Preservation Efforts in the Philippines: UC students work outside the classroom with NGOs

Exciting internships for U.C. students studying in the Philippines.

Preservation Efforts in the Philippines
UC students work outside the classroom with NGOs

"It was so cold," exclaimed Armasabille Ermita, an EAP Philippines student from UC Davis, on her return to Manila after a five-day outing in November to the northern Philippines. Arma and Flip Ziofelle "Cheeky" Calumpong of UC Berkeley had negotiated the time off from their Metro Manila based internships to visit to the cooler northern communities of Banawe, Sagada, and Batade, where 3,000-year-old rice terraces are carved into mountainsides of the Cordillera Range. Citizens groups and non-governmental organizations are leading efforts to preserve the ancient terraces and to restore those that have eroded. Banawe and Sagada are about a 10-hour bus ride from Metro Manila and Batade is an additional 3-hour hike from Banawe, but after seven months of sweltering Manila heat, the trip was a welcome change.

Cheeky is interning in Manila with the Action for Economic Reform, an economic policy research and advocacy center. Arma interns as a lab technician and youth counselor with the Remedios Aids Foundation.

Most EAP-Philippines students conclude their program with a 10-week internship. Internship options are extremely varied and have included work in health clinics, schools, museums, media, private businesses, sports clubs, policy research and advocacy groups, environmental organizations, and legal aid societies working with upland or "tribal" Filipinos. Students often intern with Manila-based groups, but some have worked outside the city. Typically, interns work under the supervision of staffers from the host organization who evaluate their work along with the EAP Study Center Director or a host university faculty member.

In 2000, Glenda Macaraeg, a UC San Diego student, taught English in a school for refugees from the Mt. Pinatubo volcanic eruption. "The school enabled refugees to order their lives and even recover some hope," Glenda said. Not only did she have the chance to teach English, but she says her Tagalog language skills "really took off."

Another former EAP student, Cristina Carpio (UC Santa Cruz), worked with a nongovernmental organization providing legal assistance to tribal Filipinos, the nation’s most marginalized population. "I know that laws can and do oppress the very people that they are supposed to protect and govern, but I also learned that laws can be utilized and changed so that they can work for peoples," Cristina said.

A few EAP students use their internship period to conduct independent research. Architecture student Michael Gonzales (UC Riverside) is wrapping up his year by studying traditional housing in the Cordillera Mountains of the northern Philippines. He will complete his project by presenting a simple design for a community center in an urban poor resettlement area.

Although knowledge of Tagalog is a plus, most EAP-Philippines internships do not require fluency in the language. The Philippine Study Center works closely with students to develop the best possible "fit" in internships.

by Donald D. Goertzen, Director of the EAP Study Center in Manila

Originally published in U.C. Education Abroad Program World, 2003, page 15.

Published: Thursday, May 15, 2003