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Today started off rather laid back and more academic based as my room of 5 girls woke up later than we have this entire trip (6:45am), enjoyed breakfast at the hotel, and then read an assigned book for a couple hours that would later be discussed thoroughly. Around 10am we piled into a van again took a quick 10 minutes drive to the Midwifery center that Ms. Corzon Paras invited us to visit when she presented her IMAP (Integrated Midwifery Association of the Philippines) foundation to us on Tuesday. The van stopped outside a small, two story light stone building with a large IMAP banner and outlining of a woman breastfeeding. We filed into the doorway only to be warmly welcomed, yet again, by the hospitable Filipinos… just this time they happen to be dressed in white scrubs. There were 2 nurses and 1 midwife on duty this morning, but typically 2 midwives worked each shift along with the nurses. They scurried to find seat all 12 of us in a rather tight room all while a nurse was administering pre-natal vaccines to a mother just a chair away. Not your average American privacy, but hey, that’s just how they roll here; no one there seems the least shaken by it. We didn’t stay in the waiting room long as shortly after an introduction we all headed around the corner to the Recovery room.

The Recovery room consisted of 3 cot beds and posters lining the walls about proper home care of children and the importance of breastfeeding and other preventative care measures for mothers and their newborns. The Recovery room opened right up to the Labor room; or rather a 10′ by 10′ room with a slightly larger cot that had a plastic cover  draped over the middle portion. The Delivery room was outside the sliding glass doors of recovery in a separate, closed off room. The man that gave us the tour told us a little about the process in which the baby was then taken to the Cleaning room followed by the Sterile room for typical post-birth care. A mother was provided 3 meals a day in the course of her stay and was mandated to stay for 24 hours post delivery before release. He took pride in telling us the care in which the mothers were handled with in this facility. As small as it may have seemed to us, knowing the service that it provided and countless women that it served was simply beautiful and left me with a soft smile. And I didn’t have to imagine it either… inside the recovery room was a mother laying on a bed with her newborn baby, brought into this world only 4 hours before our arrival. She looked up at us when we were shuffling through the room and just smiled with her tired eyes. You could tell she was exhausted, but the image of this mother laying with her new baby was so moving and precious that it spoke to the lives this foundation has touched.

The midwives were admirably passionate about their jobs and role in society, obvious to anyone who struck up conversation with one of them. It was an awesome experience to get a first hand look at part of the healthcare system in this country and be so openly welcomed to inquire all about it. After a brief tour, the staff at the clinic had offered us pastries and coconut milk, such a generous gesture for a group of strangers imposing on their work place. Shouldn’t we have brought the snacks?! Filipinos seem to be one upping us in the hospitality department for sure!

From the Midwifery, we moved on for lunch at Jollibee, the most popular fast food restaurant in the Philippines because Dr. Wadkins said our “experience would be incomplete without it.” It was very comparable to McDonanlds and just as crowded as any metro fastfood joint would be. We enjoyed some fried chicken, sour cream flavored french fries, and sides of spaghetti- okay, so maybe it was a little different than McDonalds… On the way back to the van a couple girls went to the local fruit stands and bought some avocado, mango, and leeches for as cheap as what is equivalent to about 5 to 10 cents a piece. Nothing like fresh tropical fruit!

From lunch we headed back through the busy streets of colorful trikes and jeepneys to our hotel to start our discussion on the Introduction to Christianity book we had read earlier. We got into great discussions about the understanding of the Filipino Catholicism and dissected its development and reasons for its widespread acceptance here. I personally found it interesting to delve into the deeper makeup of Catholicism that I hadn’t thought to break it up into from years of Catholic education. The understanding of this breakdown was will be particularly important to many of our experiences here in the Philippines as we see the Catholic religion pervade many aspects of this culture.

From the itinerary, we expected to be assigned more reading after this 2.5 hour discussion, but were pleasantly surprised when Dr. Wadkins informed us that our assignment was to take out 10 pesos, catch a trike, and get to the mall to explore until we met up for dinner in the mall at the Prawn Farm. Trikes are these crazily common motorcycles attached to little sidecars for passengers in which one can get anywhere in for just 10 pesos (approx. 25 cents). It was an adventure in itself as the traffic isn’t controlled by any street signs, speed limits, traffic lights, but rather the trusting of one another on the road to be patient with one another and navigate around in timely fashions. The four way intersections would freak most Americans out, but they do it effortlessly here and it’s just great.

We enjoyed great Filipino cuisine for dinner, but incomplete without 3 of the boys daring to try the infamous Filipino snack, Balut. Balut is a fertilized chicken egg with an almost developed embryo that was lightly boiled before consumption- so basically a cooked fetus in the shell with a bunch of juice around it. After they cracked a nice sized hole in the top and slurped out the juice, they threw it back, bottoms up. We all eaglerly watched them, excited for the first response or twisted face. A final consensus wasn’t reached as the boys’ opinions ranged from wanting a second one to nearly gagging it back up into a nearby bush. If that wasn’t perfect example of a foreign experience, I don’t know what is.

We ended the evening with a group reflection, tying together things we’ve seen and learned about this awesome culture. We decided to skip out on a late night pool session for we have an early  morning ahead of us as we are embark on a 4:30am island hopping adventure!

Happy Friday from the Philippines!