My last weekend here in the Philippines was spent exploring the island of Palawan; which, as all my co-workers made sure i knew, is ranked as one of the top 5 most beautiful islands in the world. After my trip, despite having a special place in my heart for my previous years spring break destination of Fort Meyers Beach in Florida, I would be inclined to agree.
To get to the island I had to hop on a plane from Manila for a 1 hour flight to Puerto Princessa, and let me tell you those plane seats were definitely built “Filipino sized” as my knees were jamming into the seat in front of me. The airport on Palawan eerily reminded me of the landing strip in the third Jurassic Park movie but thankfully no T-rexs made any surprise appearances. From the airport it was a 6 hour shuttle ride north the El Nido where our hostels was for the weekend, the ride flew by as it was and incredibly scenic drive along the coast for a good portion of it. We arrived around 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon and got all situated and our tours for the next day booked before heading to Las Cabanas beach where we saw the sunset before heading back to the hotel and then on to going out to one of the bars on the beach in the town of El Nido.
The second day in Palawan we luckily got to go out on our kayaking/snorkeling tour besides the mildly choppy ocean in the morning. The tours had been cancelled for the previous 4 days so we ended up being really lucky getting out there. The tour was amazing, we went around a whole manner of lagoons and coral reefs in our kayaks and snorkeling, the coral itself was so close to being straight out of Planet Earth I’m pretty sure if you dive deep enough you can hear David Attenborough narrating. For wildlife I got to see my first ever sea turtle in the wild as well as a jelly fish so big I was more than a little scared can’t lie. I also spotted some clown fish and after repeatedly asking them if they spoke English I deduced that Finding Nemo is a fictitious tale. Towards the end of the tour they showed us where the closing scenes to the movie The Bourne Legacy were filmed and I though I recognized them but am definitely going back to re-watch the movie to confirm. After the tour we headed to a restaurant with an amazing view of the sunset, as it was late afternoon, where I of course ordered the most fruity, “girly” drink I could find on the menu.
Our last half day in Palawan was spent heading over to Nacpan Beach which was about a half-hour ride north of our hostel but it was a hidden gem. Not only were we 3 of maybe 10 total people on the beach but it was also some of the most breathtaking views I had seen in the Philippines. The water was as warm as a bathtub and since the open ocean was out in front of the beach it had some of the largest waves I had ever seen, so naturally I was hurling myself into them at full speed. Even though we were only able to spend a few hours at Nacpan it very well may have been the highlight of my entire 2 months here in the Philippines. After our beach morning we headed back to the hostel, hopped in the van and strapped in for the 6 hour ride back to Puerto Princessa and our flight back to Manila. I arrived back at my apartment at about 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, promptly passed out then woke up for work at 7. It was a whirlwind weekend but without a doubt worth it, one could easily spend a whole week on that island alone and not even see everything, I guess that means I will have to come back!
Work was relatively unexciting this week and I went on an incredible excursion this weekend so I am going to focus on that. On Friday for work we had a new employee immersion for Human Nature up at the GK enchanted farm. GK and Human Nature work very closely together with their message of bettering the Philippines through business. The GK farm supplies many of the raw materials for HN products as well as producing on their own many items sold in our stores. The immersion gave us a tour of the farm and all the ways in which they are able to employ roughly 1000 Filipinos and international interns in total. The farm was about a 4 hour drive north from Santa Rosa. After the immersion wrapped up (which I found comical that I just got immersed and I will leave in 10 days) I met up with the 6 other interns from IWU who are stationed at the GK farm and enjoyed for the first time in a while a conversation with familiar individuals in perfect English.
At roughly 8:30pm the group I was with as well as about 8 other farm interns from all over Asia piled into an over-cramped van and got ready to drive through the night north to the Banaue Rice Terraces. Despite being packed like sardines I didn’t find the 9 hour drive as bad as the rest, it reminded me a lot of my flight to Japan being wedged in the middle seat between two other large football players for 14 hours. We started our first day with breakfast at 430 a.m. overlooking some of the famous rice terraces before heading over to the famed Banaue Rice Terraces (which the pictures are of). The views and the hike were incredible and I have come to the conclusion that how sweaty and tired I got just hiking around the treacherous paths that navigate the terraces that there is only one possibility of how these things were made: Aliens. The trek continued down to the source of the water for the massive rice terraces which is the Tappiya falls at the lowest point of our hike. We then spent the next two hours fighting an uphill battle back to our shuttle, I can’t lie there were many times along that trail back up I considered just staying and becoming a rice farmer instead of climbing the rest of the mountain, I definitely made the wrong choice as I’m sitting here at my desk 5 days later. We spent the rest of the day driving to our hostel in Sagada as everyone was wiped out.
The next leg of our journey started bright and early again at 4:30a.m. on Sunday morning. The road we were planning to take had been closed by a mudslide so after a slight detour we made our way to the the Kiltepan Peak viewpoint in Sagada where we watched the sunrise over the mountains while we were above the clouds. The combination of the mountains and clouds made for an awesome view. After enjoying our time there we hopped back in the van and headed over to the hanging coffins of Sagada. After a short hike we got to see where the natives had been burying their dead as a part of nature as the deceased had wanted, the oldest coffins dated back 500 years while the most recent had been hung in 2010.
The last stop on our whirlwind journey was the mountain village of Buscalan. After about a 4 hour drive on winding mountain roads we reached the bottom of a trail that led up to the village where the last lady in the world who gives tattoos by using the old hammer and needle technique runs her business. The lady has become an internet sensation in recent times and has seen her business skyrocket so now she has her tattoo apprentices working too. My friend Katie was much braver than I and can be seen getting a tattoo on her wrist in the pictures, I was more than satisfied with the spectator role. With the fresh tats and very tired legs we made our journey back down the mountain to where the van was waiting for us and we head out on the 6 hour drive to Baguio City where we ate a late dinner before making the last 4 hour leg of the journey back to the GK farm arriving around 1 a.m. Monday morning. I spent the night on the farm before catching a ride back to Santa Rosa later that Monday morning. All in all the weekend had about 30 total hours of driving but it was more than worth it for the hiking and those views.
This week for work, according to my boss, is the busiest and least enjoyable week of the year. It was the dreaded inventory count at the factory which is situated about 15 minutes away from the office in Santa Rosa in the town of Carmelray. The inventory account took up my entire week of work and involved the counting of everything the company owns, from raw materials to the labels that are used to demarcate the products. My assignment was very similar to the function I performed during the finished goods inventory count I was part of earlier in July. I was tasked with comparing the first and second counts of the inventory and if they were the same values I would pass them on ti be checked against our computer records and if not the section of the shelf would be sent back for a third count to verify .
I again spent the weekend at home although I did have trips planned but unfortunately my means of transportation fell through and the city I live in has no form of reliable public transportation so I was stuck. I plan to make up for the lost weekend with upcoming trips for sure. I did have time since I was not busy traveling to go swimming in my apartments pool, I can assure you my cannonball skills have not diminished in the slightest.
I have included pictures of the front of my apartment complex, which has stores one the first floor and a laundromat so I never need to go to far if I need something, as well as pictures of the apartment pool area and the front entrance to the Human Nature factory.
During my fourth week in the Philippines I spent my time at work going through a check reconciliation for the company. I first had to separate the checks into the banks from which they came from, either BPI or BDO, and then had to make sure our paper records matched the electronic records of each bank. After going through the checks a number of which had not been reconciled in our paper accounts so this information was then passed on to the head of the finance department and he made the necessary write-offs to the banks.
During the week my boss needed to go to his old apartment in Makati to finish moving some stuff out so he took me along for the ride and he dropped me off at the Ayala Mall located in the upscale district of Makati to spend the day then get lunch before heading back to Santa Rosa. I included a picture of the mall which was incredibly scenic and I have no complaints with going to hangout at an upscale mall all-day and playing it off as “work”.
I did not have any travel plans this weekend because I was feeling under the weather (slowly dying in my own unbiased opinion). I spent the weekend recovering as well as sharpening my skills as a puzzle master and have finally upped my cooking skills to where I made myself rice that was not rock hard. I also added in a picture of the view from where I have been working out and have to say it has a leg up on the shirk center for sure.
My third week began with the exciting news that despite spending countless hours in the sun the previous weekend I shockingly had no sunburn at all. Now unfortunately this makes the large bottle of Aloe Vera I had to cram into my suitcase quite useless but I am confident I will be in dire need of it at some point soon. Going from an island paradise back to the office was quite a transition but I was able to take my first visit to the Human Nature factory which was very eye opening to the in’s and out’s of the companies production process. We needed to do a finished goods stock count so my job at the factory revolved around checking that the physical stock counts we took matched up with the stock numbers that had been registered into the computer. It was a long hot day of wearing a hairnet and a lab coat in the warehouse but at the end of the day it was satisfying to be all finished.
After work everyday I have been working out at a local Anytime Fitness to try and maintain my football playing weight. I know if I were to show up to camp in August after having taken two months off from working out while constantly sweating off weight I would end up giving head football coach Norm Eash a heart attack. I have been going there for all 3 weeks I have been set up here in Santa Rosa so the other patrons are finally getting used to seeing me there and the time I spend getting stared at while doing my warm-up stretches has gone down significantly which is quite nice haha.
This past weekend I met up with the other Human Nature intern as well as the interns working for FNRI and we took a cruise across Manila Bay to the island of Corregidor where we took a walking tour of the island. For a little background information Corregidor is the perfect place for a military fortification as it guards the mouth of the bay and was thus occupied by the U.S. army during WWII until they were forced to surrender to Japan in 1942. It was the last stronghold held by the U.S. in the Philippines and it was also the last stronghold held by the Japanese in the country in 1945 when it was finally recaptured. The tour took us through the jungle to the remains of the military installations built by the U.S. and bombed heavily by the Japanese. There was a very powerful feel about the whole military stronghold as many of the captured U.S. and Filipino troops then were forced to participate in the Bataan death march. The island had incredible views of the bay atop the lighthouse at the head of the island and from the beaches. It was a very cool trip that highlighted the vital role that the Philippines played in the Pacific theater of the Second World War.
With my second week of work well underway I have finally begun to start feeling truly comfortable with my set-up here in Santa Rosa. My mornings are usually highlighted by a ride in the sidecar of a tricycle that reminds me much more of a ride at Six Flags Great America than one’s standard morning commute. There is nothing quite like going 50mph in the wrong lane of a busy street to get the blood pumping for a productive day at work! I have also included in this post both pictures of my office building from the surrounding mall (still waiting for someone to challenge me to giant chess) and the main entry way into the brand new Human Nature office.
This week for work I will be continuing to analyze financial statements for the various branches of HN and various other financial accounts including running through the companies overall loans payable for all the various equipment and properties. The work is heavily done using Microsoft Excel so I have become a spreadsheet wizard in just 2 short weeks.
This past weekend I took a trip with a group of the other IWU interns in the area down through Batangas Port to Puerto Galera, an island about 160 miles south of Manila. We stayed at an amazing hotel called the Dolphin bay, right on our own private beach with million-dollar bay views for less than staying at a Motel 6 in Bloomington for a night. We arrived Saturday and stayed through noon on Monday, we went snorkeling and kayaking in some of the most crystal clear water I had ever seen. The fish and other forms of sea-life we saw on our snorkeling excursion looked like it came straight out of the movie Finding Nemo, fortunately for myself I did not make the same mistake as Nemo did when he “touched the butt” and arrived back safe and sound from the amazing adventure. I added in a bunch of pictures from the trip but they truly do not do them justice.
Upon my arrival to Manila International Airport from Tokyo I realized right away I had underestimated two things about the Philippines: how hot it is and how much it rains. I found out that on this trip I would be baptized by rain instead of baptized by fire but either way I would take this cultural shock in stride and do my best to adjust to my new life as seamlessly as possible. My first four days in the Philippines was spent at University of the Philippines Los Banos where the whole group of interns underwent our orientation. Our orientation taught us some key phrases in Filipino (which I promptly forgot) as well as how to navigate our way around our specific internship sites and the general “do’s and don’ts” of life in this country. In addition to the general orientation we took a day trip as a group to a plantation turned museum in the mountains of the Philippines, called Villa Escudero which you can see in the attached photos. After the orientation I was dropped off at my apartment in Santa Rosa and after being showed around the surrounding area for a while was left completely on my own. Getting used to being alone has been tough at times but I have begun holding full conversations with myself in my apartment to keep my sanity (kidding I am not going crazy…yet). At my work I have spent the first week and a half analyzing the financial reports of the company for the past 5 and have thus charted the growth trends of the company moving forward into the future. My first weekend here was spent in Santa Rosa familiarizing myself with my surroundings and the general Laguna province. I have my first travel plans set for the upcoming weekend but I will save those experiences for my next post.