I got on board with my new project, funded by the Australian Aid with the Department of Education (DepEd), on July 1, 2013. I was then tasked to conduct trainings on the new government coding system for financial transactions called Unified Account Code Structure (UACS). This included preparation of training materials, booking training venues, and finalizing training dates.
Given that DepEd is a huge government agency, the conduct of trainings covered the whole of the country. That being said, the venues were scattered around the archipelago. And drive to tour around the Philippines is reinforced. But the prospect of reaching all major parts of the country was unmet because the travel advisory from the Australian Aid prohibited project consultants to travel to Mindanao - that means the whole of Mindanao. My colleagues and I were kind of sad, disappointed is the best description of the feeling, because most of all (3 out of 4) hailed from Mindanao - Marisa Dahan is from Iligan City in Lanao, Ulrich Uy is from Cagayan de Oro City in Misamis, and I am from Surigao. Nevertheless, the final training venues in Luzon and Visayas (Mindanao participants traveled to Cebu City) were generally new to us all.
With the approval to conduct the training with the budget, the orientation-training started at the Central Office on October 8 to 11, 2013. Representatives from the Accounting, Cash, and Payroll divisions attended the one-day course. The project's inception report expected to train DepEd financial management people from Central Office to Regional and Division offices and to Implementing Units (from select Secondary Schools). Such the case will cost DepEd a lot of money to gather them all. So the final option was to hold a training of trainers (ToT) on UACS, including overview on Treasury Single Account (TSA) and other related financial management reforms. Marisa was the person in charged of the TSA. So we were partners in all travels and stuffs, in close collaboration with the DepEd Accounting personnel from the Central Office as our counterparts.
The series of ToTs kicked of with the Regional Office of CALABARZON (provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon). The first stop of the travel leg was in Tagaytay City at the Girls Scout of the Philippines Headquarters on October 21-22, 2013. This also marked the start of the series of nightouts we shared with the DepEd counterparts. Along with the view of Taal Volcano was the sipping of coffees at the Starbucks-Tagaytay - the biggest Starbucks cafe ever in the country, as for me. And that coffee break happened after we ate Bulalo, beef soup in cold places such as Tagaytay is known for, at the famous Mahogany Market. Next stop that same week was in Mandaluyong City, at Richville Hotel, where the ToT for rthe Regional Office MIMAROPA (provinces of Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) was held on October 22-23, 2013.
That following week, before the holidays for All Soul's Day and All Saints' Day, Marisa and I headed to the Northeastern Luzon. The ToT for Regional Office II, attended by representatives from the provinces of Cayan, Batanes, Isabela, Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya and it's cities, was held in Villa Blanca Hotel on October 29-30, 2013. Here we have plenty of extra curricular activities. On arrival day, the host Region's representative, Ms Dream, drove us to the Our Lady of Piat Shrine. This was my first time to reach this known Catholic tourists' destination, as it was reasonably far from the city. At nighttime, I ushered them to this coffee shop I searched through the internet in Tuguegarao City. On our last day, before checking in our fkight back to Manila, our host brought us to Callao Cave in Penablanca, Cagayan. This was my second time to enjoy the 5-chambered cave, the favorite shooting destination for most movie makers. One of which was the movie "The Mistress" starred by the most loved tandem of John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo.
Then we're back to the Metro Manila for the training of DepEd people in National Capital Region. The Regional Office hosted the ToT at Great Eastern Hotel on November 4-5, 2014 in Quezon City. We did not stay in the hotel since we live around the metro so we have no bonding moments. Marisa and I flew to Ilocos Region via Laoag Airport. Only then that I knew of free shuttle from the airport to any point in the city. The shuttle ferried us to the Farinas Bus Terminal, where we later found that our way to San Fernando City, La Union was so circuitous, to take the bus ride to the said city that hosted the training. We arrived at breaking dawn of November 7 at the Regional Educators Learning Center, the venue, after the 2-hour wait in NAIA, 1-hour flight, and 5-hour bus trip. We should have taken the 7-hour bus from Manila straight to San Fernando, La Union.
We enjoyed our ToT in Region I on November 7 and 8 foremostly due to high level of hospitality the regional participants exhibited.One night, Arnold, the Accountant, showed us around the high-end resort and hotel in the area, the Thunderbird, then treated us to a dessert very well-known to Filipinos and notable cafe in the area, the Halo-Halo de Iloko. The following night, Marisa and I headed back to Laoag City on our way back to Manila, but before that, we stayed for the night at the heart of the Heritage City of Vigan. That day after, November 9, since we took the evening flight, the Division Office of Ilocos Norte arranged a day tour for us. We made a free tour to Bangui Windmills, Burgos white stone formations known as Kapurpurawan, Burgos old lighthouse, Dragon Fruit Farm, and a hasted peek at Paoay Church.
Next in line was the full week in Cebu City. All ToT sessions for Mindanao regions were brought to the Queen City fi the South. We brought along as well the whole Project team and the DepEd counterparts to manage the back-to-back sessions for Regional Offices of VII and IX on November 11-12, for X and XI on November 13-14, and of XII and Caraga on November 15-16. Knowing Cebu as a metro, our only hangout was either Ayala Mall or IT Business Park with bottles of beer a night. The only difference from all our ToT-related gimmicks was that we have our Englishman Team Leader, Paul, with us. Mind you, we were able to convince him to sing in the videoke.
Marisa and I went to Angeles City in Pampanga that following week to conduct ToT for RO III, a night before the schedule, on November 18-19. There was not much to see or tour around inthe city of angels, except for vudeoke bars. We spent one night in a common videoke bar. I said "common" because there is no available private rooms for exclusivity. The we flew to Legazpi City that Wednesday to conduct another set of ToT for Bicol Region. We feared the famous beautiful, almost perfect coned Mayon Volcano won't show her glam to us because of the rains. Well, it was almost December and the rainy days were here. Fortunately, after the November 21-22 scheduled training, the sky cleared and Mayon showed up. I felt proud to have Paul, our English Team Leader, witnessed the beauty and perfection of one and only Mayon Volcano, primarily because he joined us just to check on this known tourist destination.
Just like the trip to RO I, we had a great time in RO VI ToT on November 25-26. Before the serious business, we arrive in Iloilo City that day before, so Marisa and I decided to spend a half-day tour to Guimaras Island. That same week all the trained trainers started rolling our the echo trainings. The Division Office of Manila contacted me and asked my presence and technical assistance. Theirs was held in Kimberly Hortel Tagayatay City. Coincidentally, my sister En who worked in another project had a workshop in the area. We agreed to meet and enjoy the famous bulalo soup in Mahogany Market and dessert at the Starbucks, overlooking Taal Volcano.
The ToT series went on in December. First was with Cordillera Administrative Region on December 2-3. It's rainy season in the whole of the country,a so cool or cold Cordillera region is expected. Should it been in Baguio City the training venue, there would be plenty of group nightouts. But the ToT was hosted in the next town, La Trinidad, and thus, we found ourselves at the nearest Karaoke Bar.
The last but definitely not the least in the ToT series was iback in Cebu for RO VIII December 17-18. Due to the super typhoon Yolanda, the region was hardhit and so the training for them was postponed to later date. the week before that was then spent for Division Offices which requested an assistance in their rollout trainings. The Division of Cagayan Valley hosted one in Tuguegarao City on December 1-11 and followed r by the Division of Ilocos Norte on December 12-13. This was the very rare opportunity for Marisa and I to circumnavigate the the northernest parts of the Philippine archipelago, that is from Tuguegarao City of Region II to Laoag City of Region I.Check the link below for the notable tour we have had in Laoag and nearby tourist destinations.
Trainings here and there gave me a very personal experience of Philippine adventure in different ways, different forms, various places.