Moving up & about

This morning we checked out of the hotel to move into phase two of our stay here. We are going from a three star to a five star hotel, moving up from a run down (but not unsafe) commercial neighborhood to a near oceanfront high rise surrounded by a shopping-mall, countless Pacific Rim restaurants and night clubs.

Our friendly wanna-be posh three star hotel was perfectly fine although the doors to our apartments (a kitchen, living room, bathroom and bedroom) were a bit too flimsy and some elementary things like bedside lamps and outlets missing. The place is awash with uniformed staff, all very friendly and well trained to serve. As if there weren’t enough people to serve us, there are hospitality industry trainees everywhere; all young women, petite, gorgeous, and well groomed. They stand in bunches at the reception, at the business center and in back of the training room, always smiling and saying hello every time you pass by them. They wear name tags that say ‘trainee’ underneath their cute or exotic names (Twinkle, Apple, Berneice (no typo), Fernyl).

I was wondering how they learned during their internship. I never saw them doing anything; they were always just standing there with their hands folded figleave style. And yet, when I asked them questions about their school, exams and internship they appeared to be quite advanced in their studies. They are learning by standing around and observing. It is one way, I suppose, to learn about ‘serving the customer.’

Our exposure to Manila, which we already knew is not the Philippines, has been very limited. The first two days of the wheelchair workshop kept us inside a windowless conference room. The practicum is taking place the remaining three days at the premises of a social enterprise located at the edge of Metro Manila. The place is run nearly entirely by people in wheelchairs. The core business is wheelchair manufacture and rehabilitation. But they do much more than that and the enterprise is constantly looking for employment opportunities for its graduates with the message that people in wheelchairs are perfectly capable to participate in the economy. Some grow hydroponic lettuce which is sold in the market; others provide data entry services for a Japanese company to name just a few of its income generating activities.

The wheelchair providers in the course are very animated as they apply their skills to real life challenges and dilemmas such as ramps and stairs. They also have to test their skills on people they don’t know, assessing them and then choosing the best chair and adjusting it for a perfect fit. People are excited as they learn things that are relevant to their job and important for their clients. It’s a very good course.pressure sore reliefup the stairs

Lunch at the practicum venue is less fancy than at the hotel. We eat what the kitchen prepared, still copious but served camp style. This is not a place for vegetarians. Pork seems to be the source of animal protein of choice (at least for Christians) and is prepared in a thousand different ways: knuckles, skin with layers of fat alternated with meat, pork bellies, chops, rinds, ribs,etc. Second place is for fish, usually deep fried – a little greasy for breakfast. And then of course there is always rice.

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