“My counterpart and I decided our school need this because, sure, there’s information out there from DepEd about UBD, but there’s no resources. No materials. And at least where we are, training’s only minimal.”

Jon Hunter, lean, young, with a geek-chic skinny tie and retro glasses and three days’ worth of beard, stood in front of 25 social workers and teachers who clustered around square plastic tables, sipping coffee and basking in the luxury of air-conditioning, listening to him present his proposal for a teacher training.

Ate Maria leaned over to me and whispered, “I really commend them for that. It’s so very much needed. We really should do something like that.”

It was Day 3 of the Project Design & Management conference, a workshop run by Peace Corps volunteers, for Peace Corps volunteers, explaining the ins and outs of grant proposal writing. Besides Jon Hunter’s proposal, there was an idea for a renovated library space, a remedial reading program, a speech laboratory, book acquisitions, and livelihood projects of all sorts.

The conference was being held at the university where I worked, and help had come from all corners of the campus. The air-conditioned room was given by the Office of Research, Planning, and Extension Services. LCD projector: College of Education. Tables: Main Library. Plates, teacups, saucers, and teaspoons: College of Technology. We were using the Secondary Laboratory School to wash the dishes. And the teakettle for hot water? That was my contribution.

By Day 3 I was exhausted. The previous night I’d traversed the campus to check-in the projector and wash the dishes and lock up the room and refill the water container only to find that the key for the room was in the hands of a teacher whose name I didn’t know and who was teaching somewhere on campus until 8:15. I finally found her and locked the room and returned the key, only to arrive at the water filling station just as they were closing. Yes. Exhausted.

So was my co-teacher. Ate Maria was attending despite being sick, despite the fact that it was exams week and she would have to postpone her students’ first periodical test, despite her myriad other obligations in the community.

But despite all that, she had traversed the campus that morning, filming interviews with teachers and staff to evidence the need for a mini faculty library, and she had presented our proposal, speaking in her measured, poised way. The proposal had been well received.

The conference ended at noon but Ate Maria and I still had class. As five o’clock neared and our students gathered their belongings, Ate Maria leaned toward me.

“Sometimes I’m a little ashamed. Ashamed for our people…for our country. I wonder why it is that people must come from abroad to make these fish sanctuaries…to do these things for our country. I wonder why can’t Filipinos take the responsibility themselves?”

I was moved. My co-teacher was directly stating a source of embarrassment. No small matter in a shame society.

I recognized that saying it to me was a sign she trusted me. Could confide in me. But what to say back? I mumbled something about how most people abroad don’t take responsibility either, and that there were people in the Philippines taking responsibility. Like her.

Ate Maria sighed. “I suppose it may be that so many people here are firstly concerned with survival. They don’t have the time or energy…the ability…to think about those matters.”

She was right, of course.

But that night I went home thinking less about what she said and more about the logistics of our proposal. Until the following day when I signed onto Facebook and saw this: