Carabaos, wedding dances and creating public policy

18 Oct

What do these 3 things have in common? Why I did all of them in the last 5 days of course!

It’s Kasanggayahan festival in the Sorsogon province at the moment, which means lots of different competitions to be won and prize money to be chased. On Sunday, my friend Aileen texted me to see if I was free for her and the head of the agriculture department at my work to pick me up to paint a carabao for what else but a carabao painting competition.

“But I can’t draw or paint!” says I.

“Yeh but we might get extra points for somebody from Australia doing the painting”, they say, with only the tiniest hint of jest and far more sincerity.

Despite my obvious reluctance to paint an animal, I had spent the day painting people on saturday, and thought since there is no violence or cruelty involved, the paints are water-based and will wash off with the next rain and my dear colleagues were looking at me doe-eyed,I had to do it.

So I got there and the poor carabao was already fully painted white as a base. A picture was shown to me – they wanted to create a sea scape on the carabao. Luckily the marketing guy (tarp painter) from my work, Errol, was on hand to draw outlines for me. Alright, guess I can fill in outlines. Next draw-back…. no budget, so we only have red, white, blue and yellow. Well well well…. I am meant to be filipino, so I combined my filipino resourcefulness and year 7 art skills and mixed some other colours on a banana leaf and what happened? Mr Carabao won 2nd place and php5000 for the municipality of Gubat! Job well done.


20121018-203811.jpg20121018-203837.jpg20121018-203858.jpgLast week, I was asked to dance the role of the bride in a parade in the same festival to the song Pantomina, the Bicol national dance

“No worries! I love dancing!” says I. But of course nothing is as it seems in Philippines….


Wednesday bombshell: The dance goes for 10 minutes! Thursday bombshell: The route is 5kms! Friday bombshell: You have to rehearse all day Saturday, Monday and Tuesday (this I could not comply with – I had a workshop to deliver on Thursday!) Monday bombshell: We still don’t have a groom for you! Tuesday bombshell: You with your not 26″ “chubby” waist have to wear a dress made for a 25″ waist! Later Tuesday bombshell: We have a groom for you, but he’s 17!

Ahhhh if I weren’t such a serene person (hahaha), I would have pulled out. But a more appropriately aged groom was found (an ex-ballet dancer – beautiful!), my dress was fit and hair and make up was done…. and what do you know? I made a lovely, albeit sweaty bride. And guess what? With a shoestring budget and only a week of rehearsals, Gubat won best in costume and best overall, raking in a whopping php55000!!!






If I hadn’t been covered in grime, sweat, melted make up and confetti, I would have stuck around to celebrate! But after wearing a 7kg wedding dress for 6 hours in the blistering filipino sun, dancing and smiling my heart out and having 1 million + photos taken of me, I was not feeling super gracious.

So the creating public policy part of this post seems a little pale in comparison to painting water buffaloes and winning dance contests. But sometimes I like to illustrate that I came here for a reason and sometimes, in between my various guest appearances and media slots, I am getting the job done like a boss…. or at least, slowly but surely getting the job done.

Was super inspiring to hold an consultation workshop where the people who came really knew the community and wanted to create a better Gubat and weren’t coming to complain about seagull poops and footpaths and hoon drivers and what not.




A great week in the life of an AYAD in the Philippines, where it is more fun and this weekend I am off to Bacolod, the land of Kezza and Rad for an amazeboobs volunteer reunion and a masquerade-themed festival, Filipino style!


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