The Peace Corps has pre-established consolidation points, which volunteers are required to report to in the event of an emergency. Last Thursday, we were ordered to consolidate because Typhoon Ruby, known internationally as Typhoon Hagupit (meaning “the whip”), was heading towards the Philippines with considerable force. The past few days I have received constant text message updates about the storm with details such as…“Typhoon Ruby is making landfall early Sunday morning moving at 10 kph. By Monday morning she will be in the waters between Masbate and Romblon with wind speeds of 120kph.” This typhoon, which killed 21 people on the Filipino Island of Eastern Samar, was expected to slam straight into my province of Romblon around 10pm on Sunday.
Friday and Saturday were devoted to preparation for the disaster: trees and loose branches were chopped down. Items were moved off the floor and onto the bed in apprehension of flooding. Gates were closed, windows taped, furniture moved inside. Response vehicles were packed with drinking water and food rations. A boat was brought into town for rescuing stranded victims.
My group of 10 Peace Corps volunteers waited out the storm on the second floor of a hotel, located a few blocks from my home. Other locals were evacuated to cement churches, schools, and hospital buildings selected for their durability. And so began the waiting game…
The Philippines receives an average of about 20 typhoons (aka hurricane) each year, generally between June and November, however this storm, arriving late in the season, was expected to be a big one. When I went to bed on Sunday night, Ruby had already begun crashing through the Philippines and I was expecting her to wreck havoc on my home throughout the night. However when the morning arrived it was as if the storm had simply evaporated. We were extremely lucky and the typhoon took a sudden turn north and missed my province entirely. We received two days of wind and rain, but no substantial damage. Thank you for all of your thoughts, prayers and well wishes. I am happy to be here and safe! Check out the news reports for other updates on the storm damage. I am still waiting to hear news from other volunteers as to how their sites faired.
Taglish: the combination of Tagalog and English, is my current language of practice. Filipinos begin studying English in elementary school, therefore it is a common second language. My host family speaks very good English as does my work counterpart. However, working in the field with fishermen and traveling throughout Romblon fluency in Tagalog is invaluable. Usually as soon as I say “Magandang umaga” meaning “Good Morning,” Filipinos are impressed and think that I am fluent. I then remind them, “Conti lang Tagalog” meaning “Just a little.”
While I am certain that my own language mistakes are abundant and amusing, (my accent never ceases to bring smiles) in helping Filipinos practice English there are some common errors that are equally amusing for me.
There is no gender differentiation of words in Tagalog. Meaning that the pronoun “siya” can be used as he or she. And your husband or wife is simply introduced as your “asawa.” This causes confusion in English yielding he’s introduced as she’s and vice versa. One occasion that stands out in my mind was when a male gym teacher was introduced: “Sarah, meet the wife of our neighbor.” In the States a husband would likely be offended to be introduced instead as a wife, however here such mistakes often go unnoticed.
The more concerning issue is that in many schools, teachers are also making such grammar errors when modeling English sentences for students. Therefore besides working in Coastal Resource Management and secondary benefit of my working in the Philippines is exposure to grammatically correct English for those Filipinos who cross my path. Even so I consciously alter my English when speaking with Filipinos, taking care to speak slowly, use simple vocabulary, and to carefully enunciate each syllable of each word, a courtesy most Filipinos also take when speaking with me in Tagalog.