In the 14th century, some Arabs arrived, introducing Islam to people in the Sulu Archipelago, central and western Mindanao, and the mountains of northern Luzon.
Ferdinand Magellan claimed the archipelago for Spain in 1521, putting the Philippines under Spanish rule for the next 377 years. Independence from Spain was declared on June 12, 1898, after Spain ceded the islands to the United States in the Spanish-American War. Japan occupied the islands during World War II. The period after World War II was dominated by U.S.-assisted reconstruction. On July 4, 1946, independence from the United States was proclaimed in accordance with an earlier act passed by the U.S. Congress. Most Filipinos converted to Christianity during nearly 400 years of Spanish and American rule.
On January 20, 2001, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was installed through a second “People Power” movement (the first toppled the Marcos dictatorship and led to the presidency of Corazon Aquino). After serving for two and a half years as an “appointed” president, President Arroyo was selected by the electorate in May 2004 to serve a full six-year term.
The Philippines has a constitutional form of government. Legislative power is vested in a bicameral Congress composed of 24 senators and 250 representatives. The president is elected by the voters for a six-year term. The administration of the country is divided into 16 regions consisting of 73 provinces. Every province has a provincial capital and a number of municipalities, which in turn consist of village communities called barangays.
The Philippine economy grew rapidly after World War II. The pace slowed in the 1950s and early 1960s, with real gross national product rising only about 5.3 percent annually from 1955 to 1965. Monetary policies spurred growth in the 1970s, which hit 10 percent in 1973. A severe economic recession occurred from 1984 to 1985, in which the economy contracted by nearly 10 percent. In the 1990s, economic growth started to accelerate again. However, the economic crisis currently affecting Asia is also hurting the Philippine economy.
People and Culture
The majority of Filipinos are Malay, descendants of the Indonesians and Malays who migrated to the islands before the Spanish era. The largest minority group is the Chinese, and many Filipinos have some Chinese and Spanish ancestry. Significant numbers of Americans and Filipino Americans live in the Philippines.
About 90 percent of Filipinos are Christian. The major non-Christian group is the Muslim population concentrated in the Sulu Archipelago, western Mindanao, and the mountains of northern Luzon.
More than 85 native languages and dialects are spoken in the Philippines, all of which belong to the Malayo-Polynesian linguistic family. Of these, eight are the first languages of more than 85 percent of the population. English, the most important non-native language, is used as a second language by almost half the population. Some Filipinos speak Spanish, but its use is decreasing.
The Philippines consists of 7,100 islands, of which 2,000 or so are inhabited. Only about 500 of the islands are larger than half a square mile and 2,500 do not even have names. The archipelago stretches 1,100 miles north to south along the southeastern rim of Asia. The total area is about 115,000 square miles (300,000 square kilometers).
The country has a tropical marine climate. The lowland areas are warm and humid throughout the year, with only slight variations in the average mean temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius). The country lies within the typhoon belt and has an average of 15 typhoons (known as hurricanes in the United States) every year between July and October. There are 37 volcanoes, of which 18 are active. The islands are also subject to destructive earthquakes.
RESOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION
Following is a list of websites for additional information about the Peace Corps and the Philippines and to connect you to returned Volunteers and other invitees. Please keep in mind that although we try to make sure all these links are active and current, we cannot guarantee it.
A note of caution: As you surf the Internet, be aware that you may find bulletin boards and chat rooms in which people are free to express opinions about the Peace Corps based on their own experience, including comments by those who were unhappy with their choice to serve in the Peace Corps. These opinions are not those of the Peace Corps or the U.S. government, and we hope you will keep in mind that no two people experience their service in the same way.
General Information About the Philippines
On this site, you can learn anything from what time it is in Manila to how to convert from the dollar to the Philippine peso. Just click on the Philippines and go from there.
Visit this site for general travel advice about almost any country in the world.
The U.S. State Department’s website issues background notes periodically about countries around the world. Find the Philippines and learn more about its social and political history.
This site includes links to all the official sites for governments worldwide.
This online world atlas includes maps and geographical information, and each country page contains links to other sites, such as the Library of Congress, that contain comprehensive historical, social, and political background.
This United Nations site allows you to search for statistical information for member states of the U.N.
This site provides an additional source of current and historical information about countries around the world.
Connect With Returned Volunteers and Other Invitees
This is the site of the National Peace Corps Association, made up of returned Volunteers. On this site you can find links to all the Web pages of the “friends of” groups for most countries of service, made up of former Volunteers who served in those countries. There are also regional groups who frequently get together for social events and local Volunteer activities. Or go straight to the Friends of the Philippines site: http://www.rpcvphilippines.org
This site is hosted by a group of returned Volunteer writers. It is a monthly online publication of essays and Volunteer accounts of their Peace Corps service.
Online Articles/Current News Sites About the Philippines
Philippines Department of Trade and Industry
Philippines Information Agency
The site of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
International Development Sites About the Philippines
World Health Organization
International Monetary Fund in the Philippines
U.S. Agency for International Development
Asian Development Bank in the Philippines
Haribon Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources, a local nonprofit that promotes environmental protection and sustainable resource management in the Philippines
- Guerrero, Amadis. The Philippines: A Journey Through the Enchanted Isles. Manila, Philippines: Anvil Publishing, 1995.
- Hagedorn, Jessica. Burning Heart: A Portrait of the Philippines. Rizzoli, 1999.
- Joaquin, Nick. Manila, My Manila. Makati City, Philippines: Bookmark, 1999.
- Karnow, Stanley. In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines. New York: Ballantine Books, 1990 (reissue edition).
- Peters, Jens. Philippines Travel Guide. Jens Peters Publications, 2005.
- Rowthorn,, Chris. Lonely Planet Philippines. Lonely Planet Publications, 2003.
- Whitehead, Kendal. Odyssey of a Philippine Scout: Fighting, Escaping and Evading the Japanese, 1941–1944. The Aberjona Press, 2006.
Books About the History of the Peace Corps
- Hoffman, Elizabeth Cobbs. All You Need is Love: The Peace Corps and the Spirit of the 1960’s. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000. peace coRps
- Rice, Gerald T. The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985.
- Stossel, Scott. Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2004.
Books on the Volunteer Experience
- Dirlam, Sharon. Beyond Siberia: Two Years in a Forgotten Place. Santa Barbara, CA: McSeas Books, 2004.
- Casebolt, Marjorie DeMoss. Margarita: A Guatemalan Peace Corps Experience. Gig Harbor, WA: Red Apple Publishing, 2000.
- Erdman, Sarah. Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village. New York, NY: Picador, 2003.
- Hessler, Peter. River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. New York, NY: Perennial, 2001.
- Kennedy, Geraldine (ed.). From the Center of the Earth: Stories out of the Peace Corps. Santa Monica, CA: Clover Park Press, 1991.
- Thompsen, Moritz. Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1997 (reprint).
LIVING CONDITIONS AND VOLUNTEER LIFESTYLE
Letters, which usually take one to two weeks to arrive, should be sent to:
“Your Name,” PCT or “Your Name,” PCT
U.S. Peace Corps c/o the Peace Corps Office
P.O. Box 7013 6/F PNB Financial Center
Airmail Distribution Center Macapagal Avenue
N.A.I.A. 1300 Pasay City, Philippines 1308
Pasay City, Philippines
A Peace Corps staff member picks up the mail from the airport post office box and sends it to Volunteer sites by special delivery (known in-country as the Peace Corps pouch) or through the Philippine mail system.
When the Peace Corps receives a package for you, it will notify you and ask you whether you want to pick up the package at the office in Manila or have it sent to you by regular Philippine mail. If a package is forwarded, you will be responsible for the cost. After training, many Volunteers choose to have packages and letters mailed directly to their site.
Peace Corps Volunteers use the Philippine postal system to send mail to friends and family. Postage for letters sent within the Philippines is very inexpensive (15 cents per 20 grams). An airmail letter weighing 20 grams or less to the United States costs 26 pesos (51 cents), a letter weighing 21 to 100 grams costs $2.10.
Peace Corps/Philippines advises you not to have packages sent directly to your site by surface mail. Even if the freight charges are prepaid in the United States, there will be numerous charges in the Philippines for customs, brokerage, storage, clearing, etc.
The Philippines has several phone companies, and household telephone service in rural areas is becoming more available. People without phones usually go to a local telephone office and wait while a call is placed. Because this system often ties up all the available lines, it can be very difficult to receive a call in rural areas. You can sometimes arrange to receive calls on someone’s private phone. Volunteers generally find it most convenient to place calls to the United States when they are in Manila.
Cellphones are very common. Volunteers who have brought cellphones find them to be helpful in calling and receiving calls from the United States. Calls home cost about 40 cents per minute. Volunteers sometimes call home collect, but if the call will be for more than a few minutes, we suggest that you call to give the number at which you can be reached and have the person call you back. Direct-dial calls to the Philippines are much cheaper than calls to the United States from the Philippines. Friends and relatives can call their local phone company for information on the best rates. To call Manila directly, precede the seven-digit number with 011 (the long distance code), 63 (the country code for the Philippines), and 2 (the city code for Manila).
Calls to the Peace Corps office after hours are answered by the security guard and relayed to the duty officer. Since it can take hours or even days for a Volunteer to return a call, the duty officer relays calls to Volunteers at their sites only in emergencies. In emergencies, it is best for your family to call Peace Corps/Washington at 800.424.8580, extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, they can call 202.638.2574.
Computer, Internet, and E-mail Access
The Philippines is part of the global community, and many cities now have Internet cafés. Thus, you will have access to e-mail, if not at your site, at least in a neighboring city. Though the Peace Corps discourages you from bringing a personal computer, some Volunteers have brought laptops and have found them useful. If you decide to bring a laptop, please be aware that many assignments are in rural areas with no electricity. Plan for humidity, a fluctuating current, and the risk of theft. Be certain to insure any expensive electronic equipment for loss before you come to the Philippines.
Housing and Site Location
Your housing and site location will depend upon your assignment. For Volunteers assigned to rural areas or to small islands, housing is typically composed of hollow concrete blocks, wood, or bamboo. Education Volunteers are often assigned to towns or cities, where housing is better than in rural areas. Most houses in both rural and urban areas have running water (some with toilets that flush and others with toilets that require flushing with a pail of water) and 24-hour electricity.
Trainees are required to live with a host family during pre-service training, and Volunteers are required to live with host families during their first three months at their assigned site (the families usually are identified by the local agency the Volunteer is assigned to). After this period, you may choose to continue living with your host family or move into your own dwelling. Living with a Filipino family can help you integrate into your community, provide you with a deeper understanding of the local culture, and help you become comfortable with the local language.
Living Allowance and Money Management
Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency sufficient to live at the level of the people they serve. The allowance is based on an annual survey and is intended to cover food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses such as reading material. Like Peace Corps Volunteers worldwide, those in the Philippines are expected to live at a level commensurate with that of their Filipino co-workers.
Peace Corps/Philippines will open an ATM savings account for you at the Philippine National Bank (PNB) during the initial orientation. This ATM savings account will be used to deposit your living allowance, travel allowance for all training events and Peace Corps reimbursements for items such as medicine, work-related books, and payments to language tutors.
ATMs are available in most major cities, but if you bring credit cards, you need to guard them carefully against theft. As in other countries, credit card scams exist in the Philippines. Some Volunteers choose to bring cash (in small denominations such as $20 bills) for vacation travel, buying gifts, and similar personal expenses.
Food and Diet
Rice is the staple food for most Filipinos who live in the lowlands, while corn, potatoes, and tubers are the staple foods of people who live in inland areas. Rice is often eaten with fish, pork, or chicken. Bread and noodles, mung beans, a variety of vegetables, and bananas and some other fruits are available in most towns. Food is often cooked in lard or coconut oil. Given Filipinos’ dietary preference for fish and meat (and sweets) over vegetables, maintaining a strict vegetarian diet can be difficult. Vegetarians need to spend extra time and energy to ensure that they maintain a healthy diet.
In cities or municipalities, the most common means of transportation are buses, minibuses, “jeepneys” (colorfully decorated converted World War II jeeps), vans, motorized tricycles, and pedicabs, depending upon the distance. Travel among islands occurs via airplanes, ships, or small motorboats. Peace Corps/Philippines requires that Volunteers use public transportation and prohibits them from owning, operating, and riding on a motorcycle.
Geography and Climate
The Philippines has typical tropical weather—hot and humid year-round. Although the weather pattern is fairly complex, it can roughly be divided into a dry season (January to June) and a wet season (July to December). January is usually the coolest month; May, the hottest. Higher elevations in northern Luzon can get cold at night or in windy, cloudy conditions.
Volunteers often are invited to birthday parties, baptisms, weddings, blessings of new buildings or landmarks, and programs to celebrate holidays and important school or local events. Volunteers are encouraged to attend as many of these events as possible in order to get to know the people of their community as well as to learn Filipino customs and traditions.
Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior
Despite considerable Western influences, Philippine culture can be conservative, especially outside large cities. Filipinos put a high priority on a neat appearance, and Volunteers, whether urban or rural based, are expected to wear neat and clean clothing, especially when in public or at the office. A poor public appearance can deter Filipinos from getting to know you or accepting you, thereby limiting your effectiveness. Remember that you are a professional, not a backpacker or a world traveler.
More detailed information about the Peace Corps’ approach to safety is contained in the Health Care and Safety chapter, but it is an important issue and cannot be overemphasized. As stated in the Volunteer Handbook, becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer entails certain safety risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment (oftentimes alone), having a limited understanding of local language and culture, and being perceived as well-off are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Many Volunteers experience varying degrees of unwanted attention and harassment. Petty thefts and burglaries are not uncommon, and incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although most Philippine Volunteers complete their two years of service without personal security incidents. The Peace Corps has established procedures and policies designed to help you reduce your risks and enhance your safety and security. These procedures and policies, in addition to safety training, will be provided once you arrive in the Philippines. At the same time, you are expected to take responsibility for your safety and well-being.
Rewards and Frustrations
In a country that is still predominantly agricultural, daily life revolves more around the seasons, planting, and harvesting than around making money. The result can be a lack of concern for punctuality. For Filipinos, there is always time, while for Westerners, there may never be enough. Because appointments do not necessarily happen as scheduled, patience is one virtue that Volunteers develop while working in the Philippines.
Traditional Filipino kinship customs contribute to a lax attitude toward helping oneself to family members’ personal possessions. Sharing is common and not doing so is considered stingy. If you do not want something of yours to be touched in a Filipino home, you have to put it away in a locked place.
Since the closing of the American military bases in 1991, relations between the United States and the Philippines have improved. Many Filipinos are grateful to Americans for liberating them from Spain and for introducing modern standards of education and democracy. In general, there is a feeling of goodwill toward Americans, especially in the countryside.
PEACE CORPS TRAINING
Overview of Pre-Service Training
The goal of pre-service training is to provide you with the language, cross-cultural, community entry, safety and security, and personal and health management skills necessary to work effectively and live successfully at your site.
As management changes in all Peace Corps posts at least once every 5 years, it should be noted that Pre-Service Training changes methods and policies to better suit the percieved needs of the trainees. Batch 265 (Official swear-in date, June 1st, 2006) used the training model shown below:
Pre-service training has three phases. Phase 1 is a one-week orientation, in which you will learn about the Peace Corps’ role in the Philippines, receive administrative and medical information, and be introduced to Peace Corps policies. Phase 2, which lasts nine weeks, includes community entry/technical skills, language, cross-cultural, safety and security, and personal and health management sessions and activities. This phase takes place both at the hub site and cluster sites in the community. Phase 3 is held three months after you have been at your site. This training focuses on enhancing your capacity to carry out the technical aspects of your role based on your assigned sector and the goals and objectives of your project plan.
The training for Batch 266 (Official swear-in August 2007) is similar to that stated above, but Phases 2 and 3 have been merged into one 3 month training.
Community entry/technical training will help facilitate your entry into your community and serve as a Volunteer in the Philippines. You will be engaged in a variety of community entry activities such as peer and community interviewing, community walks, field observations, mapping, shadowing, and conducting community meetings. You will also visit your site of assignment to get an idea what it is really like to be a Volunteer there. Your training in this component will culminate with your application of community entry tools in planning, implementing, and evaluating a small community activity or project. You will be supported and evaluated by the training staff throughout training to build the confidence and skills you need to undertake your project activities and to be a productive member of your community.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will find that language skills are the key to personal and professional satisfaction during your service. These skills are critical to your job performance, they help you integrate into your community, and they can ease your personal adaptation to the new surroundings. You must successfully meet minimum language requirements to complete training and become a Volunteer. Experienced Filipino language/cultural facilitators teach formal language classes six days a week in small groups of three to four people.
Your language training will incorporate a community-based approach. In addition to classroom time, you will be given assignments to work on outside of the classroom and with your host family. The goal is to get you to a point of basic social communication skills so that you can practice and develop language skills further once you are at your site. Prior to being sworn in as a Volunteer, you will work on strategies to continue language studies during service.
As part of your pre-service training, you will live with a Filipino host family. This experience is designed to ease your transition to life at your site. Families go through an orientation conducted by Peace Corps staff to explain the purpose of pre-service training and to assist them in helping you adapt to living in the Philippines. Many Volunteers form strong and lasting friendships with their host families.
Cross-cultural training will help you improve your communication skills and understand your role as a facilitator of development. You will be exposed to topics such as community mobilization, conflict resolution, gender and development, nonformal and adult education strategies, and political structures.
During pre-service training, you will be given basic medical training and information. You are expected to practice preventive healthcare and to take responsibility for your own health by adhering to all medical policies. Trainees are required to attend all medical sessions. The topics include preventive health measures and minor and major medical issues that you might encounter while in the Philippines. Nutrition, mental health, safety and security, setting up a safe living compound, and how to avoid HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are also covered.
During the safety and security training sessions, you will learn how to develop a personal safety and security plan for yourself. Information will also be provided to help you adopt a lifestyle that reduces risk in your home, at work, and during your travels. You will learn appropriate, effective strategies for coping with unwanted attention and about your individual responsibility for promoting safety throughout your Peace Corps service. There will be special sessions and training on the post’s emergency action plan so that you become familiar with the various standard operating procedures that have been put in place to help ensure your personal safety and security.
Additional Trainings During Volunteer Service
In its commitment to institutionalize quality training, the Peace Corps has implemented a training system that provides Volunteers with continual opportunities to examine their commitment to Peace Corps service while increasing their technical, language, and cross-cultural skills. During service, there are usually three training events. The titles and objectives for those events are as follows:
- In-service training: Provides an opportunity for Volunteers to upgrade their technical, language, and project development and management skills while sharing their experiences and reaffirming their commitment after having served for a few months.
- Mid-service training: Provides an opportunity for Volunteers to review the successes and challenges of their service and the project plan, and provides additional skills training and support.
- Close of service conference: Prepares Volunteers for the future after Peace Corps service and reviews their respective projects and personal experiences. The number, length, and design of these trainings are adapted to country-specific needs and conditions. The key to the training system is that training events are integrated and interrelated, from the pre-departure orientation through the end of your service, and are planned, implemented, and evaluated cooperatively by the training staff, Peace Corps staff, and Volunteers.
YOUR HEALTHCARE AND SAEFTY IN THE PHILIPPINES
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. The Peace Corps in the Philippines maintains a clinic with two full-time medical officers and a medical technologist, who take care of Volunteers’ primary healthcare needs. Other medical services, such as additional testing, are available at local, Peace Corps-certified hospitals. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to the premier medical facility in the region or to the United States.
Health Issues in the Philippines
Malaria, amebic dysentery and other gastrointestinal illnesses, respiratory and skin infections (including fungal infections, heat rash, and heat exhaustion) are all common problems. In addition, there are occasional outbreaks of dengue fever and typhoid fever. Volunteers can decrease their risk of contracting these illnesses by practicing good health habits and following preventive measures recommended by Peace Corps/Philippines.
Note that social pressure to drink alcohol in the Philippines ranges from tedious to nearly intolerable, and the country can be a difficult place for those who have had problems controlling their use of alcohol.
Helping You Stay Healthy
The Peace Corps will provide you with all the necessary inoculations, medications, and information to stay healthy. Upon your arrival in the Philippines, you will receive a medical handbook and a medical kit with supplies to take care of mild illnesses and first-aid needs. The contents of the kit are listed later in this chapter.
During pre-service training, you will have access to basic medical supplies through the medical officer. However, you will be responsible for your own supply of prescription drugs and any other specific medical supplies you require, as the Peace Corps will not order these items during training. Please bring a three-month supply of any prescription drugs you use, since they may not be available here and it may take several months for shipments to arrive.
During training, you will be immunized against hepatitis A and B, typhoid, Japanese B encephalitis, rabies, MMR (measles) menigococcal influenza, mumps, rubella, polio, and tetanus. It is important that you bring copies of your previous immunization record to determine if you need further immunizations.
You will have physicals at mid-service and at the end of your service. If you develop a serious medical problem during your service, the medical officer in the Philippines will consult with the Office of Medical Services in Washington, D.C. If it is determined that your condition cannot be treated in the Philippines, you may be sent back to the U.S. for further evaluation and care.
Maintaining Your Health
As a Volunteer, you must accept considerable responsibility for your own health. Proper precautions will significantly reduce your risk of serious illness or injury. The adage “An ounce of prevention …” becomes extremely important in areas where diagnostic and treatment facilities are not up to the standards of the United States. The most important of your responsibilities in the Philippines is to take the following preventive measures:
Because malaria exists in the Philippines, Volunteers are required to take prophylactic medicine against the disease. Those who live in areas where there is high incidence of malaria and with chloroquine resistance must take one 250 mg tablet of mefloquine once a week or one doxycycline/100mg tablet daily. Those areas with low incidence or malaria-free must take one 500 mg tablet of chloroquine phosphate once a week. Because the first line of treatment for a case of malaria is a sulfa drug, Volunteers with allergies to sulfa drugs generally are not invited to serve in the Philippines; those who are, face some travel restrictions.
Many illnesses that afflict Volunteers worldwide are entirely preventable if proper food and water precautions are taken. These diseases include food poisoning, parasitic infections, hepatitis A, dysentery, tapeworms, and typhoid fever. Your medical officer will discuss specific standards for water and food preparation in the Philippines during pre-service training.
Abstinence is the only certain choice for preventing infection with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. You are taking risks if you choose to be sexually active. To lessen risk, use a condom every time you have sex. Whether your partner is a host country citizen, a fellow Volunteer, or anyone else, do not assume this person is free of HIV/AIDS or other STDs. You will receive more information from the medical officer about this important issue.
Volunteers are expected to adhere to an effective means of birth control to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. Your medical officer can help you decide on the most appropriate method to suit your individual needs. Contraceptive methods are available without charge from the medical officer.
It is critical to your health that you promptly report to the medical office or other designated facility for scheduled immunizations, and that you let your medical officer know immediately of significant illnesses and injuries.
Women’s Health Information
Pregnancy is treated in the same manner as other Volunteer health conditions that require medical attention but also have programmatic ramifications. The Peace Corps is responsible for determining the medical risk and the availability of appropriate medical care if the pregnant Volunteer remains in-country. Given the circumstances under which Volunteers live and work in Peace Corps countries, it is rare that the Peace Corps’ medical and programmatic standards for continued service during pregnancy can be met.
Peace Corps does not provide for feminine hygiene products. There is a selection available in the local market. If you have a particular feminine hygiene product you use, it may be best to bring at least a six-month supply. Most Volunteers request their families and friends to include these products when they send packages from home; they’re usually much cheaper in the States.
Your Peace Corps Medical Kit
The Peace Corps medical officer will provide you with a medical kit that contains basic items necessary to prevent and treat illnesses that may occur during service. Kit items can be periodically restocked at the Peace Corps medical office.
Medical Kit Contents
American Red Cross First Aid & Safety Handbook
Antacid tablets (Tums)
Antibiotic ointment (Bacitracin/Neomycin/Polymycin B)
Antiseptic antimicrobial skin cleaner (Hibiclens)
Diphenhydramine HCL 25 mg (Benadryl)
Oral rehydration salts
Oral thermometer (Fahrenheit)
Pseudoephedrine HCL 30 mg (Sudafed)
Robitussin-DM lozenges (for cough)
Sterile gauze pads
Tinactin (antifungal cream)
Before You Leave: A Medical Checklist
If there has been any change in your health—physical, mental, or dental—since you submitted your examination reports to the Peace Corps, you must immediately notify the Office of Medical Services. Failure to disclose new illnesses, injuries, allergies, or pregnancy can endanger your health and may jeopardize your eligibility to serve.
If your dental exam was done more than a year ago, or if your physical exam is more than two years old, contact the Office of Medical Services to find out whether you need to update your records. If your dentist or Peace Corps dental consultant has recommended that you undergo dental treatment or repair, you must complete that work and make sure your dentist sends requested confirmation reports or X-rays to the Office of Medical Services.
If you wish to avoid having duplicate vaccinations, contact your physician’s office, obtain a copy of your immunization record, and hand it over to the Peace Corps medical officers when you arrive to the Philippines. If you have any immunizations prior to Peace Corps service, the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for the cost. The Peace Corps will provide all the immunizations necessary for your overseas assignment, either at your pre-departure orientation or shortly after you arrive in the Philippines. You do not need to begin taking malaria medication prior to departure.
Bring a three-month supply of any prescription or over-thecounter medication you use on a regular basis, including birth control pills. Although the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for this three-month supply, it will order refills during your service.
While awaiting shipment—which can take several months— you will be dependent on your own medication supply.
The Peace Corps will not pay for herbal or non-prescribed medications, such as St. John’s wort, glucosamine, selenium, or antioxidant supplements.
You are encouraged to bring copies of medical prescriptions signed by your physician. This is not a requirement, but they might come in handy if you are questioned in transit about carrying a three-month supply of prescription drugs.
If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs with you—a pair and a spare. If a pair breaks, the Peace Corps will replace it, using the information your doctor in the United States provided on the eyeglasses form during your examination. The Peace Corps discourages you from using contact lenses during your service to reduce your risk of developing a serious infection or other eye disease. Most Peace Corps countries do not have appropriate water and sanitation to support eye care with the use of contact lenses. The Peace Corps will not supply or replace contact lenses or associated solutions unless an ophthalmologist has recommended their use for a specific medical condition and the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services has given approval.
If you are eligible for Medicare, are over 50 years of age, or have a health condition that may restrict your future participation in healthcare plans, you may wish to consult an insurance specialist about unique coverage needs before your departure. The Peace Corps will provide all necessary healthcare from the time you leave for your pre-departure orientation until you complete your service. When you finish, you will be entitled to the post-service healthcare benefits described in the Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook. You may wish to consider keeping an existing health plan in effect during your service if you think age or preexisting conditions might prevent you from reenrolling in your current plan when you return home.
Safety and Security—Our Partnership
Serving as a Volunteer overseas entails certain safety and security risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, a limited understanding of the local language and culture, and the perception of being a wealthy American are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk. Property thefts and burglaries are not uncommon. Incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although almost all Volunteers complete their two years of service without serious personal safety problems. In addition, more than 84 percent of Volunteers surveyed in the 2004 Peace Corps Volunteer Survey say they would join the Peace Corps again.
The Peace Corps approaches safety and security as a partnership with you. This Welcome Book contains sections on: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle; Peace Corps Training; and Your Health Care and Safety. All of these sections include important safety and security information.
The Peace Corps makes every effort to give Volunteers the tools they need to function in the safest and most secure way possible, because working to maximize the safety and security of Volunteers is our highest priority. Not only do we provide you with training and tools to prepare for the unexpected, but we teach you to identify and manage the risks you may encounter.
Factors that Contribute to Volunteer Risk
There are several factors that can heighten a Volunteer’s risk, many of which are within the Volunteer’s control.
Based on information gathered from incident reports worldwide in 2004, the following factors stand out as risk characteristics for assaults. Assaults consist of personal crimes committed against Volunteers, and do not include property crimes (such as vandalism or theft).
- Location: Most crimes occurred when Volunteers were in public areas (e.g., street, park, beach, public buildings). Specifically, 43 percent of assaults took place when Volunteers were away from their sites.
- Time of day: Assaults usually took place on the weekend during the evening between 5:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.—with most assaults occurring around 1:00 a.m.
- Absence of others: Assaults ususally occurred when the Volunteer was unaccompanied. In 82 percent of the sexual assaults the Volunteer was unaccompannied and in 55 percent of physical assaults the Volunteer was unaccompanied.
- Relationship to assailant: In most assaults, the Volunteer did not know the assailant.
- Consumption of alcohol: Forty percent of all assaults involved alcohol consumption by Volunteers and/or assailants.
Summary Strategies to Reduce Risk
Before and during service, your training will address these areas of concern so that you can reduce the risks you face.
For example, here are some strategies Volunteers employ:
Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of theft:
- Know the environment and choose safe routes/times for travel
- Avoid high-crime areas per Peace Corps guidance
- Know the vocabulary to get help in an emergency
- Carry valuables in different pockets/places
- Carry a “dummy” wallet as a decoy
Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of burglary:
- Live with a local family or on a family compound
- Put strong locks on doors and keep valuables in a lock box or trunk
- Leave irreplaceable objects at home in the U.S.
- Follow Peace Corps guidelines on maintaining home security Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of assault:
- Make local friends
- Make sure your appearance is respectful of local customs; don’t draw negative attention to yourself by wearing inappropriate clothing
- Get to know local officials, police, and neighbors
- Travel with someone whenever possible
- Avoid known high crime areas
- Limit alcohol consumption
Support from Staff
In March 2003, the Peace Corps created the Office of Safety and Security with its mission to “foster improved communication, coordination, oversight, and accountability of all Peace Corps’ safety and security efforts.” The new office is led by an Associate Director for Safety and Security who reports to the Peace Corps Director and includes the following divisions: Volunteer Safety and Overseas Security; Information and Personnel Security; Emergency Preparedness, Plans, Training and Exercise; and Crime Statistics and Analysis.
The major responsibilities of the Volunteer Safety and Overseas Security Division are to coordinate the office’s overseas operations and direct the Peace Corps’ safety and security officers who are located in various regions around the world that have Peace Corps programs. The safety and security officers conduct security assessments; review safety trainings; train trainers and managers; train Volunteer safety wardens, local guards, and staff; develop security incident response procedures; and provide crisis management support.
If a trainee or Volunteer is the victim of a safety incident, Peace Corps staff is prepared to provide support. All Peace Corps posts have procedures in place to respond to incidents of crime committed against Volunteers. The first priority for all posts in the aftermath of an incident is to ensure that the Volunteer is safe and receiving medical treatment as needed. After assuring the safety of the Volunteer, Peace Corps staff provide support by reassessing the Volunteer’s work site and housing arrangements and making any adjustments, as needed. In some cases, the nature of the incident may necessitate a site or housing transfer. Peace Corps staff will also assist Volunteers with preserving their rights to pursue legal sanctions against the perpetrators of the crime. It is very important that Volunteers report incidents as they occur, not only to protect their peer Volunteers, but also to preserve the future right to prosecute. Should Volunteers decide later in the process that they want to proceed with the prosecution of their assailant, this option may no longer exist if the evidence of the event has not been preserved at the time of the incident.
The country-specific data chart below shows the incidence rates and the average number of incidents of the major types of safety incidents reported by Peace Corps Volunteers/ trainees in the Philippines as compared to all other Europe, Mediterranean, and Asia (EMA) region programs as a whole, from 2000–2004. It is presented to you in a somewhat technical manner for statistical accuracy.
To fully appreciate the collected data below, an explanation of the graph is provided as follows:
The incidence rate for each type of crime is the number of crime events relative to the Volunteer/trainee population. It is expressed on the chart as a ratio of crime to Volunteer and trainee years (or V/T years, which is a measure of 12 full months of V/T service) to allow for a statistically valid way to compare crime data across countries. An “incident” is a specific offense, per Peace Corps' classification of offenses, and may involve one or more Volunteer/trainee victims. For example, if two Volunteers are robbed at the same time and place, this is classified as one robbery incident.
The chart is separated into eight crime categories. These include vandalism (malicious defacement or damage of property); theft (taking without force or illegal entry); burglary (forcible entry of a residence); robbery (taking something by force); minor physical assault (attacking without a weapon with minor injuries); minor sexual assault (fondling, groping, etc.); aggravated assault (attacking with a weapon, and/or without a weapon when serious injury results); and rape (sexual intercourse without consent).
When anticipating Peace Corps Volunteer service, you should review all of the safety and security information provided to you, including the strategies to reduce risk. Throughout your training and Volunteer service, you will be expected to successfully complete all training competencies in a variety of areas including safety and security. Once in-country, use the tools and information shared with you to remain as safe and secure as possible.
What if you Become a Victim of a Violent Crime?
Few Peace Corps Volunteers are victims of violent crimes. The Peace Corps will give you information and training in how to be safe. But, just as in the U.S., crime happens, and Volunteers can become victims. When this happens, the investigative team of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is charged with helping pursue prosecution of those who perpetrate a violent crime against a Volunteer. If you become a victim of a violent crime, the decision to prosecute or not to prosecute is entirely yours, and one of the tasks of the OIG is to make sure that you are fully informed of your options and help you through the process and procedures involved in going forward with prosecution should you wish to do so. If you decide to prosecute, we are here to assist you in every way we can.
Crimes that occur overseas, of course, are investigated and prosecuted by local authorities in local courts. Our role is to coordinate the investigation and evidence collection with the regional security officers (RSOs) at the U.S. embassy, local police, and local prosecutors and others to ensure that your rights are protected to the fullest extent possible under the laws of the country. OIG investigative staff has extensive experience in criminal investigation, in working sensitively with victims, and as advocates for victims. We also, may, in certain limited circumstances, arrange for the retention of a local lawyer to assist the local public prosecutor in making the case against the individual who perpetrated the violent crime.
If you do become a victim of a violent crime, first, make sure you are in a safe place and with people you trust and second, contact the country director or the Peace Corps medical officer. Immediate reporting is important to the preservation of evidence and the chances of apprehending the suspect. Country directors and medical officers are required to report all violent crimes to the Inspector General and the RSO. This information is protected from unauthorized further disclosure by the Privacy Act. Reporting the crime also helps prevent your further victimization and protects your fellow Volunteers.
In conjunction with the RSO, the OIG does a preliminary investigation of all violent crimes against Volunteers regardless of whether the crime has been reported to local authorities or of the decision you may ultimately make to prosecute. If you are a victim of a crime, our staff will work with you through final disposition of the case. OIG staff is available 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week. We may be contacted through our 24-hour violent crime hotline via telephone at 1.800.233.5874, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Security Issues in the Philippines
When it comes to your safety and security in the Peace Corps, you have to be willing to adapt your behavior and lifestyle to minimize the potential for being a target of crime. As with anywhere in the world, crime does exist in the Philippines. You can reduce your risk by avoiding situations that make you feel uncomfortable and by taking precautions. Crime at the village or town level is less frequent than in the large cities; people know each other and generally will not steal from their neighbors. Tourist attractions in large towns, for instance, are favorite work sites for pickpockets.
Among the risks to safety in the Philippines you should be aware of are theft, robbery, and mugging; crimes related to illegal drugs; natural calamities such as volcanic eruptions, typhoons, and earthquakes; and transportation-related accidents such as capsized boats and vehicle and bicycle accidents.
Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime
You must be prepared to take on a large degree of responsibility for your own safety. Only you can make yourself less of a target, ensure that your house is secure, and develop relations in your community that will make you an unlikely victim of crime. In coming to the Philippines, do what you would do if you moved to a new city in the United States: Be cautious, check things out, ask questions, learn about your neighborhood, learn the risky locations, use common sense, and be aware. You can reduce your vulnerability to crime by integrating into your community, learning the local language, acting responsibly, and abiding by Peace Corps policies and procedures. Serving safely and effectively in the Philippines may require that you accept some restrictions on your current lifestyle.
Volunteers attract a lot of attention both in large cities and at their sites, but they are likely to receive more negative attention in highly populated centers than at their sites, where “family,” friends, and colleagues look out for them.
While whistles and exclamations are fairly common on the street, this behavior can be reduced if you dress conservatively, avoid eye contact, and do not respond to unwanted attention. In addition, keep your money out of sight by using an undergarment money pouch, the kind that hangs around your neck and stays hidden under your shirt or inside your coat. Do not keep your money in outside pockets of backpacks, in coat pockets, or in fanny packs. And always walk with a companion at night.
Preparing for the Unexpected: Safety Training and Volunteer Support in the Philippines
The Peace Corps’ approach to safety is a five-pronged plan to help you stay safe during your two-year service and includes the following: information sharing, Volunteer training, site selection criteria, a detailed emergency action plan, and protocols for addressing safety and security incidents. The Philippines’ in-country safety program is outlined below.
The Peace Corps/Philippines office will keep Volunteers informed of any issues that may impact Volunteer safety through information sharing. Regular updates will be provided in newsletters and in memorandums from the country director. In the event of a critical situation or emergency, Volunteers will be contacted through the emergency communication network.
Volunteer training will include sessions on specific safety and security issues in the Philippines. This training will prepare you to adopt a culturally appropriate lifestyle and exercise judgment that promotes safety and reduces risk in your home, at work, and while traveling. Safety training is offered throughout your service and is integrated into the language, cross-cultural, health, and other components of training.
Certain site selection criteria are used to determine safe housing for Volunteers before their arrival. The Peace Corps staff works closely with host communities and counterpart agencies to help prepare them for a Volunteer’s arrival and to establish expectations of their respective roles in supporting the Volunteer. Each site is inspected before the Volunteer’s arrival to ensure placement in appropriate, safe, and secure housing and work sites. Site selection is based in part on any relevant site history; access to medical, banking, postal, and other essential services; availability of communications, transportation, and markets; housing options and living arrangements; and other Volunteer support needs.
You will also learn about Peace Corps/Philippines’ detailed emergency action plan, which is implemented in the event of civil or political unrest or a natural disaster. When you arrive at your site, you will complete and submit a site locator form with your address, contact information, and a map to your house. If there is a security threat, Volunteers in the Philippines will gather at predetermined locations until the situation is resolved or the Peace Corps decides to evacuate.
Finally, in order for the Peace Corps to be fully responsive to the needs of Volunteers, it is imperative that Volunteers immediately report any security incident to the local Peace Corps medical officer and safety and security coordinator. The Peace Corps has established protocols for addressing safety and security incidents in a timely and appropriate manner, and it collects and evaluates safety and security data to track trends and develop strategies to minimize risks to future Volunteers.
DIVERSITY AND CROSS-CULTURAL ISSUES
In fulfilling its mandate to share the face of America with host countries, the Peace Corps is making special efforts to see that all of America’s richness is reflected in the Volunteer corps. More Americans of color are serving in today’s Peace Corps than at any time in recent years. Differences in race, ethnic background, age, religion, and sexual orientation are expected and welcomed among our Volunteers. Part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to help dispel any notion that Americans are all of one origin or race and to establish that each of us is as thoroughly American as the other despite our many differences.
Our diversity helps us accomplish that goal. In other ways, however, it poses challenges. In the Philippines, as in other Peace Corps host countries, Volunteers’ behavior, lifestyle, background, and beliefs are judged in a cultural context very different from their own. Certain personal perspectives or characteristics commonly accepted in the United States may be quite uncommon, unacceptable, or even repressed in the Philippines.
Outside of Manila, residents of rural communities have had relatively little direct exposure to other cultures, races, religions, and lifestyles. What people view as typical American behavior or norms may be a misconception, such as the belief that all Americans are rich and have blond hair and blue eyes. The Filipino people are justly known for their generous hospitality to foreigners; however, members of the community in which you will live may display a range of reactions to cultural differences that you present.
To ease the transition and adapt to life in the Philippines, you may need to make some temporary, yet fundamental compromises in how you present yourself as an American and as an individual. For example, female trainees and Volunteers may not be able to exercise the independence available to them in the United States; political discussions need to be handled with great care; and some of your personal beliefs may best remain undisclosed. You will need to develop techniques and personal strategies for coping with these and other limitations. The Peace Corps staff will lead diversity and sensitivity discussions during pre-service training and will be on call to provide support, but the challenge ultimately will be your own.
Overview of Diversity in the Philippines
The Peace Corps staff in the Philippines recognizes the adjustment issues that come with diversity and will endeavor to provide support and guidance. During pre-service training, several sessions will be held to discuss diversity and coping mechanisms. We look forward to having male and female Volunteers from a variety of races, ethnic groups, ages, religions, and sexual orientations and hope that you will become part of a diverse group of Americans who take pride in supporting one another and demonstrating the richness of American culture.
What Might a Volunteer Face?
Possible Issues for Female Volunteers
Many American women find Filipino society chauvinistic. Men are allowed much greater freedom than women. For example, Filipinos expect female but not male Volunteers to travel with a companion. Because of depictions in the media, some Filipinos assume American women are promiscuous. Behavior by women that is considered normal in the United States— such as jogging in shorts or wearing a swimsuit to swim—may reinforce this stereotype, especially in rural areas, and may lead to sexual harassment. Female Volunteers should not wear short skirts, halter-tops, or other revealing clothing. In addition, some Filipinos may have a hard time understanding what a single woman is doing away from her family. Female Volunteers used to being independent may feel overprotected and may resent encouragement from Filipinos to get married. Despite these issues, the overwhelming majority of female Volunteers feel safe and happy in the Philippines.
Possible Issues for Volunteers of Color
African-American Volunteers may experience racist attitudes but are more likely to face great curiosity from Filipinos about everything from intimate habits to food preferences. All Volunteers can expect to be stared at, but African Americans may get more stares. African-American Volunteers may work or live with individuals who have no experience or understanding of black American culture. They may use offensive terms, although these are more likely to be used because of ignorance than because of malice.
Asian-American Volunteers may be identified more by their ethnic background than by their American citizenship. They may have to deal with Filipinos’ stereotypical views about other Asian cultures (e.g., all Chinese are rich traders). Mistaken for Filipinos, on the other hand, Asian-American Volunteers may be given less assistance than other Volunteers. People may expect an Asian American to speak their language and to know local customs. By the same token, by blending in, Asian Americans may not be stared at as often as other Volunteers are.
Possible Issues for Senior Volunteers
During training and at their sites, older Volunteers may face challenges solely due to age. Since the majority of Volunteers are in their 20s, they may work and live with individuals in the Peace Corps community who are not able to provide them with adequate personal support. Older Volunteers may find that younger Volunteers look to them for advice and support. While some seniors find this an enjoyable part of their Volunteer experience, others choose not to fill this role. In addition, difficult issues may arise if your host “parents” are even younger than your children at home.
There are also benefits to being an older Volunteer. For instance, older people are shown great respect in the Philippines. But while this will open many doors, senior Volunteers may also find that they are perceived as unapproachable by younger Filipino counterparts. Service in the Philippines may also be physically harder for senior Volunteers, who may, for instance, find riding in motorized, three-wheel bicycles, jeepneys, or minibuses uncomfortable or have difficulty hauling water and other supplies.
Possible Issues for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Volunteers
It is not uncommon to encounter gay men (and to a lesser extent, gay women) in the Philippines. But Volunteers will find that an openly gay lifestyle is not acceptable in all sectors of Filipino society. Volunteers who are open about their sexual orientation in their community may limit their effectiveness as Volunteers. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual Volunteers need to know that there may or may not be support for their sexual orientation and that they may serve for two years without meeting another gay or bisexual Volunteer. Lesbians will have to deal with constant questions about boyfriends, marriage, and sex (as do all women). Wearing an “engagement ring” may help. Men and women of any orientation must deal with machismo: talk of conquest(s), girl watching, and dirty jokes.
Possible Religious Issues for Volunteers
The Philippines is the only country in Asia with a predominantly Christian population—more than 90 percent (about 80 percent of these are Roman Catholic). Of minority religious groups, about 8 percent are Muslim and 4 percent belong to the Philippine Independent Church—a nationalist Catholic Church. The Iglesia ni Kristo (Church of Christ) is the largest Protestant denomination with 4 percent, while Baptists, Methodists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other denominations make up about 2 percent. Although Volunteers are free to exercise their personal religious beliefs, they may not engage in religious proselytizing or other activities that are against the law or would impair their effectiveness as a Volunteer.
Possible Issues for Volunteers With Disabilities
The Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services determined that you were physically and emotionally capable, with or without reasonable accommodations, of performing a full tour of Volunteer service in the Philippines without unreasonable risk to yourself or interruption of your service. Peace Corps/ Philippines staff will work with disabled Volunteers to make reasonable accommodations in training, housing, job sites, and other areas to enable them to serve safely and effectively.
Buildings in the Philippines generally are not suited for disabled people. Only a few hotels and other establishments are equipped with wheelchair ramps, although some movie houses in big cities now have toilets with big doors. These deficits are largely made up for by the sheer humanity of the people. When they see a disabled person, Filipinos behave perfectly naturally, without ingratiating themselves in an embarrassing way. And there is always someone around with a helping hand.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How much luggage am I allowed to bring to the Philippines?
Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds this allowance. The Peace Corps has its own size and weight limitations, and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limitations. The authorized baggage allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 80 pounds total with a maximum weight allowance of 70 pounds for any one bag.
Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (short-wave radios are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. This is an important safety precaution.
What is the electric current in the Philippines?
The electric current is generally 220v, 60 cycles, although the voltage is often less.
How much money should I bring? =
Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. They are given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover their expenses. Often Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash, although there is a risk of the credit card number being pilfered and illicitly used. If you choose to bring extra money, plan on bringing the amount that suits your own personal travel plans and needs.
When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (excluding training). Leave may not be taken during training, the first three months of service, or the last three months of service, except in conjunction with an authorized emergency leave. Family and friends are welcome to visit you after pre-service training and the first three months of service as long as their stay does not interfere with your work. Extended stays at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa or travel assistance.
Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects. However, such insurance can be purchased before you leave. Ultimately, Volunteers are responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms will be provided to you, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Additional information about insurance should be obtained by calling the company directly.
Volunteers should not ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.
Do I need an international driver’s license?
Volunteers in the Philippines do not need to get an international driver’s license. Operation of privately owned vehicles is prohibited. Most urban travel is by bus, jeepneys, motorized trikes, and, infrequently, taxis. Rural travel ranges from buses, mini-buses, jeepneys, motorized tricycles, trucks, a lot of walking, and riding of bicycles.
What should I bring as gifts for Filipino friends and my host family?
This is not a requirement. A token of friendship is sufficient. Some gift suggestions include: knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; or photos to give away.
Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
Peace Corps trainees in the Philippines are assigned to individual sites at the end of the initial orientation, (i.e., at the end of the first week in-country or during the first two weeks of pre-service training). This is after you are given the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, or living conditions. This is important because of the diversity of the language situation in the country. Once the sites are decided, appropriate languages are assigned to be learned at the pre-service training. However, keep in mind that many factors influence the site selection process and that the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you might ideally like to be. Most Volunteers will live in small towns or in rural villages but will usually be within one hour from the nearest Volunteer. Some sites will require a 9- to 10- hour drive from the capital.
How can my family contact me in an emergency?
The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services provides assistance in handling emergencies affecting trainees and Volunteers or their families. Before leaving the United States, instruct your family to notify the Office of Special Services immediately if an emergency arises, such as a serious illness or death of a family member. During normal business hours, the number for the Office of Special Services is 800.424.8580, extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574. For non-emergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 800.424.8580.
Can I call home from the Philippines?
Yes. The Philippines has several telephone companies. All pre-service training sites have telephones. There are public calling places in the capital towns and cities, and cell phones have become very popular in the country. Some host families also have telephones from which you may call the United States.
Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
If you bring one from the United States, you will have to take it to a mobile phone center to have it reprogrammed. Mobile phones do not cost much in the country. A good mobile phone here will cost between $70 and $120.
Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
There are Internet cafés in most capital towns and cities that charge as low as 50 cents per hour. At present, there are more than 35 Internet service providers in the Philippines. Major online providers are available and are adding lines all the time. We discourage you from bringing a computer with you. You will have very little need for a computer in pre-service training. It is also difficult to maintain the security of the computer during this period. Your need for a computer will depend upon the role and location of your assignment. Some sites (natural resources and environmental management assignment, small business/livelihood, and water/sanitation) are in the rural areas with no electricity. If you bring one, you need to expect humidity, fluctuating current, and concern for theft.
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in the Philippines and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything on the list, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind that you have an 80-pound weight limit on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in the Philippines.
- Two or three blouses and cotton skirts (at least knee length) and two or three dresses (at least knee length) for work, meetings with officials, social events, and formal Peace Corps functions
- Two or three pairs of lightweight pants and two or three pairs of walking shorts (which extend to mid-thigh) for wearing around the house, working outdoors, and travel
- Several nice T-shirts, including plain white ones to be printed with Peace Corps designs
- Lightweight sweatpants and sweatshirt (for the occasional cool, rainy nights)
- One lightweight jacket or sweater
- Eight pairs of cotton underpants
- Five to eight bras, which Volunteers must wear (larger sizes are hard to find locally)
- Two cotton half slips
- Two or three pairs of socks
- Modest one-piece bathing suit
- Bandannas or scarves for protection from dust, pollution, and heat
- Hat for sun protection
- Two or three pairs of cotton slacks (khakis are ideal), five to eight short-sleeved cotton shirts with collars, two cotton dress shirts, and one necktie for work, meetings with officials, parties, and formal Peace Corps functions
- Two or three pairs of lightweight pants and four or five pairs of walking shorts (which extend to mid-thigh) for wearing around the house, working outdoors, and travel
- Five to eight casual but neat T-shirts
- Eight to 10 pairs of cotton briefs or boxers
- One or two undershirts
- Cotton socks
- Swim trunks
- Bandannas or handkerchiefs for protection from dust, pollution, and heat
- Hat for sun protection
- For women, one pair of comfortable, versatile flats or low-heeled shoes that can be worn with pants or dresses
- For men, comfortable, casual dress shoes
- One pair of durable shoes for fieldwork
- One pair of comfortable athletic shoes
- One pair of sturdy sandals (e.g., Tevas)
Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items
- Supply of fine dental floss
- Tampons for women (hard to find locally)
- Special soaps
- Shaving kit
- Toiletry bag
Note that Volunteers receive a modest settling-in allowance at the end of the pre-service training to purchase household items.
- Swiss Army knife (a necessity)
- Good basic cookbook
- Plastic storage bags of different sizes
- Sugar substitute (if you avoid sugar)
- Battery- or solar-powered calculator (if you need one for your work)
- Prerecorded cassettes (bring your favorites; others can be mailed to you later)
- Recreational equipment such as a Frisbee, baseball glove, or mask and snorkel
- Two flat sheets (not fitted) and two pillowcases
- Sewing kit (but needles and thread are available locally)
- Three lightweight towels—two bath size and one for traveling
- Your favorite technical books (there are also a lot of technical books in-country)
- Digital shortwave radio
- Small tape recorder/player for recording language lessons
- Camera with silica gel and airtight container to protect film and equipment from the heat and humidity; most standard black-and-white, color, and slide films are available in larger cities, but the quality of processing varies markedly (you can buy mailers to send your film to the United States, Japan, or Australia for processing)
- Durable, waterproof backpack for overnight trips
- Photos of your family, pets, home, etc. to share with Filipino co-workers and friends
- Duct tape (useful for fixing almost anything and hard to find locally)
- Money belt
- Sleeping bag, especially if you are assigned to the mountains up north
- Waterproof flashlight
- Gifts from another place (known as pasalubong) for host families, such as Uno and other American games, U.S. maps, coloring books, key chains, magnets, pens, chocolate bars, and hard candies (Filipinos love them!)
The following list consists of suggestions for you to consider as you prepare to live outside the United States for two years. Not all items will be relevant to everyone, and the list does not include everything you should make arrangements for.
- Notify family that they can call the Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services at any time if there is a critical illness or death of a family member (telephone number: 800.424.8580, extension 1470; after-hours duty officer: 202.638.2574).
- Give the Peace Corps’ On the Home Front handbook to family and friends.
- Forward to the Peace Corps travel office all paperwork for the Peace Corps passport and visas.
- Verify that luggage meets the size and weight limits for international travel.
- Obtain a personal passport if you plan to travel after your service ends. (Your Peace Corps passport will expire three months after you finish your service, so if you plan to travel longer, you will need a regular passport.)
- Complete any needed dental and medical work.
- If you wear glasses, bring two pairs.
- Arrange to bring a six-month supply of all medications (including birth control pills) you are currently taking. . Bring you immunization record.
- Make arrangements to maintain life insurance coverage. . Arrange to maintain supplemental health coverage while you are away. (Even though the Peace Corps is responsible for your health care during Peace Corps service overseas, it is advisable for people who have preexisting conditions to arrange for the continuation of their supplemental health coverage. If there is a lapse in coverage, it is often difficult and expensive to be reinstated.)
- Arrange to continue Medicare coverage if applicable.
- Bring a copy of your certificate of marriage or divorce.
- Register to vote in the state of your home of record. (Many state universities consider voting and payment of state taxes as evidence of residence in that state.) . Obtain a voter registration card and take it with you overseas.
- Arrange to have an absentee ballot forwarded to you overseas.
- Purchase personal property insurance to extend from the time you leave your home for service overseas until the time you complete your service and return to the United States.
- Obtain student loan deferment forms from the lender or loan service.
- Execute a power of attorney for the management of your property and business.
- Arrange for deductions from your readjustment allowance to pay alimony, child support, and other debts through the Office of Volunteer Financial Operations at 800.424.8580, extension 1770.
- Place all important papers—mortgages, deeds, stocks, and bonds—in a safe deposit box or with an attorney or other caretaker.