(All in a Day's Work)
by: Mike Reynaldo PLAN Cebu/Philippines
  Bing. Bemie. Efren. Rodin.
I thanked the heavens nine months ago when I read these guys were going to be the staff at the Balamban Program Unit where I was going to be assigned. Balamban had a reputation of being difficult and I thought it would make things easier if I had an all-male staff where bonding can be quicker with shared passions like... uh, motorcycling over rugged terrain, perhaps? Wrong.
Esteba! Bemardita! Efrenia! Rodin.
Blame the Filipino's penchant for shortcuts; I found myself facing three females and a lone wolf instead. Still, I thanked the heavens nine months later for having them around. , Bonding was made easier by a shared passion for... uh, food and hard work.
But the rugged terrain remained. Prime example is the upland village of Cabagdalan which is 20 kilometers away from the center of town. Not too far, really, except that the roads leading to the village are practically non-existent and the Toyota 4x4 has to cross the same river 22 times without aid of a bridge, using the more-than-knee-deep river as the road itself for the better part of the trip. After an hour of the bumpiest ride this side of the Pacific, Cabagdalan presents itself in all its rustic beauty: all mountains and vegetation minus the houses. Where are the PLAN Families? Ta-daaa! The Project Officer (PO) has to look for them on foot, amid the folds and crevices of the mountains. On this particular occasion, we are hunting for the Resuento family to validate the Cancellation Memo due to Voluntary Withdrawal submitted by the community volunteers.
Several creeks and gullies later, we find them perched on a hillside. The house is nice, with a garden out front. Its construction was funded by PLAN so we are a bit puzzled why the family wants to be canceled. Julia, the mother, decides to be the spokesperson for the family; Bemie, the PO, is the interrogator. Excerpts (after the usual pleasantries):
Bemie: Ngano nga magpa-kansel ka bisanpa nga naa na 'y daghan nga programa ug serbisyo nga naabot sa inyoha? (Why do you want to be canceled when there has been a lot of programs and services that came your way?)
Julia: Mao gyud! (That's it!)
Bemie: Dili man na rason; unsa gyud ang lintunganay nganong magpa-kansel ka? (That is not a reason; what is the cause why you want to be canceled?)
Julia: Mao gyud! (That's it!)

Mao gyud. Fourteen years of hard work summarily dismissed with just two words and you begin to wonder whether you're making any impact at all on the lives of these people. Just because the prized house has already been given, she doesn't want to bother with writing letters and posing for APR pictures and attending community meetings anymore.
Julia is not representative of the 1,798 PLAN Families in Balamban certainly; a vast majority has good words for the organization which has given them a lot of opportunities to meet basic needs. Then again, whether that opportunity has been wasted or put to good use remains a question to which no one has a definitive answer. PLAN is phasing out of Balamban in June 2000 and questions of empowerment remain largely unanswered. Mao gyud.
For more information, email Mike Reynaldo at