Yesterday, I met a Peace Corps volunteer who served on one of the islands of Romblon from 1984-86 and now returned 29 years later with his wife for a visit. Greg Krieger, from North Dakota, lived on the small island of Banton before there were any roads and transportation meant walking or taking a small boat. Now the island, though still small, has paved its perimeter to accommodate motorbikes that are now the primary means of transportation there. Greg served as an agriculture volunteer and although his former home has now been replaced by a power plant, the community he served as not forgotten him. Upon arrival he was greeted by welcoming meals in numerous homes and tales from his 8 Filipino godchildren (In the Philippines it is typical for a child to have many godparents, maybe 6 to 12 for one child, while in America we only have two).
When I asked what differences he noticed in coming back: increases in government employees and stores were to be expected, however the noticeable decline in dental health since the 80s was most interesting. Interesting, but not surprising, an abundance of candies, sugary foods and soda has contributed to this decline. Those well off may be able to afford dental care and braces, however in the more rural towns I have yet to see an adult with a full mouth of teeth. Black decay in both teeth and gums is very noticeable. As a Peace Corps volunteer, I have the privilege of full health and dental care. I recently traveled to Manila to see a dentist for a new retainer (When I traveled to Romblon for fiesta, I returned to find small pieces of plastic on my floor: a rat had eaten my top and bottom retainers!). This trip to the dentist turned out to be great fun, because after the appointment she invited me to visit her gym and we attended a body combat class and a weight lighting class together. After she left I did cycling and active yoga!
All in all, Greg was once again awed by the hospitality of Filipinos. He reached out via Facebook to try and coordinate his trip and once word got around that he was here, people from throughout Romblon were excited to see him again. I am willing to bet that someday when I return people here will still remember the American who ran and rode her bike everywhere!