As you may already know, it’s been an incredibly long time since I’ve traveled outside the United States. While the trip itself is more towards a family reunion on my mother’s side, I knew I did want to learn more about the culture, take in the landscapes, and observe the livelihoods of the people here before coming back to America.
My mom and I left early July from LAX on Asiana Airlines, making a brief stop in Incheon, South Korea (I’m already planning a trip here as it is) before landing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport where we were picked up by my half-sister and her family late at night. I soon discovered the next day that their home was nestled in between many concrete others, each with a heat-trapping metal roof and the occasional rooster. I soon found out how incredibly hot the small apartment can be even though it occasionally rained every so often.
It was here that I began a life without much wifi, for the most part. This meant I couldn’t post updates as much as I wanted to nor contact loved ones back at home, making it quite difficult for me. Even as I eventually got a SIM card, it was strange not having wifi on a daily basis. As a result, I don’t take that for granted anymore.
While living at her house, I also experienced a few things that were different but expected at the same time, one of them being transportation. Instead of cars-while they are available, they are pricier in comparison to the others-there are tricycles and jeepnys.
Tricycles aren’t like the bikes children use to learn how to ride the ‘big kid bikes’. Rather, they’re more like a combination of a motorcycle and a side car while jeepnys look like elongated metal limos with spray-painted art on the exterior. As far as I know, there are usually many available, especially during the daytime-they’re just waiting for you. There are even times where drivers would compete amongst each other to get the customer. What I didn’t like about using them frequently, however, was the constant pollution being thrown into my face. This makes the air unsuitable to breathe, especially for those who have respiratory problems (I don’t exactly have the strongest lungs), and its recommended that you bring a handkerchief along.
Yet another slight cultural shock were the outdoor markets/vendors. While they aren’t too common in Southern California, it’s a necessity in the Philippines; I also grew up with such markets in Hong Kong, but that’s for another time. Carrying vegetables to toys, customers can barter until both sides mutually agree on a price. Now that’s something that doesn’t happen in supermarkets.
I soon visited another part of Rizal where the majority of my cousins and the rest of my mom’s sisters lived at. Although the houses were made of concrete, they were more spacious and modern even as they were still squeezed into small sections. Not only did I finally get to meet most of my cousins in the flesh, I was treated to authentic Filipino food.
Later on, I eventually stopped by an interesting piece of Spanish architecture: a Roman Catholic church found in Tanay. Also called the Saint Ildephonsus of Toledo Parish Church, I soon learned that the building itself has been around for over 100 years. The religious center is not only a place of historical importance, it tends to attract visitors from across the globe.
The last stop was at the beautiful Laguna de Bay. Located in between Metro Manila and the provinces of Laguna and Rizal, the freshwater lake is one of the most beautiful, if not serene, bodies of water I’ve ever seen. Aside from the fishermen boats and long stocks of bamboo laying about, the water clearly reflected the sky. This incredible work of nature was enough to rejuvenate me for the duration of the next part of my trip: Cagayan, Philippines.