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Archive for April, 2008

At 5 am I waited until other passengers came to fill up the taxi. Eventually there were 4 of us in the back seat, 3 up front, and 2 in the hatch-back trunk. The car was so full that I didn’t feel that bad about my sleepy head bobbing on the shoulder of the woman next to me. A few hours later we made it to Chilete, and from there, another overstuffed taxi up the green hills of the Andean valley, past an abandoned mine and finally to San Pablo. The town of 2000 homes and the seat of the province was draped in thick fog.

I found the clinic, with colorful murals of cartoon like drawings of such ills as malaria and the bubonic plague, and touting the virtues of hand washing. There, I met up with Juan, from La Mancha, Spain who was leading a workshop with the nurses from all of the rural districts to get a sense of the need, and willingness, of the medical network to adopt new technologies to improve communication. We had made little drawings of phones, radios, computers, solar systems, and electricity icons for them to paste on a big map showing each of the 10 health posts in the province. Juan facilitated a discussion of how these telecommunication technologies were being used, who used them, who maintained them, and what are the missing links. The information was also put up on a map, and at the end one of the nurses commented how the visual representation helped put the whole picture together. The workshop was one step in a participatory evaluation process to see how telecommunications could strengthen the network of rural health posts.

We spent the rest of the afternoon getting to know the local characters. We ate lunch (quartered guinea pig) at the 1 restaurant in town with Fidel, from the municipality. When I say I’m from the US, people either ask about the new free trade deal, George Bush or about school shootings…

Then we headed to the house of Wilson, who runs “Tropicana Stereo” radio station who is glad to make any announcements for any programs. We also met his mother who invited us to a gathering to sell “OmniLife” vitamins in a pyramid scheme. “Unfortunately,” we had to head over to the municipal building to greet the local officials. The building, as most in San Pablo, is an old thick-walled adobe building with a courtyard and rickety wooden balconies. Inside, a famous battle against the Chileans, is remembered in graphic paintings.

From there, we stopped by the electrician’s shop/house since we heard that he was selling solar equipment. I was especially interested in meeting him, since we are gearing up for a Provincial-wide renewable energy program, and I was excited to hear that there are already some local resources. The San Pablo electrification plan was also born out of numerous workshops, interviews and surveys. It envisions solar power, micro-hydro and wind turbines for all of the villages that are out of reach of the national grid. We’re working on finishing up the plan, and identifying funders, to begin implementation this year.

Next we walked to see the big construction work on the edge of town, the “Colosio Multiuso” (multi-use coliseum). The massive structure will seat 5000 people for bull fights, soccer matches and concerts. Apparently, a doctor from San Pablo went to the US, and made it rich. He said that he would sponsor a bull fight, complete with Torreros from Spain, if the municipality built a new, larger bull ring (since the existing bull ring in San Pablo is in bad shape). Thinking that that was a good deal, the municipality invested half a million dollars in the first stage of the multi-million dollar coliseum, which is supposed to eventually have a roof that mechanically opens. The foreman, and the (very drunk) workers were quite excited and proud of the work of progress, but I couldn’t help but recall the statistics at the health center that 36% of the province doesn’t have piped water, and 86% doesn’t have light.

To escape the rain, we headed back to the 1 restaurant, and hung out in the kitchen for a few hours, eating Chinese fried rice (interestingly a Peruvian national dish) and hot-out-of-the-oven cake and enjoying the conversation. It was Friday night so we hit the streets to see what ‘the scene’ was and who else we could meet. On the main strip, there were a few people hanging out in the street in front of the school-supplies store. In lieu of a bar, young people play loud pop music off the computer in the store (with no lights on), drink juice and gossip until late into the night. The young people seem to lament that there is nothing going on in San Pablo and yearn for the bigger cities and at the same time, the older generation worries that the young people don’t go out to the real countryside anymore.

The next morning, at the simple old Hospedaje, I decide not to take a shower, given the sign that says, “Dear Clients, Please do not take a shower for longer than 6 minutes, as you may experience an electric shock”.

Today we have another session back at the health center. Juan asks questions to rate the functioning of their current communications, management, and adaptation to change. The nurses, medical technicians, obstetricians, and administrators write their answers on cards and peg them on the big paper on the wall. A few hours later they draw some conclusions of what kind of changes they’d like to institute and hopefully all of this will be channeled into a proposal for the next stage of the project.

After lunch with an American peace corps volunteer living in San Pablo, a few of the nurses, Juan and I squish into another taxi heading back to Chilete. But there are more adventures in store. The wide muddy river had risen during the day of rain, and was impassible to cars. A few men, without pants, sloshed through the currents on foot, but most people waited on the banks for a bigger vehicle to come by. Luckily, a huge old bus barreled down the valley, and stopped to haul us across the whitewater rapids.

In just 2 days I felt like I had already gotten to know some of the local characters that give life to this sleepy town, and I’m already looking forward to going back.

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TALES OF COURAGE, LOVE, LONELINESS AND WONDER
Portland’s 2nd Annual Moonrise Film Festival Showcases the Philippines
and Environmental Awareness

PORTLAND, OR– Just in time for Earth Day, the 2nd Portland Moonrise Film Festival invites you to learn about the issues facing rural farmers, indigenous groups, and gain a sense of the history of one of the largest archipelagos on Earth, the Philippines.

The Festival, hosted by Green Empowerment and Philippine-American Chamber of Commerce of Oregon (PACCO) Kabataan, will be held at the Holladay Park Plaza (1300 NE 16th Ave.). A Filipino dinner and slideshow highlighting community-based energy and water projects helps kick off the Festival on April 25th, 2008 at 6:00PM followed by the screening of “Batad, Sa Paang Palay”, this year’s featured film. A matinee that starts at 4:00PM and evening show at 7:00PM closes the event April 26th.

The Festival showcases independent films and documentaries originally shown at the Moonrise Film Festival in Quezon City, Philippines. Moonrise Film Festival, a critically-acclaimed tradition now in its third year in the Philippines, is organized annually by the Center of Environmental Awareness and Education (CEAE) – a leader in environmental education and environmental awareness initiatives in the Philippines.

“Independent films and environmentalism are cornerstones to Portland’s culture; and Portland’s ties with the Philippines are becoming stronger every year. We need to use our traditions of art and activism to help ensure the Philippines’ sustainable development,” shares Gordy Molitor, Green Empowerment’s Executive Director.

Moonrise is proud to present the critically-acclaimed film, “Batad”, named for a region in the Philippines whose breathtaking rice terraces are considered the Eighth Wonder of the World. Benjie Garcia and Vic Acedillo, Jr tell the story of a young Batad boy who must work in the local market while his father repairs rice terraces in order to help support his family. However, the boy’s true heart’s desire is a young girl and the seemingly impossible purchase of a pair of new boots that he believes will make her love him. He is pulled at turns by the promises of the modern world and by the traditions of his parents. “Batad” has enjoyed several nominations for the 4th ENPRESS Golden Screen Awards and was one of the finalists for Cinemalaya Philippines Independent Film Festival.

“The film festival straddles two celebrations: Earth Day and API Heritage Month, and so it comes at the intersection of these passions, concerns and responsibilities,” says Festival organizer Aimee Santos-Lyons. “Filipinos living in Portland are blessed to have the
experience of living in a city respected for its strong ‘green ethic’ and are now able to bring this perspective to the environmental challenges besieging the verdant island we still call home. The films in this series demonstrate that we cannot rest on our nostalgia but that we need to continue nurturing this relationship, raising our awareness of the problems and be part of the solutions being forwarded.”

Tickets are available through Green Empowerment

(www.greenempowerment.org) or at the door. Proceeds from this event will go to Green Empowerment’s partners in the Philippines and to CEAE.

For more information, please contact Jason Selwitz: (503. 284.5774, jason@greenempowerment.org), or Steph Routh (503.284.5774, stephanie@greenempowerment.org).

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