Shortly after the start of a 20 week internship at CorDis RDS, Matthijs Boessenkool who studies Disaster Risk Management in the Netherlands joined the Abra team for an 11-day fieldtrip to the communities of Diangay, Baay-Licuan and Manapnap, Malibcong in Abra. Matthijs is 23 years old and is currently in the third year of his 4 year study. Matthijs tells about his experiences during the fieldtrip from March 14-24, 2018.

2 days after my official start as an intern at CorDis RDS I was already able to join a field trip to two of the project communities in Abra: Diangay and Manapnap. I did not expect to go into the field so quickly, but the preparatory meeting with the team prepared me well.

The purpose of the visit was twofold, firstly to inform the communities of a monitoring visit by AIPP, the Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact, and secondly to have the actual community meetings with representatives of the AIPP. For me, this was a well suited occasion to get a first impression of the communities in Abra and to get to know more about the local culture. Also, it was also the perfect moment to start learning a little bit of the local language.

The time spent in the communities gave me insight into the daily lives of community members and by talking to the community members and my colleagues I was able to get a better understanding of the activities that were carried out. I was invited to eat a meal with multiple households and others offered me a drink, both were great opportunities to talk about life in Abra and life in the Netherlands, as many people were as much interested in learning about the Netherlands as I was in learning about their communities. Of course it was sometimes difficult to have a good conversation because of the language barrier, but often we could understand each other. Other times my colleagues were so friendly to translate for me. It was quickly clear for me that the little bit of Iloko that I had learned was good for some interaction, but I needed to support it with English to make a meaningful conversation.
One morning I talked with two men about the experience they have with disasters and hazards, a very interesting topic regarding the study I am following in the Netherlands. I already knew some of the basic information on the hazards they faced through the documents I was given in preparation of the field visit, but talking to people themselves provided a better insight in their situation.

The visit of the AIPP team was very much of added value for me. In the community meetings the AIPP staff inquired about the history of the communities of Diangay and Manapnap, their indigenous customs and culture, early warning signs of hazards and the value of CorDis RDS projects in their communities. For me this was an excellent opportunity to learn more about these topics.

Furthermore, during our journey from Baguio to Abra we made a quick stop in Kayan, Tadian, Mt. Province in order to pick up sugarcane tubers, of which there was a deficit in Abra. Once in Diangay, many members of the community participated in the processing of the tubers, in order to be able to plant them successfully later on. For me it was great to see that so many community members participated in this unplanned activity. It showed me a clear sense of community and togetherness. This is very different to my home country, the Netherlands, where a culture of individualism has grown in the past decades.

In both communities the end of the visit of the AIPP staff, and therewith the end of the field visit, was marked by a festive closure. In Diangay a big meal was served and the sugarcane wine was poured into our cups. In Manapnap there was a meal similar to the one in Diangay and there was a cultural evening until late in the night. The evening included traditional dancing and singing, and of course all the visitors were invited to participate in the dances. We were also asked to share a song or dance from our countries.

I was very impressed by the two communities. Especially the fact that, although the communities are small, they do harbour a very wide range of skills. Also the strong sense of community and the hospitality for their guests impressed me. I am very glad that I was able to visit these communities and I hope to come back to them for further activities with CorDis RDS.


  • Matthijs Boessenkool