© 2014 Lindsay Cope


On Thursday December 4, I received a text message from Peace Corps to head to San Jose, Antique three and a half hours south of my site.  The decision was made to consolidate volunteers throughout the Philippines in response to the slowly approaching swirling mass on the satellite images, Super Typhoon Ruby.  At that time, the storm was not yet in the Philippines AOR, there was a chance it might turn north, but projections for her path showed a confidence rating of 60% that she would cross the Visayas.  The recent memory of Yolanda, and the size and force of the approaching storm propelled precautionary consolidation.

I had spent the day learning how to make biochar, a green charcoal product made from rice hulls which are usually burned and wasted.  Controlling the burn and capturing the smoke produces three by-products from the rice waste: organic fertilizer (captured from the condensation of the smoke), charcoal (made by adding either cornstarch and water or wattery clay from the river and forming briquettes), and organic fertilizer (the carbonized rice hull).  The whole day it didn’t feel like a storm was approaching, but anticipation of a big storm was strong.  Trees and shrubs were trimmed, homes were secured, food and water purchased.

I left the office early in the afternoon to prepare my go bag and catch the Ceres bus south.  I felt guilty leaving my community, unsure of what was coming.  Once in San Jose, we met the other volunteers and stocked up for a few days at the hotel.  We monitored the storm obsessively, but after a few days it was clear that the path of destruction would avoid our sites, our friends and families would be fine, and on her way across the country, the concern of Ruby diminished as her power fell from super typhoon to tropical storm.

We remained in San Jose until Tuesday, waiting for Peace Corps headquarters to authorize our return to site.  We waited with waning patience, we knew our sites were fine, the storm never hit us and we were ready to go.  Samar received most of the force Ruby brought to bare on the Philippines and some volunteers remain consolidated awaiting approval to return to site.


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