Monday, March 7, 2011

Traffic signs are merely suggestions

We hit the ground running this morning. Ben and I were up by 6 and out for some breakfast and a stroll through the neighborhood before it got hot. It turns out that we all went out in pairs, but we didn’t see each other. At 930 we all met down in the lobby for our ride to CRS. It was only a few miles, but the traffic in the city is amazing. A couple quick honks on the horn to let someone know that: a) they are drifting into your “lane”, b) let them know that you intend to drift into their “lane”, or c) you are in my way and better get moving. I think everyone’s favorite so far is the Geepenee’s, which are half buses/half jeeps that are painted all kinds of designs that seem to be the most prevalent form of city transport. Not surprisingly given the traffic, they have some serious bumpers on them. I think we'll have plenty of pictures of them when we get back.

At CRS we were introduced to the staff and then Lionel treated us to a brief on CRS’s initiatives. Of course after all our research, everyone had a thousand questions and he could barely get through a slide without a dozen thoughts popping into everyone’s head. After a good morning orientation, we had a great lunch down in the restaurant--most of the dishes are named after the favorites of different Archbishops, Bishops, and Monseigneurs.

Heads up Uganda--we’re bringing you some info on local water usage/control in place here in the Philippines.

After lunch, we were off to APFTI, Advocate of Philippine Fair Trade. That took us to Quezon City which is part of greater Manila. We were treated to one of the largest round-a-bouts in the world--8 lanes wide circling 2 hectares (5 acres in the middle). Mr Vicente Roaring and Danilo “Danny” Ocampo gave us a great two hours of their time. Their organization focuses on the small entrepreneurs that serve a mainly domestic market. As such, the cost of obtaining the international fair trade label for each product is prohibitive. APFTI (and several other Filipino groups) have filled in that gap. Besides the craft and small processed foods industry, they have also been working on a project to see if they can put the value of roasting coffee beans into the hands of smaller clusters and co-ops so the farmers can serve a developing domestic market without having to go through traders and MNC buyers. It offers our group an interesting alternative to explore as before we had assumed that our go to market was to sell to either exporters or local roasters instead of the co-ops controlling the whole processing chain. Question your assumptions.

We also hit the local wet market this evening--plenty of small merchants selling everything from electronics, to vegetables, to meats and fish. The “butcher blocks” really caught my eye--they were tree trunks cut in 4 inch slices. Then it was off to the mall for some dinner. Of course this “smaller mall” is about double the size of the UP in South Bend. All this in close proximity to each other, but then again, when you’ve got to fight traffic like you do in Manila, it is much better to having everything close.

Tomorrow our team splits up as we head further south. Group 1 is myself, Aaron, and Ben and Group 2 is Bridget, Michelle, and Ross. We’ll be apart for a couple of days so look forward to some great posts as we get out to the coffee farmer level.

1 comment:

  1. Great descriptions! (Suggestion for future posts: it would help to mention which team is writing in the first line -- it took me a while to figure out what country it was!) Thanks -