Boracay Island as seen from mainland Malay Municipality from tribal Ati land in the Philippines.

2021: A final roundup from the Philippines

I recently posted to this blog about our ‘social calendar’ over the holidays. And to be sure, we did celebrate the season here in balmy Malay, Aklan, Panay, Philippines, with our Ati tribal friends and other Filipinos.

But of course, we’re continually busy with projects and assistance efforts of various sorts, too. Yep, the waves of COVID have resulted in continuing income disruptions and dire straits for many locals. We are blessed to be able to help here and there – so we do.

To officially wrap up 2021, here’s a roundup of our other involvements.

Continuing Ati endeavors

Our main focus with the disadvantaged, indigenous Ati tribe remains the construction, repair, and distribution of paddle boats, nets, and other fishing equipment.

A couple months ago we fixed up a few decrepit paddle boats in the Ati fleet. Suddenly, more fishing interest and activity.

In fact, some non-Ati Filipinos started ‘borrowing’ the nice, refreshed, Ati watercraft from the beach. The Ati were left without boats on some ‘fishable’ days.

Hmmm… that doesn’t seem right! I have talked to the ‘borrowers’, asked them to cease, and even agreed to sponsor a couple extra boats that anybody is free to use. Those boats, and other ‘Ati specific’ boat improvements are now underway.

Also in progress currently: assembly of more ‘lambat’ fishing nets. These are 100 to 200 meter-long floating nets that can be laid from shore or by boat. Materials and labor for a new lambat net cost about 2,500 peso ($50). We plan to hand out more new nets each month while our travel remains paused due to coronavirus uncertainties.

Other ongoing Ati initiatives include our greening and gardening projects. Some vegetable plants are still producing from our August planting – but last week, I gave out even more new packets of seeds to begin another round of crops.

And as seen in the photos above, I also paid some Ati teenagers a few bucks each to go around and tend to all the fruit trees we sponsored and planted over the summer. We invested about $1,000 in the trees and Ati labor for planting. I figure it’s worth some small continuing cost to keep the hundreds of trees free of interference from weeds and overgrowth.

More new year’s roundup news from ‘Ati land’: the chickens continue to produce 65 to 75 eggs per day, several new customers/meters have been added to the Ati electric line, the drinking water pump and distribution system is working without issue.

See all projects Earth Vagabonds has done for the indigenous tribe on our special Ati page.

And the typhoon shelter proved sturdy! Not a big surprise, but I was glad to hear that the roof on the concrete community center building that we paid to repair last summer held up perfectly as Typhoon Odette passed through in early December.

Thankfully, the damaging storm missed us by a couple hundred miles – but the Ati who live atop the hills here did take shelter in the redone building during the heavy wind and rain that we experienced. No problems. In my opinion – the old decaying roof would have been ripped right off.

Spreading good cheer

Aside from the Ati, throughout the holiday season, we lent a helping hand where possible in our general community.

After talking to a guy who works on a noisy mobile rice mill, I purchased dozens of sets of ear protection (manufactured and shipped from China via Shopee) for about 50 cents each. We will continue to hand out the noise dampening headsets to those working with machines that can easily damage their hearing (rice mills, road frees, chain saws, etc.). There is no OSHA here.

We bought a used bike! A surprise gift for the kids in a local family that we have become friends with. I get a kick out of seeing the brothers zooming up and down the beachfront road (after fighting over whose turn it is).

On Christmas Day, we walked around our immediate neighborhood giving out small ‘care packages’ to the younger kids. Snack foods, candy, small toys, toothbrushes and paste. It was fun to be Santa’s helpers.

And our rice and egg distributions/donations to hungry families in our area continue too. As stated above, the ongoing economic fallout from the COVID crisis has created plenty of need and we help as we can.

Construction / Deconstruction

Lastly, I myself have spent a lot of time over the past few months helping a local friend and rice farmer with improvements to his property.

First we and other westerners contributed toward a new concrete house. Now we have repurposed pieces of the old nipa house structure into a sari sari (small convenience) store and snack bar. Further, we are breaking up and rearranging the concrete slab foundation into a half-court basketball court. Next, some kind of playground — all of it, an effort to bring more customers to the new business.

A popular local slogan is, “It’s more fun in the Philippines.” And we are successfully living that statement as we continue to wait for other international travel opportunities to ‘normalize’.

As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.
Life is NOW!

Thanks for reading, “2021: A final roundup from the Philippines.”

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