“Hey Joe” – Poems and Stories from the Peace Corps


Come larga (sail) with me on a banca (outrigger canoe) across the Sibuyan Sea to the malayo (remote) isla (island) of Romblon in the Philippines. Take your siya (chair) at the lamisa (table) as my new panimalay (family) and I enjoy our panyaga (lunch) of kanon (cooked rice), isda (fish), utanon (vegetables), fried saging (banana) and tubig (water). Meet my host Nana Lola. Lakat (walk) down the dalan (street) with me as I join my migas (friends) Manny, Louie and Popeye to drink tuba (fermented coconut milk). And learn how I got my nickname, “Puti Iboy”.

June, 1968. Twenty-two years old, 5’ 11” 155 pounds; red-haired, blue-eyed, fair-skinned, freckled and fresh out of college, I found myself flying out of Logan airport in Boston heading for a two-year stint in the Peace Corps in the Philippines teaching modern mathematics.

It was the era of the Vietnam War – Woodstock – the first man landing on the moon. Everything I took as a given was challenged. My pre-conceived ideas of life, community, family and friendship were turned inside out, shaken apart, dismantled and reassembled. I was advantaged and was going to live with those who were less so. First hand in the “third world” was going to be a shocker.

“Hey Joe” was a greeting of affection Filipinos had for Americans. I am not going to spend 100 pages telling you what my teaching experience was like. That will be covered in one brief section. I devote myself to life outside the classroom, for this is where the Peace Corps experience really shines. The talents we brought with us were important, but the interaction with those we lived and worked with was what really made a difference. I showed them skills they could go forward with, and they gave me a lifetime of warm memories.

This is a collection of poems and stories about my experience. You will be learning some of the local dialect along with me as you read. At first I will give you both the dialect term and the English together. After words have been used several times, I drop the English, but don’t fear, there is a dialect dictionary of about 125 words at the back.

I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed living it.


About lenxbob

I was born in 1946 - the first year of the Baby Boomers. For most of my life, I lived in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts - Pittsfield, Richmond and Lenox. I graduated from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst in 1968 with a BS in Mathematics. From 1968-1970, I did a two-year stint in the Peace Corps in the Philippines teaching high school modern mathematics. I later taught for eleven years and then became a computer programmer/analyst and eventually an MIS Director. I currently winter in Florida and summer in upstate NY - with my 37-year-old African Gray Parrot, Little Pete. I enjoy playing piano and guitar as well as painting watercolors. I started writing poetry when I was in my early teens. It has always brought me joy to express my emotions in writing. My poems tend to be quite straightforward. You won't need a dictionary or an encyclopedia to comprehend them. I like my poems to flow easily, and have the reader flow with my thoughts.
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2 Responses to “Hey Joe” – Poems and Stories from the Peace Corps

  1. They still do call anyone with fair skin “Joe,” in the Philippines. Times were simple then. Old folks still talked about how the Americans saved us from the Japanese with spark in their eyes and even my generation who were not born then do believe that as well. I do miss looking at endless stretch of coconut trees, of having a laid back life watching sunsets by the beach but I chose to come to America and now I also look at pics like these wishing one day I get to go back. Great post! Happy Holidays.


    • lenxbob says:

      Yes those were wonderful times for me in the Philippines. I met many wonderful friends, including Popeye who eventually became the Philippine Ambassador to Israel. If you have a Kindle or get the free Kindle app, try downloading my $2.99 ebook to read about my times there. I think you would enjoy it. I use a lot of dialect in the book to give the reader the flavor of actually being there with me. If you do, please leave a review on Amazon.


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