Another day in the field yesterday - I went to an area of North Cotabato (or North Cot as we call it in the biz) that had seen fighting between the MILF and the army close up. However, people have started returning to their houses (or families), so we went out to distribute 'family access cards' so they can get a couple months worth of food.
We met quickly with the municipal Mayor to discuss the security situation for the returning IDPs (internally displaced persons and that's the last time I'm ever going to spell it out!). It was more of a courtesy visit than anything, but he misinterpreted what we meant by security and got on the phone to his old friend the chief of police to arrange an escort for us. No, thank you. We quickly sorted that out and were on our way.
Our first stop ran very smoothly, as there were only 13 families to distribute cards to. Then there were about 6 dudes with very big guns just hanging about - members of the local civilian voluntary service. Though they looked pretty menacing with their big guns, they very kindly retrieved some coconuts for our morning tea. I don't particularly like 'buko' juice, but I do enjoy the soft flesh from the green ones.
This village burns the old shells/husks/whatever you call the outside of a coconut, to make charcoal to sell.
There was a bit of faffing about over lunch and afterwards, including a period of time where we were sitting around, waiting for something. A motorbike had been dispatched to check if people were around in another village, and he came back and said that they were. The waiting continued. After I'd finished my 'to do' list, I asked why we were still waiting. "For the IDPs to come up here," was the response. "Can't we go to them?" I asked. Looks were exchanged, then shrugs of agreement, so we jumped back in the 4WD and drove down. Sometimes you just need to push a little.
I'm still brand new at this, so there's not a whole lot I can contribute to yet, but I can always help with efficiency.
On the way home, we called into the hospital to see one of our colleagues who'd been admitted the day before. On the way in, I couldn't help but take a snap of this sign
Stop Kidnapping, Go Healing!
Oh, and these photos were taken with my camera phone - not bad huh!