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Meeting of the Project Coordinators

Pinky Cupino (Philippines) and Lori Megivern (United States) visit the schools of Les Eaux Claires and Crest

23 March 2007

In November, 2006, Pinky Cupino, Director of the Center for Positive Futures in the Philippines and Lori Megivern, Social Studies Teacher at Cortland High School in the United States came to Grenoble, France to meet with the students and teachers who would be participating in the GCI project. The meeting enabled the French participants to learn more about how people in the United States think of France, and about life in the Philippines.

All about the United States…

The meeting between Lori Megivern and the students of the Collège des Eaux Claires and the Lycée Armorin in Crest allowed for an exchange to take place where the participants could talk about their perceptions of life in the other participant’s countries.

Lori Megivern at the collège des Eaux Claires, November 2006

For Lori, France evokes:
- The Alps and skiing
- The Gallic rooster
- Historical sites such as the Louvre Museum, the Eiffel Tower and the palace of Versailles…
- Pastries and cakes

But in fact, seen from the United States the perception is rather one of Europe as a whole than of France in isolation « All our ancestors come from Europe. I myself have ancestors from Italy, Ireland, and even a little bit of French blood: you are our « grand-parents; in the context of History we are just a child: your history is much longer than ours».

For the French students, the United States evokes, among other things, the American flag, the Statue of Liberty, George Bush, the Empire State Building, Coca-Cola (the « coca cola country » as Lori says), Mac Donald’s, multinational companies, the strength of the dollar, sports, and rap stars.

All about the Philippines…

Pinky Cupino at the collège des Eaux Claires, January 2007

Question and Answer Session with Pinky

S: What is the currency of the Philippines called?
P: The currency is the “peso” and the smaller unit is the “centavos”. 63 pesos is about 1 euro. For 63 pesos, you can buy a hamburger, with a fizzy drink and still get change. But the Filipino salary is low. The legal minimum salary is 3 or 4 euros a day; people who make computer chips and build your computers earn this amount. However, many people earn less than this, especially in rural areas.

This is very little for the average family, which consists of two parents and four children. With this money, they have to pay for food, housing, education, clothing and healthcare.

This is very low compared to the average French salary (about 75 euros a day).

S: Does this mean that Children in the Philippines work early?
P: There are different types of Filipinos:
- 1% of the country is very very rich
- 9% are middle class
- 90% are poor

Therefore, many Filipino children from the lower class of society do work very early.

S: Is school obligatory in the Philippines?
P: The school system in the Philippines is made up of:
- Pre-school: 4-6 years old
- Elementary school: 7 – 12 years old
- High school: 13 – 16 years old
- College: 17 years old onwards

Of these only elementary school is obligatory; so many children leave school at 12 years old. This is not only because their family might need money, but because there are very few high schools especially in the country side. This means that they need to travel very far which costs money. This creates a vicious cycle: poor children do not go to high school; therefore they cannot get good jobs, which means they stay poor.

In fact some children do not even go to elementary school, because in some rural areas, for example the mountains, there are no schools and it is dangerous for teachers to go there. Even though legally speaking elementary school is compulsory not all children have the privilege of education.

Philippines’s history

Nowadays one in ten Filipinos lives in Manila because there is little work elsewhere. Many of them live in shanty towns. These shanty towns are built on marshes so there are lots of mosquitoes and diseases.

But don’t be sad about the Philippines! The story of this country is one of struggle and hope. For 300 years, the Philippines were a Spanish colony and this is why there are a lot of Spanish names in the Philippines ("Garcia", "Marques").

Before the Spaniards arrived five percent of the country was Muslim and the rest were animists. Now, after colonization, the majority of the country is Catholic.

There were lots of struggles against the Spanish, who treated the Filipinos very badly. After this, the colonizers changed, and at the end the 19th century the Philippines were run by the US. Independence was achieved in 1946.

As we can see, the Philippines have a history of fighting for a more dignified life. They are a hopeful nation struggling for a better life.