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October 2014


It's now the end of my 9th months in Kalibo. In no other country have I ever spent so much time. Just this week the first one of our Australian Volunteers from Kalibo has finished her assignment and returned to Australia. Most others will follow in at the end of November. Which will leave only Allister and me behind, two Aussies left in Kalibo.

In many respects October has been a typical month without any significant highs or lows. In many ways I am starting slowly to prepare for my return to Sydney. After my ATM card disappeared last week I closed my bank account, I can live without for the remaining three months. When my housemate Jen moves out at the end of November I will move out too, no more need for a big house and only one person. Every box in my assignment description has been ticket which means everything has been at least started. And many things will take years to develop. The remaining three months of my presence in Kalibo will be spent in continuation of things started, in completion of some of the items and repetition and training of what has been covered before. It's an interesting time

Nonetheless it is also still a very good time and very happy. Now that the wet season is officially finished we have fiestas again. In early October we had one in Banga, where my supervisor Sir Galo lives. O we all went to his house and had a good day of eating, drinking and Videoke. Made special by my first ever earthquake, a category 5 quake with an epicentre at around 100km from us. For the first time ever I experienced how it feels when the ground is shaking underneath your feet, there was a clear sideways movement. Forth and back, forth and back. Just for a few seconds. But still undeniably recognisable as an earthquake.

Another fiesta did happen towards the end of October in the town of Balete. Some of our rescue volunteers live in Balete and we went there to watch the fiesta and visited the house of the local disaster risk reduction officer to have lots and lots of good home made Philippino food. Fiesta in Balete means the 'Enchanting Balete Festival”, a whole day of parade, music, dancing. Mostly of school kids of the various schools from the area around Balete and the villages.

And at the same time as the Balete Fiesta Kalibo celebrated the opening of the Ati-Atihan season. The actual Ati-Atihan festival will only be on January 18. But the celebration for it starts three months early. We were literally caught in the middle of various parades crossing each other, in counterflow through the narrow Kalibo streets. Deafening drum music accompanied dancers in colourful costumes, a spectacle to watch and listen to. And so much energy in the people, in their movements, in their enjoyments. When you're there you are automatically happy, just can't not be.

I can only imagine now how big the actual Ati-Atihan festival will be. According to Lonely Planet it is the mother of all festivals in the Philippines, with it's beginning far before any European occupation of the islands. It will most likely be my glorious final highlight before returning home to Sydney in January.


Typical food during a fiesta - spit roast pork or 'Litchon Baboy'


In october four of us Australiens did a motorbike trip to the neighboring island of Guimaras. It started as a good adventure with a tropical deluge pouring down on us, so much rain that we could not see properly anymore and had to stop. Rain or not, I like the tropical climate, the hot humid air and the quick change between sunshine and rain. What I like most is that is is never cold. So even when you are soaked by the rain, it will still feel warm.


And when it is sunny, the Philippines are just paradise. This photo was taken at our overnight stay on Guimaras Island, beautiful clear water, perfect temperature to stay in for a long long time.


Looks like holidays?


It's amazing how clear the ocean is in the Philippines.


And riding motorbikes is always good fun. I love this little 125ccm bike, we already travelled more than 7000km together. And even though the bike is philippine made and of no big brand, it is still decent enough quality to have not had any issues so far.


Another beautiful beach in Guimaras Island


The island if Guimaras is famous for it's mango plantations. You will find century old and huge mango trees growing at the roadside. And there is even a National Mango Research Centre, we just had to take a photo of it.


A team of rescuers and officials in preparation for a mass casualty exercise. My supervisor and agency manager here in Kalibo, Sir Galo, is standing in the middle right next to me.


During the mass casualty exercise - a simulated plane crash resulting in 50 casualties. It was a really professionally performed exercise involving multiple rescue agencies


Another posing photo of the four delegates of our office in Kalibo after the mass casualty exercise in Iloilo City


Every now and then I have also the opportunity to conduct some work of my old career as a surveyor. Here we used survey instruments to establish flood levels for various areas in the town of Madalag. As such we linked these areas to the flood gauge on the bridge in the background of this photo. So the people in Madalag know now which number on the flood gauge corresponds with the flood waters reaching their area.


During the Enchanting Balete festival


The Queen of Balete




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(c) 2014    marco hoffmann