4. A week in Manila: APEC, transcribing and Balut

Hello, I’m Maddy Thompson, a second year PhD student at Newcastle University, and one of the organisers for the 2016 RGS-IBG Postgraduate Mid-Term Conference (there’s still time to send in abstracts!). My research explores the geographical imaginations of Filipino nurses with regards to their migratory desires, and I’ve been living in Manila, the Philippines for my fieldwork since June.

My international fieldwork has been full of great experiences: amazingly warm weather, opportunities to travel, meeting new people, and trying different foods. While it’s also had its difficulties: food poisoning, unreliable internet, typhoons, and Manila traffic (which has just been voted the worst traffic in the world), there’s nothing I would change about my time here. I very recently completed the last of my interviews. My previous weeks have consisted of travelling around Metro Manila to meet and talk with participants and recruiting students at a local university.

MT1A three hour queue of traffic at Roxas Boulevard, Manila.

MT2Me and May at Mascara Festical in Bacolod.

However, this week marked the arrival of the 2015 APEC meeting in Manila. 21 heads of state from Asia Pacific arrived to the city resulting in the closure of the airport and most major roads. Living near the convention centre has given me little option but to remain in my condo transcribing… not the most exciting way to spending one of my last few weeks in this amazing country.


My office/kitchen/bedroom

Despite the positive experiences of international fieldwork, my week of captivity has led me to realise the importance of working in an office with other PGRs. My condo consists of an open plan room where I eat, sleep and work. I have no one to share a cuppa with, and after transcribing a particularly upsetting interview on Tuesday, had no fellow PGRs to talk with. I’ve ended eating out once a day to catch up with friends and have an excuse to leave my condo. Nonetheless, I’ve managed a productive week, and have transcribed 7 interviews.

The nature of my research means that several participants have left the country to work elsewhere. Wednesday night was the leaving party of one such participant (who has become a close friend). While this gave me the opportunity to ask a few follow up questions concerning her feelings on the upcoming move, it was also a great excuse for a Manila-style celebration. A Manila party consists of 5 main aspects – karaoke, pool, dancing, San Miguel, and lots of food. I love Filipino cuisine, and have made it my mission to try as many dishes as possible, but there has been one that I have carefully avoided… until Wednesday. Balut. For those who haven’t heard of balut (or balot), it’s a developing duck embryo which is boiled (in the shell), cracked and then eaten, usually with a vinegar based dip. As the photo (taken at the worst possible time) shows, it did not go down too well.









Me after my first taste of balut, a duck embryo…

Due to the repetitive nature of transcribing, I spent my Thursday undertaking my weekly admin tasks. As TurnItIn monitor for my Geography department, I spent several hours reviewing the first few assignments of the year for any signs of plagiarism. My afternoon and evening (the Philippines is 8 hours ahead of the UK) were spent planning for the mid-term conference, via email and skype conversations with other organisers. Friday was back to transcribing. My productive week means that I’m likely to finish transcribing before I return to the UK, leaving lots of time for analysis and writing.

As the APEC delegates left on Friday evening residents of Manila let out a collective sigh of relief as life returned to normal. Next week I plan to intersperse my transcribing with leaving my condo in search of photos and extra resources for my thesis. My final week will consist of packing and making my goodbyes before venturing back to Newcastle. There are definitely no plans to sample more balut…