Those Were the Days, published by Peace Corps Writers, is a series of vignettes of significant, often funny, and sometimes quite serious events, from James Beebe’s Peace Corps experience in the Philippine from October 1968 to May 1973. During that time he was profoundly changed by the joy of life and economic inequality he discovered. As a Volunteer he helped introduce a new activity-based approach to science teaching, learned the truth of the children’s rhyme that “Planting Rice is No Fun,” and taught part-time at a college. For him life included buying a one-of-a-kind mosquito net, being offered a love potion, witnessing funeral processions of poor babies, celebrating holidays, and being attacked by dogs after eating dog meat.
But his most life-changing event almost didn’t happen when Maria, the “matchmaker’s” intended choice for James, accused the Peace Corps of “fascism, imperialism, and neocolonialism.” His renewed efforts the following year finally resulted in a “Yes” to his proposal of a marriage to take place within weeks. James then had to secure the blessings of her grandmother, Huk Kumander Dayang-dayang. On their wedding day James and Maria had to wade through a waste-high flood, and they spent their honeymoon in a 350-year-old Catholic convent. Maria’s US naturalization and acceptance into Peace Corps as a Volunteer occurred during a 45-day trip to the US, after which they both returned as Volunteers to the Philippines.
While the book focuses on James’ first two years as a Volunteer, it also includes events from the more than two years both Maria and James were Volunteers in Bontoc, Mountain Province, Philippines.
An Afterword to the book provides a short description of what they have done since completing their Peace Corps service. They have both become practitioner-scholars and social activists, with Ph.D and M.A. degrees from Stanford University. During James’ career with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) the family lived in the Sudan, Philippines, Liberia, Washington DC, Oregon, and South Africa. At the same time Maria worked as a contractor on gender, education, and non-governmental organizations.
During James’ second career as a Professor of Leadership Studies at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Maria continued consulting in Afghanistan and Africa on the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) for development. In 2013 she started research on the leadership of global Filipina women. In mid-2013, they moved to Portland, Oregon in where they each have appointments as Visiting Researchers in the Anthropology Department of Oregon State University, and live in a beautiful 118-year-old house in an urban neighborhood close to downtown.
Those Were the Days: A Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines in the Late ‘60s
by James Beebe (Philippines 1968–73)
Peace Corps Writers