Half Day for a Typhoon

I stayed in the office for my first entire week. Even though I didn’t take any trips, I still had a lot of work to do. I have been working on updating a program called eT2M2. This program displays an interactive map of the different adoptors of FNRI products throughout the Philippines. The information in this system hasn’t been updated since around 2014, and there has been a large increase in the number of adoptors since that time. I have been compiling the information necessary for input into the program, but unfortunately no one that currently works at the Institute knows how to use the program. The most difficult part of compiling this information is finding the exact latitude/longitude of the different adoptors. In the Philippines, they don’t usually use addresses. The most precise that I have gotten is a street name, and even that is rare. In most cases the company provides a barangay name as the location of their business. This means that I have been having to go through via google maps street view in order to find the different business adoptors. This has been a very long process, but rewarding in the end.

A highlight of my week was attending a seminar named “United for Healthier Kids.” This seminar is focused on bringing the FNRI pinggang pinoy to 5 different schools in the Calauan, Laguna area. I was able to watch the chef and assistants learn how to make the 28 different meals that they will be preparing for the students through the 7 months that they will be carrying out this study. The best part was that we got to sample all of these meals. They had some delicious vegan options that I will be making in the future.

On Thursday, we were able to leave work early due to Typhoon Gorio. Apparently it wasn’t a bad typhoon, but everyone was preparing for the worst. I am just happy that I was able to experience a typhoon before I left the Philippines. During the weekend, one of my coworkers took me and Shravya out to the Bonifacio Global City area for some touristy stuff. I think that BGC will be one of the next hipster capitals of the world. There was even a Lush there.    

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Back in Batangas

I traveled back to Batangas this week to do a monitoring and evaluation at the E. Zobel Foundation. The E. Zobel Foundation is an adoptor of complementary foods and makes Crunchies as well as the baby food blend. It is amazing how each adoptor is moving toward a common goal of reducing hunger and malnutrition in the Philippines, yet they still have such distinct stories of their own. The E. Zobel Foundation has their complimentary food plant on the grounds of a school. All of the workers at the plant are in a mother’s association that are working toward better nutrition for their children who go to the school. The Crunchies that are produced at this plant are called “SIGLA” crunchies, after the mother’s association that works at the plant producing the products. The E. Zobel Foundation has a lot of other projects that they are working on that help the community. The Zobel family is so powerful in terms of Philippine history that there is a museum made just by the family.

Later in the week, I was able to participate in the Sensory Evaluation Laboratory at FNRI. In this lab, they tested my ability to see colors, discriminate between different tastes and different odors. These tests are used for sensory panelists that will later be used as tasters for the foods that FNRI produces. I was able to pass this test, but I don’t think that I would be able to pass if it got much harder. The point of doing these screening tests is to get a sensory panel that is able to differentiate between different foods and describe those tastes effectively. All foods that FNRI produces in house and via adoptors are required to come to the sensory evaluation laboratory.

During the weekend, we took a trip to Hulugan and Aliw waterfalls in Laguna. I fell less while climbing this time as compared to last week so that was a plus. I got very close to a carabao which made me VERY happy. Apparently you can ride carabaos, so that is my newest goal. I now like lychee, durian and jackfruit. Too bad I won’t be able to get these delicious fruits once I am back in the US.      

Laban!

It was the National Science and Technology Week (NSTW) here in the Philippines this past week. This means that I got to attend and help out with the activities at the convention in Pasay City. I enjoyed seeing all of the different areas of science from around the Philippines coming together and the different researchers showcasing their most recent advances. I was able to learn a lot about the scientific interests of the different branches of government as well as some research from the elite private companies in the Philippines.

At NSTW, FNRI was showcasing the importance of nutrition and supplementation throughout the different stages of life. I had the opportunity to talk to a lot of different individuals about the work that I was doing, with FNRI and as well as back at IWU. There were a lot of students attending the conference from local schools. Previously I haven’t had that much interaction with this age group, so it was interesting to see the differences of the younger Filipino generation to the older generation. Many of the students that came up and talked to me when I was working at the FNRI booth asked very intelligent questions that suggested they fully understood the type of research that was going. This gave me a lot of hope that these students will have the ability to further advance the scientific research that is happening in the Philippines.

During the weekend, we went to Cuenca, Batangas to climb Mt. Maculot. Three of my co-workers were nice enough to be our guides for the day. This mountain is classified as a 3/10, a beginner mountain, but I found it to be a rather hard hike. This great hike through the tropical forest where I got to see many native fruits and bugs was topped by the view from the summit of the mountain. We were able to stand on the side of the mountain and look into the lake that contains Taal Volcano, one of the most active volcanos in the Philippines. This hike had to have been one of the most memorable experiences of my life thus far. I am really grateful for all of the opportunities that this internship has granted me in such a short period of time.    

A Busy Week for FNRI

There were a lot of big activities going on at my work this week. This week was the 70th anniversary of FNRI, so of course there had to be a large celebration. This commenced with an Employee and Alumni Fun Day on Thursday as well as a fancy dinner (black tie and long dresses required) on Friday night. Before we could enjoy these fun activities, everyone at FNRI attended the FNRI Seminar Series (FSS) from Monday to Wednesday at a hotel in Quezon City. Some of us were helping run the event, some were presenting, and some of us were just participants. On Thursday of this week, we had the official opening of the Edible Garden located on the FNRI property.

The FNRI Seminar Series is FNRI’s biggest event of the year, where they present the results of their Nutritional Survey and research conducted. Participants in the Seminar Series included nutritional professionals, scientists from all over the Philippines, members from FNRI, students, nutritional entrepreneurs/businesses and even some regular people who just wanted to learn more about nutrition. I was able to learn about a lot of the research outcomes that have been discovered through the work FNRI has done. The division that I work in, the Business Development Unit, mainly works with promoting products and the transfer of technologies. It was very interesting to see the research behind some of the products that we work and some products that may be available for transfer in the future. A lot of the research that is done in the Philippines dramatically differs from the research that is done in the United States due to the differing nutritional issues facing the Philippines and the raw ingredients that they have available.

The real highlight of my week came with the opening of the edible garden on Thursday. The Edible Garden is a joint project between FNRI and the East-West Seed Company called “Oh My Gulay.” The main outcome of this project is to increase the amount of vegetables eaten by Filipinos due to the decrease in recent years. I have been buying small amounts of vegetables from this garden since I started here and they are masarap (delicious). I quickly became best friends with the representatives from EW Seed Co., as shown from the picture above. I have also discovered my love of Kang Kong since being in the Philippines, with my new nickname being Kang Kong Q(K)ween.

Checkout this news story that was shot about the Edible Garden. This has aired on Philippines National Television multiple times. Peep me awkwardly cutting some talong (eggplant). (LOL I’m basically famous in the Philippines)  

http://news.abs-cbn.com/video/life/07/10/17/edible-gardens-isinusulong-para-sa-mga-pinoy

This weekend all of the FNRI interns took a pretty much spur-of-the-moment trip to Boracay. This did have some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen, but at times that was overshadowed by the amount of tourists present. At this point I’m starting to feel a lot less like a tourist and more like I belong here. People have started to treat me differently now that I know more Tagalog and am better able to blend in. I can’t believe I will already be coming home in three weeks!  

My Introduction into Collectivist Culture

I hit my first real bump in the road here during my last day in Puerto Galera. I got pretty sick and dehydrated for a couple days, most likely as a result of accidentally drinking contaminated water at some point. Luckily, I brought antibiotics from my travel doctor that I was able to take and recover without seeking medical treatment.

Unfortunately by being sick, this meant that I was not able to attend BREAK 2.0 – Bringing-In Resources for Employees Agenda on Kalusugan – on Tuesday. This is a seminar put on by my department, the Business Development Unit, to teach the other divisions of FNRI/DOST about nutrition and Pinggang Pinoy. In order to prepare for BREAK 2.0, I made the program that was used as well as helped with contacting the presenters. Since there were a wide variety of presenters speaking at BREAK 2.0, I was able to go to almost every division in FNRI and meet the people there. I was excited to hear the presentations, but unfortunately my body wasn’t up to it yet.

When I came back to work the next day, I was surprised by how kind everyone was. I’m pretty sure everyone in my office, as well as the office next to mine, came up to me and asked me if I was feeling better. I hadn’t even met half of these people before and they were caring for me like they had known me for years. This warm spirit carried on into a farewell surprise party that one co-worker threw for some others. In the Philippines, a lot of jobs are based on a contractual basis, meaning that there is a chance you will move jobs a lot. One coworker had only been here for three months and they threw her a party with karaoke, balloons, presents, and a full meal of food for everyone in our division. Before coming here I had never experienced the difference between a collectivist and an individualistic culture. I never thought that they were that different, but living here and being treated as “one of the family” gives me a whole new perspective.

On Friday of this week I participated in a morning Zumba class with some of my coworkers. I will report that I am still extremely uncoordinated and have no rhythm. Some things never change. I went on to work a 15 hour work day (until 11pm) with my entire division after getting sweaty at Zumba – not a great decision. After work we made an assembly line in order to prepare around 600 gift bags that will be given out next week at the FNRI Seminar Series. While we were all working extremely hard to make the bags, one of my coworkers was working even harder to make a meal to feed around 30 individuals. Even though everyone wanted to get done as quickly as possible with their work, they made it a priority to sit down at a long table together and share a meal. Some couples/small families can’t even find the time to sit down and have a meal together, so I really appreciated that 30 people could find the time to all sit down and eat together.

A plane, a boat and an Uber around the Philippines

I have had a crazy busy second week working in the Business Development Unit at FNRI. I started off the week by going on a business trip to Cebu for the Regional Technology Transfer Day. We then traveled North to do a site evaluation in the beautiful Bogo City. By the end of these three days, I had spent 3 hours in a plane and more hours than I can count in the car. You can read the article that I wrote for the FNRI newspaper about my experience in Cebu below this post.

This weekend, the FNRI interns as well as the Human Nature interns took a trip to Puerto Galera. It was amazing to be able to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a long weekend and relax on the white sand beaches. We were able to go kayaking and snorkeling in the bluest waters I have ever seen. It was truly paradise.

 

Trip to Cebu:

During my recent trip to Cebu, I was able to gain a greater insight into the inner workings of the Business Development Unit. I had the privilege of attending the Region VII Technology Transfer Day as well as observing a site evaluation in Bogo City.

The Technology Transfer Day in Cebu City was put on by the Technology Application and Promotion Institute (TAPI) division of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). Technology Transfer Days first started in the Philippines due to the Philippines Technology Transfer Act of 2009. This Act was introduced to facilitate the transfer and effective use of intellectual property, technology and knowledge resulting from research and development by the government for the benefit of the national economy. Since this Act was introduced, it is essential that all of the different projects that DOST works on be introduced to the community in order to be commercialized. DOST is focused on the research and development of cutting-edge products, but they do not have the capacity to commercialize those products on a large-scale basis.

Some of the products that FNRI orally introduced included stabilized brown rice, complementary foods, pancit canton with squash, and ready-to-drink mango juice. FNRI also presented posters on additional products including brown rice bars and all of the specific complementary foods including baby food blends, curls, and crunchies as well as posters on the products introduced orally. Other departments of DOST as well as entrepreneurs from the community also presented their research here for potential adopters to hear their product ideas. Some interesting ideas that I heard included carrageenan plant growth promoter, early detection dengue kits, and a hybrid electric road train.

After potential adopters are able to learn about all the different technologies, they can choose which technology they would like to move forward with commercializing. During normal protocol of a technology transfer, a formal letter of request by an adopter is required, followed by a consultative meeting. During a Technology Transfer Day, everything is accelerated so that negotiations can be made that same day. A Fairness Opinion Board was established to oversee negotiations made between government entities and the business adopters. This Board generates Fairness Opinion Reports which state whatever agreement has been reached is fair for the adopter who is commercializing the product, but it is also fair for the people who funded the research and development (the people of the Philippines).

Since the members of the Business Development Unit were already in Cebu, they decided to do a site evaluation in Bogo City, a town on the Northern coast of Cebu. Bogo City signed a contract back in 2015 in order to receive equipment to run a complementary foods plant. Bogo City had not yet built a manufacturing plant suitable for the equipment that they would be receiving. They had been through some hardships that they were trying to work through. The main engineer on the project did not work out and they ended up having to change the site of the construction. We went to look at the new site of the construction that should be up and running by June 15, 2018.

It was very interesting for me to be able to see the adoption of a technology at two different stages during this trip. During the Technology Transfer Day, everyone was optimistic and saw the bright future of many products. During the site evaluation, I was able to see how difficult it can be to put all of these optimistic words into action. There can be many obstacles when one is trying to commercialize a technology, but it is all about how one decides persevere through those obstacles that make a technology succeed.