Philippines internship brings home
the urgency of climate change

My time in Manila has been like nothing I have ever experienced before. A culture shock? Yes. But also, a massive opportunity to learn and have a bit of fun in the process. I’m now halfway through my two-month internship at Alternergy and here is an honest reflection on my experience so far.
Calum sitting in a tuk tuk

Callum: "Metro Manila is one of the most population dense places in the world and living here has been nothing short of chaotic."

Alternergy is a pioneer of renewable energy in the Philippines and carries the vision to create a more sustainable future for the next generation.

Developing wind, hydro and solar power plants across the country, the company has provided me with the opportunity to learn from some of the best.

As an intern and civil engineer, I’ve been exposed to all aspects of this growing industry and lucky enough to see their projects firsthand. This company has serious goals and a heart not only for the natural environment but for communities all over the country.

Callum standing in front of a power station

Callum: "As an intern and civil engineer here, I’ve been exposed to all aspects of this growing industry and lucky enough to see their projects firsthand."

Metro Manila is one of the most population dense places in the world and living here has been nothing short of chaotic.

Each morning I'd wake to sunlight filtered through the thick haze over the city. The daily commute sees the streets packed with swarms of traffic and crowds of people

Beneath all of this, the Filipino culture is vibrant and friendly. It was the shared love of food that connected me to some of the greatest people I have ever meet.  At Alternergy, a happy and connected team is valued. Every Monday, the company shouts lunch, giving us all an opportunity to sit and talk about the weekend.

I’ve also had plenty of opportunity to travel. While there are so many hidden gems here, Palawan topped every expectation.

Flying out of the huge metropolis, I saw the natural and raw beauty of the Philippines. The rich biodiversity, coral reefs, white-sand beaches, limestone cliffs, and pristine lagoons. Walking up Taraw peak to island hopping on a Bangka, this was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.  The natural environment is stunning and trying to capture it through the lens of a camera does no justice.

Palawan truly showed me another side to the Philippines and the danger it faces from a changing climate.

The Philippines experiences around 20 typhoons per year, with rising sea levels only intensifying these storms. To see the devastation this has on a community has been a wake-up call and left me feeling inspired by the work Alternergy is doing.

Energy generation is a complex problem and there is no straightforward solution. However, the company has a goal and is driven to make a difference.

Callum standing on a deck overlooking a harbour with small boats in it

Callum says he was blown away by the natural beauty of the Philippines

I have a lot of mixed emotions about Metro Manila itself. On the weekends I’ve seen remnants of Spanish colonisation, I’ve learnt about national heroes like José Rizal and I’ve had locals introduce me to all kinds of different food. However, it hasn’t all been easy to see.

I have never seen so much wealth and so much poverty. The parallels show a painful truth that we often choose to ignore. Whether it is children going without education, or communities without access to electricity or even clean water.

I recognise that my whole life I have been given so much opportunity, yet I am no more deserving of it than anyone else.

There are problems in the world that might seem unsolvable, but there is always something that can be done. This internship has challenged me to make a difference, as an engineer and an as individual.

New Zealand and the Philippines has a lot to learn from each other and I’ll be traveling home grateful for what this country has taught me.