5. If there ever were a list of atypical Peace Corps assignments, Peggy’s and mine would certainly be on it. We were stationed in Manila where volunteers weren’t normally placed, and this meant that there was no orientation designed for us. I was assigned to teach drama at the University of the Philippines, which still is in Quezon City, the capital. Since we wanted to live close to Peggy’s assignment in a large urban elementary school in the Malate District of Manila, it meant I had to commute about an hour each way each day through the city to the university. This gave me a good excuse to come to Manila in the evenings, thus enabling me to get involved with more drama people than I otherwise would.
6. Peggy’s school, where she introduced new math to math teachers, was huge, with 3,300 students (two shifts) and 106 teachers, and she was expected to work at all grade levels. Her principal was at first dubious that a Peace Corps Volunteer knew enough to be any help, but he was willing to try one and see. A day or two before she was suppose to report for work, Peggy and I walked by her school, and Peggy could hardly believe it: she had never in her life seen so many kids in one place. Classes were over, and everybody was on the playground … not one word of English did we hear. Everyone was speaking Tagalog.
We didn’t have a place to live yet then. The Peace Corps was looking for an apartment for us, but things in Manila were extremely high priced. We each got P25 a month extra for living in Manila, but that amount wouldn’t stretch very far. To economize we kept our letters home to no more than ½ ounce. We also asked to be taken off mailing lists (unless organizations back home were willing to pay overseas airmail postage rates). We otherwise had to pay postage due on each piece of mail sent to us, and we couldn’t afford it. Removed from mailing lists meant then that we relied on our families to pass along tidbits that might’ve been of particular interest to us. So we begged, “Please write! Just be sure to send it airmail … ½ ounce instead of an ounce. We’ll give you our apartment address as soon as we get one. Love from both of us,”
6. Meanwhile we moved from busy to busier to busiest, and time for long letters moved from scarce to rare to nonexistent, so our parents had to settle for short airograms. Peggy enjoyed working at the school and had a marvelous principle, Mr. Hernandez. She started working with a 4th grade math teacher who knew no new math but wanted very much to learn. She had enough enthusiasm and imagination that Peggy had high hopes for her. Although I got off to a slower start at the university, I kept quite busy … preparing my courses for the new semester, teaching children’s theater, meeting people, and attending theater productions.
7. The Peace Corps never did find us an apartment, but found us a home with Miss Enri Locsin, a Filipina. We had a room and the kitchen, living room, and dining room were at our disposal. Enri was a writer, employed by former Vice President Emmanuel Neri Pelaez, who was then running again for the Senate. Between not being very well and preferring to write away from a noisy office, Enri managed to spend almost all of her time in her room. If she were not in her room, she was almost certainly not home. Both Peggy and I enjoyed her very much, and living with her gave us a sense of protection we wouldn’t have had if we were living by ourselves.
Enri had a maid, Louie. She and two of her friends lived in a very small room downstairs. (Peggy’s and my room was on the second floor.) We offered to increase Louie’s salary if she would launder and cook for us also, but she felt it would be too much work. As it was, Louie ended up doing many small things for us … and she wouldn’t accept any pay. Peggy discovered that washing by hand was extremely time-consuming: it took her between three and four hours to do half a week’s wash. Cooking was also a problem because cooking American style was too expensive, and Peggy hadn’t learned any Filipino dishes (which, like the wash, tended to be quite time-consuming). So we looked for a maid, who would wash and cook at a Peace Corps-level salary.
8. It took over a month for our trunks to arrive (they were held up in customs). And we’d been living for those trunks since they had my precious typewriter and all of the resource material we needed for our classes. We then also had items like sheets and spare shoes.
9. It didn’t take long to find a maid, Linda. She was only 19, and she spoke little English, but she was a great maid. Enri’s maid Loui translated for us when we were having a hard time communicating. Linda’s primary jobs were to wash (Peggy not having to spend all day Saturday washing was certainly a relief!) and to cook (which included going to market), but she seemed to manage to stay busy from before 7:00 a.m. until 8:30 or so at night. We wanted to continue doing some things ourselves because we didn’t want to become dependent upon having a maid. But Linda remade our bed and re-straightened our room everyday. We tried to make her understand that we really wanted to get our own breakfast, but she didn’t understand. She just stood beside us until we left the room or the kitchen, and then she took over. What a life!
Peggy and Randy Ford