Meeting with the real heroes – Teachers of Sto. Niño

The Wandzillas!

This is how Filipinos greet strangers

I travel a lot. Everyone who knows me knows that. But ever time I embark on a new trip, I forget how exhilarating it is to finally land at my destination. In the last couple seconds of flight, I couldn’t help but grin, I’m here! I’m in Manila!

My plan originally was to find the shuttle to my hotel, but I did exactly what anyone would tell you not to do: hop into a car with a stranger. Mom and Dad, I know you’re probably freaking out right now, so let me explain…

During my flight, I was sitting next to a Filipino lady who invited me to dinner with her friends after arriving. I have yet to regret any impulse plan I’ve made, so here I go.

After dropping my bags at the hotel, we sat into the car and started driving. I knew not where, but looking around, I was astounded to witness the craziness of traffic: motorcyclists passing inches away from the side of the car and in between trucks with only a couple of feet between them. The surprise vehicle of the day was a truck full of sleepy-looking chickens.

sleepy chickens

Construction even at 9pm on a Friday night made the roads even more unpredictable, with lanes shut down, traffic going every which way, cars and Jeepnis* stuffed with breathing bodies, with some more hanging on the roof. As the cherry on top, we were forced to avoid the not so occasional pedestrian popping out of nowhere.


Regardless of the kind of situation that would drive any American up the wall, everywhere I looked, the Filipinos were smiling, even laughing: no sign of any road rage! Perhaps it has just become the status quo. I have much respect for them.

My new friends and I arrived at our destination after about one hour: it was a Filipino restaurant attached to a meat/fish, or “wet” market as they call it. This was the first time I had witnessed this sort of arrangement. We went over to the market, picked out crabs (they were still moving!!), shrimp, and fish to be cooked to order for us.

Wet Market

The live music started as we sat down, and had a round of mango shakes. Wow. I can never go back to US mangoes. These shakes, made exclusively of ice and mangoes were the best pick me up: flavorful and sweet, perfect as jet lag was kicking in.

Mango shakes

By the end of the night, I felt humbled by the incredible hospitality of these ladies, especially when I told them I came to help out the community in Tacloban as part of the post-typhoon efforts. They thanked me for helping out their people, paid for my part of the food, and even drove me home afterwards. With a large smile, I hit the bed like a log and slept until awoken in a confused daze by housekeeping knocking on my door. (It was 11am).

*Jeepnis are the method of public transport in the Philippines. They are like a Jeep from the 1990s, but extended in the back like a bus with no windows, and usually fit from one to 20 people, or more if the roof is used.

Introducing team Wandzil. Raring to go!

On our last team call, we had a big problem: Lucille had received a bunch more Intel paraphernalia: speakers, keyboards, and more! It was basically enough to fill a whole other suitcase. “How am I going to fit all these things,” she sighed. #firstworldproblems. In the end, she did what she could and is the first one of the team who is on her way while the rest of us frantically pack and check things off our list…
Bug spray, Intel sunglasses, Hydration tablets, check, check, check. When it seems like we’ve thought of everything there’s always one more thing we forget to pack.
Like any other trip, I’ll probably forget something, but hopefully it’ll be: “I forgot a hair tie,” not “I forgot my passport!”
Shoot… did I pack enough underwear? Maybe one more, just in case…
At some point you just have to stop and look up, make sure you’ve got your wallet and passport. The rest is replaceable.
Like me, most of my team members have been packing in the past week, running around to stores to buy that last item for our IESC (Intel Education Service Corps) trip to the Philippines.
We’ve gotten our vaccines, rounded up equipment, gear, made lesson plans, and asked for tips from the past two teams who have gone before us. We’re 100% ready, confident (right?), and excited to go. But also a little nervous, mostly about the little things. But what if my bag weighs 50.5 pounds, I hope I don’t have to pay extra!
Over the next two and a half weeks, I will be covering the IESC project where six Intel employees including myself will be traveling to the Philippines to educate in digital literacy and inspire children whose whole world was literally uprooted 2.5 years ago by Typhoon Haiyan. Since then, Intel has sponsored to rebuild their school building in Tacloban, and we’re the third group going back to give them technological immersion and digital training.
Lately, Intel has received a lot of negative media with the layoffs affecting employees worldwide, but the company still finds it important to support this type of high social impact project. My team and I are ecstatic about being able to participate. While we’re on the ground, I will be publishing stories, pictures, and media via the following outlets:

Here are team Wandzil’s members:

Wilbert Go (Montana, USA): Technical expert
Aziz Bandeli (California, USA): Project Manager
Nora Moolenkamp (Oregon, USA): “Onboarding Project Manager” who will not be able to travel with us, but all her contributions to our project are very much appreciated by the team
Damir Bajramovic (California, USA): Technical expert
Zipporah Stephen (Swindon, United Kingdom): Trainer
Ildiko Toth (Oregon, USA): Social media expert and blogger
Lucille Held (Arizona, USA): Trainer

Why Wandzil?

Wandzil is a derivative of the word “Wand”, a word this team coined in their first meeting, and is an accurate description of the team’s chemistry, enthusiasm, passion and their commitment to make a difference to the global community.

Can you guess which set of gear belongs to which person?


BGear 2

CGear 3


Answers: A – Wilbert, B – Lucille, C – Ildikó

The last three coming soon before they take off!