A Somewhat Sour Leaving Note
12th April 2006
I left Dumangas on the 4th of April 2006. My time there was awesome. The people I've met and
the experiences I've had have been priceless.
There was something rotten in the state of Dumangas though...
The municipal government, in their infinite wisdom, had decided to suspend future volunteers to Dumangas.
What the fuck?
I mean really. How is it beneficial to the people of Dumangas to refuse
entry to people who want to help for free?
The mayor often talks of Win-Win situations and how he is a public servant
serving the public. I fail to see how anyone wins from this decision and how the public is served.
The only thing I can come up with is that is was some sort of power play. CERV (the
organization I volunteer for) has done crap loads of good work while I've been here.
Maybe it made them look inadequate and they wanted to claim some of the glory for themselves.
Dunno. That's the best I can come up with.
Their stated reasons for the suspension are as follows:
- Poor communication between CERV and the local government
True. CERV could of communicated a lot better.
- Poor coordination between CERV and the local government
True. CERV could of coordinated a lot better.
- Drunken Volunteers
One volunteer here has a serious drinking problem. The person is a good friend of mine and it breaks my heart to see what they are doing to themselves. The person is drunk everyday and is in serious need of some help.
The volunteer finished volunteering months ago, but is still in the Philippines.
While they are not with CERV anymore, it still reflects badly on us.
- CERV "extracting" funds from volunteers.
Bollocks. 10% of the volunteers fees go towards a school maintenance budget.
There was some confusion with the volunteers about where this 10% had actually gone. Raymund, the main dude of CERV, sent us an email detailing exactly where all this money went. I was more than happy with his explanation.
Before this email arrived though one volunteer started babbling to the mayor about this "missing" money. It would of been nice is she could of engaged her brain first...
There are two local guys who help CERV a lot. Vincent and Amay. They are my Amigos and I trust them completely. I called them my brothers when I left. Somehow
a rather, it was thought that Vincent and Amay were extracting money from the volunteers via way of this stray
The amount in question is about 3,000 ($NZ 75.00) pesos a month.
Bollocks. Bollocks. Bollocks.
CERV is in fact losing money in Dumangas.
Points 1 and 2 are easily fixed and 3 is unfortunate but happens
Now, lets assume that point 4 is true. Is that reason enough to suspend volunteers from
I think not.
CERV is doing a huge amount of good for Dumangas. A lot more
than 3,000 pesos worth.
That is why I think it must be some sort of dumb power play to get CERV - a non-governmental
organization - under the thumb of the local government.
I think part of their problem was with Eden, the local CERV
coordinator. Not so much what Eden did or did not do, but the fact
that she was a women and not from Dumangas. The local government has
never been helpful to Eden. She has turned up for meetings with
the mayor early in the morning, and eventually given up as the offices
close in the evenings. Not good.
What made it even worse was they didn't even tell us of their decision!
Emma found out when she was having a casual chat with a member of the council. Very very poor.
I was furious when I learnt about all this. It was like a kick in the guts for all the hard slog I had done over the last six months.
The decision didn't really effect me because I was leaving soon anyway. But it did matter to the people of Dumangas and that was the thing that made me most angry.
I would dearly like to see another volunteer at Pulao Elementary School.
This will not happen.
The remaining volunteers and I arranged to talk to the mayor about this on the day I was to leave Dumangas.
We eventually managed to see him at around lunchtime. We decided to give him a chance to explain the decision to us and the reasons behind it.
It was basically what we led to believe. i.e. the four items above.
When he finished his explanation I jump in and expressed my anger and disappointment
at this brain-dead decision. I made it clear how this was a bad decision for the people of Dumangas. This suspension had already led to two health care workers being stationed in Manila instead of Dumangas.
Things got a little heated between me and the mayor. At one stage he waved his finger at me and said "Look, be quiet. You're just wrong".
The mayor is a politician and is good at double talk. He seemed to want to say that the word "suspension" meant something other than not allowing volunteers here. I kept out pointing out that that was exactly what it meant and the proof of it was the two volunteers in Manila.
Grrr. We got to what Fred Colon would call an "Imp's Arse".
As a complete aside, I think this was kinda cool. I've never gotten angry at a political figure before. Mayor Distura is the highest official in a municipality of 70,000 (?) odd people and I had a right royal go at him. Kewl!
Once all had been said and we couldn't get pass our impasse, things got very friendly all of a sudden. The mayor thanked me at length for my help here and gave me a manly hug.
He even gave me an official button-seal thing that is only given to elected officials in Dumangas.
He even made me a Son of Dumangas. Which was all kinda nice. Wasn't really what I wanted though. More volunteers in Dumangas is what I want.
What does this all mean though?
Well, firstly CERV is losing money in Dumangas. The rising value of the Peso is one reason for this, and the distance from Manila is another. Losing money is not sustainable.
I suspect CERV could stumble along for another six months before going completely belly up. So, even if CERV did continue
in Dumangas, it would only be for a little while longer.
This, coupled with the ludicrous decision of the council, means it is time for CERV to
move out of Dumangas and into somewhere else which will be cheaper and have the support of the local government.
When I see pictures like this and this,
my heart breaks. But, people somewhere else in the Philippines will benefit, so I that
must be a good thing.
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2005 and 2006 Malcolm Trevena.
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