A Warm Welcome to FNRI

I just finished up my first week of work in the Business Development Unit at the Food and Nutrition Research Institute. In one short week of being in the Philippines, I feel very comfortable here. I have met so many nice people and tried so many new things.

Before coming to the Philippines, I was told that I may encounter a “culture shock” of sorts while acclimating to my new environment. Since most Filipinos know at least basic English, I haven’t been hit with much culture shock yet. I am having the most difficulty adjusting to an 8am-5pm desk job routine. The traffic is so bad in Taguig City that it is faster for me and my fellow interns to walk to and from work everyday. This involves a 1.5 mile walk from our apartments to the Department of Science and Technology Compound through the heat and smog. Needless to say, I end up very sweaty by the time I get to work. At least I am getting some good exercise in everyday.

Most of this first week I spent getting acquainted to what the Business Development Unit does for FNRI as a whole and how I will be helping out throughout the summer. I laid out my goals for the next two months and my supervisors, Sir Alex and Engineer Garcia, told me what they are hoping I will get from this experience. They decided that I will be getting as much hands-on experience as possible. I have mostly worked on the data collection side of research, so I am hoping to learn how the products developed are marketed to adopters. I will be attending and helping with a few different conferences and events throughout the summer which will show me how BDU directly deals with adopters.

On Saturday of our first week of work, we all went to Downtown Metro Manila by Intramuros with another IWU intern from Human Nature and some of his coworkers. His coworkers were kind enough to be our personal tour guides for the day. We went on a carriage ride around Intramuros, the walled city of Manila, and got a historical tour from our carriage driver. Some of the places that we went inside were Fort Santiago, the Manila Cathedral, the National Museum, and San Agustine Church. There are pictures from this trip in the Gallery Section of the blog.


Full Immersion

We finally arrived in the Philippines after about 24 hours of straight travelling. We had a 15 hour flight to Taipei, a 5 hour layover, then another 2.5 hour flight to Manila. During this process we lost 13 hours to the time difference, so we had no sense of time during our travels. The flight to Taipei was on the famous Hello Kitty plane of EVA airlines. Our ticket was Hello Kitty, the instructional video, the flight attendants clothes, and even the toilet paper in the bathroom was all covered in Hello Kitty. It was a little more than I could handle, to say the least.

Once in Manila, we drove 2 hours South to Los Baños to stay at the SEARCA Hotel on the University of Philippines Los Baños campus along with individuals from the Make a Difference (MAD) travels site, Human Nature site, and the GK farms site. The people that would be interning at IRRI were able to move into their dorms since IRRI is stationed on the UPLB campus.

The second day in the Philippines we had a cultural orientation. During this orientation we were taught about the history of the Philippines, some of the do’s and don’ts of the culture, and had a crash course in Tagalog. I knew that the Philippines had an interesting history, but I didn’t know how rich it really was. The more than 7,000 islands that make up the Philippines have been occupied by so many different countries throughout history that it has shaped their culture today. During this cultural orientation, we had a traditional Filipino meal, this included many meat dishes, which I could not have, but I had some delicious Pancit as well as some of their amazing native fruits.

That night we went to a famous restaurant in the Philippines that has floating tables. All of the tables are put on rafts and you eat on top of them. We also got traditional Filipino food here. It was buffet style including Chicken Adobo, fully cooked fish (with their head still on), Pancit, sour soup, Halo-Halo, Buko, and pork belly.

The next day we went to Villa Escudero. This was around an hour away from Los Baños and it is amazingly beautiful. We first went to a cultural museum on the grounds. There was an entire collection of Filipino historical items such as religious parade floats, taxidermy animals, precious metals, clothes, and much more that is owned by one family that they opened up for the public to see. We then went for a Carabao ride over to a large river that we were able to go river rafting in. Lunch was served at the base of a waterfall with picnic tables sitting in the water so you can eat with your feet in the water. All of the staff members of the resort put on a cultural show after lunch that represented the dances and traditions of the different tribes throughout the Philippines.

Monday June 12 is Philippines Independence Day so we were not able to start work today. We were able to explore Los Baños today and celebrate Ross’s birthday with Ube and leche flan cake.


Welcome to my life chronicled via blog entries.

My name is Randi Wilson and I am going to be a Senior this Fall at Illinois Wesleyan University. Through my school, I applied for the Freeman Asia Internship Program and got placed at the Food and Nutrition Research Institute in Metro Manila, Philippines. The Freeman Internship Program covers airfare, housing, visa costs, and includes a living allowance for students who receive the funding. That is a CRAZY good deal considering you get to go to Asia for (basically) free and get an amazing learning experience out of it at the same time.

I am going to be living in Metro Manila for 2 months, June 7 – August 5. During this time I will be working in the Technology Transfer and Commercialization Section of the Business Development Unit at FNRI. Right now I am not sure what I will be doing on a day-to-day basis, but I do know that I will be preparing and attending a couple of seminars during my time there. I have mostly worked on the data collection side of research so I am excited to see this side of research in action.

As the name of this blog suggests, I am going to be “A Vegan Abroad in Manila.” I have been told that this may be a challenge for me at times due to the culture. It seems like a lot of meals center around fish since the Philippines is made up of all islands. I have also been advised by my travel doctor that the only fruits that I should be eating are bananas and oranges due to their thick skin. All other fruits/vegetables I need to thoroughly wash myself in bottled water to ensure they are disease free. I may just eat oatmeal for two months…wish me luck.

Below is a link to an article about all of the IWU Freeman Asia Interns for 2017. This year we have 34 students, the most that IWU has ever sent, interning in Asian countries thanks to a $400,000 grant from the Freeman Foundation.