Field Work Travels: Final count, 52!

Whenever people ask me what I do for a living, they always end up saying “I love your job!” after I give them the answer.

No, they don’t say those words because I make a pot of brewed coffee in mornings and afternoons. Nor do they say so because my job allows me to help about 22,000 farmers in the Philippines. Neither is it due to the fact that I am working with an internationally-known bilateral development organization. It’s simply because this job allows me to travel every now and then in different cities and provinces of the Philippines.

Leaving Guimaras just before the sun sets
Leaving Guimaras Island just before the sun sets

As I’ve written somewhere before, I would do a blog on all the work trips I’ve done since I started with my current work. Since these are so many, with the final tally at 52 if my record-keeping is correct (based on the trip applications saved on my office PC), you know that I’ll have many blog posts dedicated to this. And, as work is killing me this month of August, I won’t be able to tell you all about these yet. But, I would like to start the series with a quick rundown and introductory information on the places I travel to.

To put everything in context, let me give you a very brief background on the work I do. I work for a partnership project between the Government of the Philippines and Government of Japan. This technical cooperation program (TCP) is the second of its kind being implemented by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Dubbed as NIA-JICA TCP2, the Irrigators Association (IA) Institutional Strengthening Support Project aims to capacitate farmer-beneficiaries (IA) in efficiently carrying out operation and maintenance activities in the irrigation system.

Workshop facilitation for IA Transformation Towards Sustainable Irrigation for La Union IA Leaders, conducted at Ilocos Sur
Water Flow Monitoring Orientation: Field Demonstration in Mambusao, Capiz

The reason for the work travels that we do is to conduct, and then subsequently monitor the progress of activities, and provide the necessary support to ensure its smooth implementation. The activities are varied but during my time, these have mostly fallen into either of the following categories: a) meetings; b) trainings; c) demonstration farming; and d) water flow monitoring.

We have eight project sites located in La Union for Region I, Zambales for Region III, Iloilo and Capiz for Region VI, and Davao del Norte and Davao del Sur for Region XI. Apart from that, especially in the recent months, we have been traveling to different provinces and cities to conduct project-related activities. Basically, the target participants remain the same but the venue is in another province or something like that. Anyway, you get the idea, right?

We usually fly via PAL (hence, the NAIA Terminal 2 blog post) through booking the cheapest ticket, which we usually refer to as promo/discounted. For land trips, we use the Nissan Patrol donated by JICA during the TCP1 in 2005. Kuya Manny, our road-know-it-all pilot, always gets to the destination at more or less an hour before the ETA. If the Nissan is unavailable, we either take NIA’s coaster, for big groups, or avail a rent-a-car service.

We usually sleep at hotels or beach resorts, not necessarily the posh ones. JICA’s kinda big on security so that’s a big consideration. The cheapest I stayed at is pegged at P250 per night in downtown Davao and the most expensive (except during CBP Manual workshops) would probably be P1700 at a beach resort in Iba, Zambales.

As per my record, here’s the breakdown of the 52 travels done:

Harvesting of 1sq.m. sample of rice produced with the alternate wetting and drying method of irrigation

2009 – 15 trips taken beginning from May. First trip was for the Perception Survey conducted in Region I and the second trip was for the same survey but this time in Region XI. Both in the first ten days of working! And, these two are quite memorable. The first being the first and the other simply for being in Davao. I’ll explain further some other time. 🙂

2010 – 23 trips taken from February to December. I believe most of the trips taken this year are focused on the conduct of System Management Committee meetings, farmers field schools for demonstration farms, water flow monitoring orientations, and capacity building programs (CBP)  manual development. And, just to clarify, I did not go to all the travels. Me and my co-research assistant usually take turns, depending on the activity and frequency.

The first-time faci at work discussing, wait for it...communication skills!

2011 – 14 trips taken from January to July. Most of the activities at this time were concentrated on the conduct of test runs and peer review of the CBP manuals. In one of the test-runs, I experienced being the primary facilitator for the first-time. This made this travel set quite memorable, including the chance to play for the first time at a casino! Moreover, this period was I think one of the two or three times wherein my time card was marked “Field Work” for almost the entire duration of the payday period. Seriously.

Actually, to be honest, one of the reasons why I applied for this job was the perks of traveling. To be honest to the fullest, my ear kissed the phone earpiece when the program officer mentioned Davao City as one of the regular places to be visited. But, I did not expect that I’d be traveling to other places outside the six provinces. I didn’t dream of going to Bacolod or setting foot at Guimaras Island. Nor did I ever expect to walk through Calle Crisologo of Vigan and enjoy the white sand beach of Bolinao. But I did. And for which I am very grateful to TCP2.

To give you an idea where the 52 trips have taken place, I edited a map I got from philippinemaps.ph to show where I have been for the conduct of project-related activities:

Places where I went for Project activities

So, as I’ve said, there’s too much to write about in one go. Maybe I’d spend my jobless days (project ends on September 30) writing blogs about my travel heydays while working with the project. But that would come after my Backpacking South East Asia trip. So that makes 28-days of additional travel stories. Hay. So many things to write about, so little time! I think it’s one of the many challenges of travel blogging. Anyway, to end this note, I shall leave you with one of my favorite shots from the field work side trips I had:

Rekindling my love affair with night photography with this very long bridge in Iloilo City (untouched photo except for the watermark)

I would’ve put a food photo here of the various province-specific specialties that I’ve tried but that’s already giving away too much. Maybe next time, eh? So I can keep you coming back for more! (although, I must get through August first!)

Anyway, cheers to all the travelers who get the chance to have side trips and mix business with pleasure!

Happy wandering everyone!

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