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Why Are You Studying in the First Place?

Every so often I find myself looking for freelance writing jobs that I can add to my day job, especially for when I need to save up for an upcoming splurge. I never like the idea of purchasing something when I cannot afford it, so instead of using a credit card (which I’ve given up in late 2015, thank God!), I find ways to earn more when I need a bit extra.

As I was searching on Onlinejobs.ph, my go-to for when I’m on an online gig hunt, I came across this job ad which to me was disturbing at best:

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Screenshot of a thesis writing gig post

For one, this person is offering a mere $50 for this job. I’m not sure if there is anyone THAT desperate to want to accept this lengthy and challenging job for a few pesos. Secondly, I’m not sure, too, if this person has any idea of the task he/she requires from the contractor. To research + write an entire thesis for $50? If he/she made the fee more acceptable, I’m sure more people would have wanted to take the job.

But I don’t take these kinds of jobs. I don’t like it when the client doesn’t give at least a 5% effort on what is required on an academic requirement. I don’t like it when all the client does is to take a photo of the assignment, to have you, as the contractor, figure out everything that he/she might want you to do, and for you to negotiate with the fee suggested. Based on experience, these super lazy clients never negotiate their prices and would be the first to ghost you out when you start asking for their data input. They simply go to school to get others do the stuff for them, something that I don’t want to support.

When I started out taking online jobs in 2011, the market was dominated by clients who wanted to pay a cheaper fee to do technical and blog writing for them. It is disturbing that these days, more students are willing to shell out a chunk of their allowances to pay people to do the job for them.

Back in 2013 I had a client who was a Ph.D. candidate at– gasp!– The University of Chicago and she hired me to help her out with her thesis. I was happy to accept it because she did all the data gathering and analysis; all I had to do was to weave together the information since her notes were all over the place. She was very hands-on throughout the entire process. And although I have no way of verifying if she indeed was busy with her full-time job that’s why she needed help, she knew the ins and outs of her entire research. Working with this client was a great feeling because it felt like I was graduating, too, from one of the world’s top universities– too bad I’m still stuck with being a Philippine graduate which translates to less pay 😛

Sadly, I never come across a client like this anymore. From typing their assignments, lazy students are now just taking photos of their homework, sometimes even straight from the whiteboard! I’m not sure if this trend is due to school being increasingly passé with now self-learning made easier by the internet; or, if it is because of students getting more distracted. Whatever it is, I hope these students don’t make a habit out of it. If they think they can get through life by paying someone, then we, contractors, also have a role to play by choosing not to accept these kinds of writing gigs.

“Why are you studying in the first place?” You may get into moderators’ and clients’ nerves but asking this question to a potential client goes a long, long way.

***

Note: This post contains an affiliate link for Onlinejobs.ph. It does not cost you to sign up with them through this link, but it contributes to the upkeep of this site 🙂

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Saving a Date: Why I Choose to Keep It at 120

Why is it that people almost always correlate “adulthood” with distancing from one’s family? It seems to be a badge of honor for “grown-up” children to say that they are now living on their own (or with their partner), can’t attend family events because of personal or work reasons, or hardly ever talk with their parents and siblings? And why does it seem to be a badge of honor for parents, too, to say that they don’t give advice to their kids anymore because they now have a mind of their own, let them live on their own, or hardly ever talk with their children because they have their own lives now?

I accept all family dynamics and individuals in all forms and sizes, but what’s bothering me is the lack of appreciation for the “Other,” meaning, for whatever else does not fit into your truth. There is nothing wrong with being a 30-year-old living with your parents, not having savings, or not finding your path just yet. There is nothing wrong, too, with parents wanting to keep the camaraderie alive by going on weekends together with their “grown-up” children, or with controlling their children (I personally do not agree with this, but you will see below why I don’t push my truth so impulsively). On the same note, there is nothing wrong with an 18-year-old wanting to live with his girlfriend, wanting to take time off school to find oneself, or to choose to work early without getting into university.

My whole point is, we human beings tend to be so judging without intending to. We tend to believe that our truth is the ultimate truth, and anything that falls outside of it is “uncivilized,” “backward,” or point-blank “wrong.”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with living by one’s truth. I personally strive to live day-by-day grounded on my truths, but I’m telling you it is hard work in the midst of this world of overinformation and overabundance of rules.

So to make my life a life worth living for me, I’ve said my goodbyes directly and indirectly to people who choose to run their lives around themselves alone. I’ve chosen to block people from my life who find satisfaction in stroking their superiority-founded truths at the cost of others’ freedom, integrity, and happiness. I am being judgmental right here– and I accept that– for I accept, too, that life is so fragile and short. Every learning curve causes a lot of pain and self-doubt, and now I’ve chosen to only welcome people who are willing to go through the fire with me so we can both come out better based on our personal standards.

And you know what, I’ve never been happier saying goodbye to these people. Nothing has changed, except of course that now, I invite less people on get-togethers. Happier times well-spent with people I love.

On my way back to the Philippines, I’ve made a list of people whom I would love to be with all the time. These are the people whom I would not second-guess being in a party or outing with. And these are the people whom I will not be afraid to say and do what I want to say and do. I ran through the list again and again and asked myself if I am truly happy being with these people. I’ve crossed out some people, and added some more.

My total list came to just 120. Imagine, I currently have 1,000+ contacts, and I truly enjoy sharing my life with only 12% of these contacts.

Life shouldn’t be THAT complicated, really!

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The kind of happiness that you gain by surrounding yourself with people whom you love and love you in return 🙂 With my lovely cousins! Photo courtesy of Ate Aidni.

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Angeles City Historic District Walking Tour

Anthroonfoot is now an audio tour provider for Izi.Travel and Freetour.com! Yayyy, dream come true ❤

Our first walking tour focuses on the Santo Rosario Historic District, the oldest square in Angeles City, Pampanga, Philippines.

Access the tour here: Angeles City Historic Walking Tour. It’s best viewed on a smartphone through the Izi.Travel app. The tour is free for the first 50 downloads!

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Special thanks to Santo Rosario’s residents, local officials, and library and museum staff who have made our work easier 🙂

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My First Job after University: Desperate Freelancer

A professor once told me that “While the body is shared, the mind is ours alone.” It didn’t make much sense to me back then, as a freshman caring more about my free time for reading and running over acing my classes. I went to classes taught by my favorite professors, missed classes that didn’t interest me, and made up for the absences by doing extra readings. I loved working towards my anthropology degree because it’s a subject that thoroughly interests me. We were only eight in our batch, with almost everyone believing that a good and stable future awaits upon graduation.

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I had such high hopes after graduation, only to find out… (Photo Courtesy: Jefferson Villacruz of Diliman Information Office)

Two weeks since I graduated, I still couldn’t find a job. I’ve applied to 25 jobs at this point and couldn’t get past beyond the first screening. I graduated with good grades and was pretty active outside school work. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I left job search websites and gave Upwork a try. Being a freelancer was something that I never thought I’d pursue as a career. Signing up for Upwork was clearly out of desperation.

Since I was new to the site, I was desperate to get clients as fast as I could. At this point, I was a month into unemployment. So, I browsed through other freelancer’s profiles and checked their rates. I placed mine at a measly $3 per hour since getting my first client was the top priority. Not surprisingly, I immediately got an offer to write a 10,000-word essay on acai berries. I was to deliver the paper in two weeks. Health topics interest me and so I wasn’t fazed at all.

Now as an alumna, I did not have online access to academic journals any longer and so I opted to reference from what I could mine from the internet. There are over 20,000 articles written on acai berries, but sifting through all these pages was more difficult than I thought. For one, it was quite difficult to verify information since I’m only basing my understanding on secondhand information. Trained as an anthropologist where living in subject communities for as long as it’s needed is the norm, I certainly lost confidence in what I was doing. After every sentence, I would cringe and think, “Is this even accurate?” I kept on questioning my work up until the moment I handed over my final work.

After a few days, I received a complaint from the employer saying my work is full of erroneous data extracted from non-academic journals, and that my work is plagiarized. Therefore, this person is demanding a full refund. Of course, I stood up for myself saying that I referenced my sources well and my work has passed Copyscape. Sure, I had doubts with the information I was putting on the work, but proper citation is something that I value highly. My aptitude for referencing is something I never question.

The complaint got escalated to Upwork and the employer wanted to bring the case to court. That seriously scared the hell out of me as I could not even afford my own rent, let alone court fees. I decided to just back down and give the full refund of $300 which was such a huge amount for me at that time. I knew I should stand up for myself until the end but with financial constraints, I chose to back down.

After that experience and a negative review on my profile, it got difficult for me to get clients. It took at least six more months since I got my next client, but this time I was already employed and so landing contracts sporadically wasn’t a problem any longer.

Although my first writing gig was traumatic, it taught me such valuable lessons for my professional and personal life. For one, shortcuts don’t work well in life in the long run. Although it was so convenient for me to source out information from online resources, I would have saved more time and energy finding the best journals even if that means going to public libraries or asking for a one-off access from my former professors. I could have looked beyond the confines of my laptop, but I got too comfortable working on my parents’ couch.

I’ve realized that plagiarism is not just about violating citation rules, but also about not giving justice to the importance of quality sources when picking references. When I source out from unreliable sources, I become an accessory to plagiarism by supporting content that is unfounded, erroneous, and most likely reworded from someone else’s work. Plagiarism is not just about stealing ideas, it is also about not being conscientious enough to know the difference between reliable and unreliable sources.

I’ve grown so much since my first job after university. I haven’t run away from that experience, and I am still working in the research industry. Every time I have a paper to write or edit, I look back on that first nervous attempt to finish a 10,000-word essay in two weeks. It’s a project that isn’t that difficult to complete as it seemed back then, after all. And I’m happy because I can now say with full confidence that it’s a job that I can fulfill without self-doubts and inhibitions.

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Itogon, Benguet in the 21st Century

This is an excerpt from my research conducted from 2014-2015 on the Ibaloi, Kalanguya, and Kankana-ey communities of Itogon, Benguet.

To say “Benguet,” many would think of a land far away, secluded in the mountains, with people having to resort to walking for hours along the trails just to get to the nearest town. One is left with the impression that people still use g-strings, bury their dead in their homes, and have pristinely preserved their traditions because of little or no contact with those from outside their community.

But as I arrived in Itogon, the largest municipality in Benguet, I was greeted with a 4×4 that will bring me to my host family’s gathering for a house blessing. Then I met the grandchildren who were busy with their iPads and iPods; the elderly men enjoying some San Miguel Beer; and some teenage girls putting on some make-up and taking pictures of each other with their smartphones. I was blown away. Every bit of “Benguet” that was all along pictured in my mind just didn’t fit in. It was like living in the suburbs of Baguio but with more trees, a way smaller population, fresher air, wider, open roads, and a skyline where the stars give way to one’s imagination.

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A view from the barangay hall: The hazy mountain at the distance is Mt. Ugo

There are three major indigenous groups in Itogon— Ibaloi, Kalanguya, and Kankana-ey—with each group comprising the largest population for Barangay* Tinongdan, Ampucao, and Tuding respectively. The field notes below are excerpts from my research** funded and published by the United Nations Development Programme.

The Ibalois of Tinongdan

Barangay Tinongdan, the farthest from Baguio among all research areas, is reached in two hours by jeepney from the terminal at Lakandula Street, just across the City Market. There is only one ride for Tinongdan-Baguio which is at 7-8am; and the same ride for Baguio-Tinongdan which is at 1-2pm (or until the jeep is filled up). This makes it a challenge for the community to purchase their necessities, that’s why it’s common to ask for favors when a relative or a friend makes a trip to Baguio City.

Tinongdan, comprising mostly of Ibalois, is still largely agricultural. The area is suitable for agriculture because of the wide rice fields, hillsides, plateaus; and the presence of the Agno River which makes water available throughout the year. Rice is the main crop here, with coffee following suit. Other crops include camote (sweet potato), gabi (taro), cassava, ginger, potatoes, celery, tomatoes, pechay (Chinese cabbage), saluyot (jute leaves), kintsay (Chinese celery), pako (fern), saksakdong (rice weeds), avocados, bananas, pineapples, oranges, mangoes and papayas. These crops are also grown through uma or kaingin, otherwise known as swidden farming, which makes planting available for previously cleared areas.

Households also engage in raising pigs, cows, carabaos, goats and chickens. Native black pigs and cows are particularly important because of their necessity in rituals. On smaller rituals, chickens are also used as sacrificial animals. This upkeep of pigs, cows and chickens goes to show the still-central role of rituals in the Ibalois’ lives.

Other activities include fishing, but this is usually supplemental and mostly for home consumption. The native rice wine (tapey), the important part of every ritual especially for cañao, is still manufactured usually by elderly women. Among the wealthy Ibalois, ranching is still present with cows set loose in their privately fenced ranches (estancia).

The Kalanguyas of Ampucao

One hour from the jeepney terminal at Lakandula Street, Ampucao is the most challenging to reach because of its high altitude and sharp zigzag roads. The largest barangay in Itogon, it is home to Philex Mines, the largest and most established large-scale mine in the municipality. Though the roads are zigzagging and an endless set of uphills, these are wide and thickly cemented because of the investment of Philex Mines on revitalizing Ampucao’s highways. It is not uncommon to see, every few minutes, large Philex trucks carrying unprocessed ore with signs of “No Riders” in front. This is for security of the Philex employees carrying the ores, the ores itself, and the riders. A recent incident point out to the immediate disallowing of riders in these trucks, with a rider being accidentally hit while stepping up for the truck. This, of course, had to be settled by the company.

The main industry in Ampucao is mining, both large-scale and small-scale. Mostly settled by Kankana-eys who have always been, traditionally, expert miners, and by Kalanguyas who eventually learned from the trade; and with a mineral-rich soil, it is no wonder that this barangay grew up as a mining community.

Though the people also engage in farming coffee, sayote (pear squash), camote (sweet potato), gabi (taro), beans, bananas, ginger, and a few fruit trees mostly on swidden farms (inum-an), and selling fishes from the Ambuklao Dam, these activities pale in scope with mining. With Kalanguyas residing in high altitude areas, the water is also too cold for irrigation, making it almost impossible to engage in wet rice agriculture.

The area is large, the people are few, the houses are far apart, and the weather and winds are quite

unforgiving. As anyone would choose to agree or disagree on, the environment plays a big part in molding the community’s culture. This kind of environment could explain why households are, generally, more detached from their neighbors than the other research areas, Tinongdan and Tuding. Another possible contributing factor to this is the history of the Kalanguyas, originally living in scattered settlements and moving from place to place to avoid persecution from the Spaniards. Thus, families depend on each other; and seldom do they ask for favors from outside their circle. They had to learn to be as self-sufficient as they could be.

The Kankana-eys of Tuding

Tuding can be considered, distance-wise, a suburb of Baguio City as it is only five minutes away from Wright Park and the Mansion House. There is a feeling of being in Baguio but with smaller establishments, narrower roads, a crisper and cooler air, more trees, and a horizon that extends to the other parts of Benguet. It is also not uncommon to see mine tailings on the mountainsides, with small-scale mining as the main source of livelihood in this barangay.

Settled mostly by Kankana-eys who are, traditionally, expert miners, it is admirable to think how they can extract so much gold, silver and copper from such a small land. Small-scale mining is always a gamble: financiers provide food, shelter and the resources for the miners, and the miners continuously work to extract whatever they can on an usok (mining tunnel) which is in itself, also a gamble. The financiers and miners continuously work until they find something immensely valuable, but other times this is until all resources have been used up and nothing was mined other than soil and rocks.

The Kankana-eys also engage in swidden, and on a smaller scale, wet-rice farming. What used to be a chief means of livelihood, hunting and foraging are now more of past time activities. Many households keep pigs, chickens, dogs, carabaos and cattle as additional sources of food and income, and for ritual purposes.

These days, many people also venture into businesses like putting up sari-sari (convenience) stores and small eateries, but these are but sources for financing mines, or as alternatives when mine revenues run dry. Kankana-eys are traditional miners, and there is no question as to why generations after generations are into mining.

What’s in It for the Future?

I have laid out first-hand observations when I did my field work in Itogon back in 2014-2015. It is such a rewarding assignment, being given the opportunity to live in these communities for six months, and six more months of going back and forth to and from the main office in Manila. I have never experienced until then picking coffee fruits for consumption the following week, eating meat as a rather rare luxury, or not feeling in any way that I need money to survive. Everything that I needed was uprooted on land, the sea, and sky.

With nature as a central theme for survival among the Ibalois, Kalanguyas and Kankana-eys, what future does it hold for the present and future generations amidst the threats of capitalist-driven modernizations? Will they be forced to give in to the demands of local and foreign invaders who present themselves as benevolent assimilators? Only time will tell; but hopefully, I get to go back to Itogon with happy memories as I had on my first visit.

*Barangay is the smallest political unit in the Philippines.

** Title of research: “A Study on the Customary Laws and Indigenous Political Structures of the Ibaloi, Kalanguya and Kankana-ey Communities of Itogon, Benguet.”

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What Jaipur Bazaars are Famous for

This article is part of a regional reporting project in partnership with GoUNESCO, a UNESCO New Delhi initiative.

Visitors in Jaipur may be surprised to find store after store in every space imaginable in the heart of the city that one bazaar area leads to yet another bazaar, then another, then another… It seems, a simple activity as “going to the market” is an endless loop on itself.

Jaipur is divided into two, the Old City and the New City, by a massive pink wall. Whatever is inside the wall is Old Jaipur, and whatever is outside is New Jaipur. It is safe to say that whatever lies inside the wall gives a story on how the region was built into Jaipur, and what lies outside is a testament to how Jaipur was built into the city that it is today.

That being said, the oldest bazaars in Jaipur are built inside the wall. The Indian continent, being part of the legendary Silk Road that linked Asia and Europe, is a sight to many ancient trading places. It is not unusual to meet merchants manning stores with histories that go as far back as the 18th century, or merchant families that expect their children to follow the same profession. Entering the Old City, you will find yourself immersed in a somewhat overwhelming array of choices with an overwhelming “pressure” to recognize a merchant’s presence. It is not “pressure” as we know it today, though, but good old “marketing.” It’s just how things have been working here, so patience from the visitor is appreciated.

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Centuries-old stone sculpting tradition in Jaipur

All bazaars are interconnected and while the whole of Jaipur is famous for its textiles, each bazaar area has its unique character (i.e., is known for products it offers):

Bapu Bazaar: for leather shoes (most popular items sold are made from camel skin), local perfumes, and textiles.

Indira Bazaar: for new and used electronics, and home furnishings.

Johari Bazaar: for jewelry, sarees, silver items, and textiles.

Kishanpol Bazaar: for textiles.

Mirza Ismail (M.I.) Road: for blue pottery, brass items, jewelry, and wood items. It is also famous for its traditional restaurants and street food.

Nehru Bazaar: for traditional attire.

Ramganj Bazaar: for local shoes.

Sanganer Village: for block printing, blue pottery, and handmade paper.

Tripolia Bazaar: bangles, carpets, ironware, marble carving, small souvenirs, textiles, and utensils.

It is easy to walk through these bazaars as they arranged in a loop. Here is the Google Map link for your reference: https://goo.gl/maps/Vym3i1PoNjJ2.

  • Why it’s a must to visit local bazaars while in Jaipur: You may get overwhelmed with the sights, sounds, and smells, but personally I find it the best way to experience Jaipur. No other grand structure can replicate this living museum!
  • As with any country in the world: do not quickly assume. Make sense of the why behind the what first and while you’re at it, get lost and find yourself. Happy travels! 🙂

P.S. The keys to sustainable travels are universal: take public transportation | stay in accommodations where cooking is allowed (private or shared, it doesn’t matter) | walk as much as you can | wake up early | stay away from guidebooks | immerse yourself in local language, culture and history | visit local cafés | know that the possibilities are endless | listen to your gut❤

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Water Collection in Jaipur, India

This article is part of a regional reporting project in partnership with GoUNESCO, a UNESCO New Delhi initiative.

India, unfortunately, has a bad reputation with the quality of its water supply. While this may be true when you compare it with Singapore (the country with the highest standard in the world, outperforming even the World Health Organization’s recommendation), it is not ‘that’ bad as you imagine it to be—in Jaipur, at least.

Rajasthan, with Jaipur as its capital, is located along the fringes of the Thar (Great Indian) Desert. With this challenging environment, generations after generations had to innovate methods to successfully collect, store, and distribute water all throughout the state. People had to consider methods that will keep up not only with the vulnerable geography but also with the increasing population. In Jaipur alone, population density is at 6,300/sq. km, the 10th in India.

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A rainwater collection tank at a haveli-turned-guesthouse where I’m staying now.

Walking along bazaars in Jaipur, it is not uncommon to see rainwater collection tanks secured on top of havelis and rental buildings. This centuries-old tank system is just one of the many indigenous water collection methods being employed in the city. Other methods include putting up of artificial lakes, baories (step-wells), kunds (stepped ponds), reservoirs, and wells. Most of these were constructed at the time of Jai Singh II, founder of Jaipur and the city’s master planner.

These indigenous facilities are continuously preserved and renovated, still enjoyed by Jaipur’s citizens even after almost three centuries since they were built. Badi Chaupar and Choti Chaupar, 19th-century public squares, still provide water to the public up until today. The only difference is that from an open reservoir, supply from these fountains is now delivered in pipes. It is not difficult to miss these fountains as you will often see people gather around the pipes bringing bottles and buckets.

Water storage was once a mark of social status, with those from princely and noble families having their own water collection system in their homes. Water distribution was also controlled by these affluent families. Palaces (which are now converted into hotels or museums) and havelis still have these storage systems in place and are still being used.

Today, thanks to everyone’s effort to preserve and improve on centuries-old water collection, storage, and distribution systems, the public now has free access to clean water all around Jaipur. The concept of ‘clean’ is always relative, but so far, I had no problems with bathing and washing with tap water, and enjoying my coffee and tea with boiled tap water.

  • Why you should not be so trusting of tap water here just yet: If you’re not used to drinking from the tap, it is best to stick to bottled water even for brushing your teeth. You don’t want to ruin your trip for trying out something ‘local.’ Before this trip, I exposed myself to drinking a fair bit from different taps and eating street food in the Philippines to get that ‘more resilient stomach’ for digestive issues that may arise. So far, the trick works.
  • As with any country in the world: do not quickly assume. Make sense of the why behind the what first and while you’re at it, get lost and find yourself. Happy travels! 🙂

P.S. The keys to sustainable travels are universal: take public transportation | stay in accommodations where cooking is allowed (private or shared, it doesn’t matter) | walk as much as you can | wake up early | stay away from guidebooks | immerse yourself in local language, culture and history | visit local cafés | know that the possibilities are endless | listen to your gut❤