By Anthony R. Kingsley
In 2012, the Peace Corps was looking for a response volunteer for a six-month assignment in the Philippines. Response assignments are shorter than the regular two-year assignment. My job was to recommend improvements to operations of an organization that took care of indigent children.
In February, I was on a flight to Manila via Narita in Japan. But my flight was delayed and I missed my connecting flight to Manila. I arrived in Manila late and the meeting “committee” had already left.
I found my way to a pension (small hotel) where a reservation had been made for me. The next morning, I was picked up and taken to the Peace Corps office for orientation, language lessons and receive my living allowance. I was told that my assignment place had been changed from Manila to Boso Boso.
A Peace Corps vehicle took me to my site. When I arrived, a welcoming committee of children and staff was waiting for me. They sang a welcoming song and I reciprocated by singing “It’s a Small World.”
My living quarters was a room on the second floor in a building with 70 children. That’s right, 70. The next morning, I awoke to the sounds of “It’s a Small World” being sung in Tagalog.
I shared an office with the pastor who was also a teacher at the school. There were no landline telephones but Peace Corps provided me with a cell phone.
I did a lot of walking and many times children came with me. On one walk, it started to rain and I ducked into a store. I introduced myself and when I started to explain what I was doing in Boso Boso, the lady interrupted me and said, “It is ok Anthony – we know all about you.”
This was a religious organization - they did not frown on drinking, only that you did not get drunk. When all the staff and children were eating dinner, I would go to the store to buy a couple of beers. I always carried a canvas bag.
One day I encountered one of the children on my way to the store. She asked me where I was going and I said to do some shopping. She looked me straight in the face and said, “No, you are not. You are going to get your beer like you always do”.
I responded, "If you ever tell anybody, I will strangle you." She said, “It is our secret Tony”.
She was eleven years old. Such is life in a mountain village.
One day the pastor came to the office coughing. He said he had gotten something from his son. He decided to share the something with me. A Peace Corps vehicle came and took me to Makati Hospital in Manila. After five days, I was released. I asked Peace Corps for transportation back to Boso Boso but they said no – you are well enough to find your own way back to Boso Boso.
I completed my assignment but a powerful typhoon hit Manila and it was flooded. The office had arranged for a motorcycle to take me to the bus but the road had collapsed and the bus had fallen down into a ravine. The Manila office sent a vehicle to their side of the road collapse and the Boso Boso staff took me to our side of the collapse. We trudged through the mud to get to the vehicle
Peace Corps processed my close of service paperwork in one day, it usually takes three days. I made my fight to Guangzhou, China for another adventure.
Anthony R. Kingsley is a member of the writing class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. It is held off-campus at the Norwalk Senior Center.