Julian’s first week ‘on the job’

Written by Julian Doczi, Project Officer: Local Initiatives – Waste Management

Julian Doczi is a Sustainable Cities : PLUS Network CIDA IYIP intern based in San Fernando, Philippines

Photos by Julian Doczi

It’s Saturday here now and it feels like I’ve been away for months now,  even though it’s been only 1 week! Probably because I’ve done more this week than I did in a month back when I was unemployed in Vancouver! 😛

Firth and I arrived to work on Monday (by Jeepney, of course)  decidedly uncertain of what to expect. It became clear soon though that serious work was not to begin for awhile yet, as, after we met our boss – Valmar (the city’s head environment officer) – we were given what was essentially a 2-day long tour of the city.

Julian and Friend

Monday’s tour showed us the city’s market and its new USAID-funded waste-water treatment plant, the “Fisherman’s Village” (a relocation project for residents who lived in flood zones) to show off their self- sufficient “EcoSan” toilet technology (composting toilets, essentially), and the city’s new sanitary landfill – complete with impermeable liners, leachate collection and treatment, and organics composting. We also learned from Valmar that the city recently became ISO 14000 certified and has many other ongoing environmental projects, including sustainable agriculture, reforestation, the creation of a marine protected area, conversion of all city tricycle taxis from 2- stroke to 4-stroke engines, and a mangrove recovery program, amongst others! I also found out that San Fernando’s sister city is the Township of Langley and that they’ve sent delegates there in the past, which is pretty neat (it’s not quite North Van, but pretty close!).

Also on Monday, we got our first taste of the Filipino’s love of food (which we’ve already experienced many times since), with a huge lunch get-together thrown for us at a local Chinese-type restaurant. It’s a wonder that more of them aren’t hugely overweight, considering that much of their cuisine is fatty/meat-based and exercise does not seem to be prevalent (we have yet to do any either – its too sketchy to jog along the streets, the gyms aren’t air- conditioned, and the badminton club is too expensive!). Every new person we meet asks if we are single, and when we say yes, usually respond with an encouragement to get ‘many’ Filipina girlfriends.

Filipino hospitality

Tuesday’s tour began with our meeting the Mayor of the city, Pablo Ortega. He was nice and presented us with gifts (a hand-loomed local towel, a Botanical Garden key chain, a mug with his face on it, etc.). After meeting him, we toured to a local “Barangay’s” (a government distinction in the Philippines smaller than that of municipality/city) recycling facility, as well as the shoreline of their marine protected area, their famous Botanical Garden (a huge and beautiful peace of land far off in the countryside), their “Science Centrum” (a smaller Science World essentially), and their slaughterhouse (which was decidedly uncomfortable, although no killing was going on at the time – we were there to see their waster-water treatment pond).

Wednesday and Thursday were more serious days, as we were suddenly thrust into work on a sanitation conference the city is holding next Tuesday and Wednesday. We will be in charge of facilitating (and were in charge of designing) a 2-ish hour long workshop on sanitation action planning. With both of us still learning about the topic, it should be interesting to present it to a room full of sanitation experts!!

Even with this conference looming over us though, a city-tour was organized for us yesterday to Vigan City, a beautiful, UNESCO heritage site about 3 hours north of San Fernando that is also apparently even greener than San Fernando. The 10 of us that went had a fun drive up (stopping for a ridiculously large breakfast {larger than most North American dinners}) along a very scenic roadway, and then spent several hours touring the heritage parts of the city, viewing their neat bioreactor for organic waste and super neat machine that melts
Styrofoam and uses it to make tables, as well as touring a local pottery plant and the super rich governor’s zoo (which surprisingly has free admission for all). After a great day up there, we came back down and attended a concert at the San Fernando city plaza (we had VIP tickets given to us from the Mayor) by the apparently huge Filipino rock band named “Parokya ni Edgar”. I had actually heard one of their songs before on YouTube and they were pretty decent, although the concert was only an hour long.

So that was week one! I’m sure the rest of the weeks won’t be nearly as exciting, as we’ve got actual work to do now, but we’ve been promised other expeditions, including to Hundred Islands in the south, so I’m sure there are lots of surprises yet to come!

Until next time!

Julian

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Sustainable Cities International is a registered not-for-profit organization based in Vancouver, Canada. Operating since 1993, the mission of Sustainable Cities is to catalyze action on urban sustainability with cities around the world. We work by connecting and mobilizing people through the process of co-creating. We facilitate a thriving, international network of cities that act as urban laboratories: adopting, testing and improving on innovations. Ideas are accelerated through sharing of experience and cities are making transformational change a reality
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One Response to Julian’s first week ‘on the job’

  1. Karen says:

    Good luck in this work. I visited this area years ago and i am interested to see how you get on!

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