The moment I stepped out of Manila’s International airport I was greeted by the Philippines’ hot and humid atmosphere. Even at 5 A.M., it still managed to feel sweltering. At that point I was willing to jump on another plane ride back to the U.S. just to feel Northern California’s brisk winter air. The city of Manila was almost fully awake with the hustle and bustle just beginning as I watched from the inside of my uncle’s cramped van. Feelings of excitement and nervousness filled my mind as I thought of the bittersweet homecoming. What was supposed to be a trip to mourn the death of a relative resulted in a grandiose experience of culture shock.
When I arrived with my family at my relatives’ house, I was immediately greeted happily by my aunts and cousins whom which I hadn’t seen in twelve years. Each minute that passed seemed to make the air feel hotter and hotter. I decided that jeans, a shirt, and a cardigan were too much for the tropical weather. At that point I wanted to slap myself for not packing more summer clothes. However, I soon learned that one could buy cute clothing in the Philippines for dirt cheap. As long as you had some cash on you and you didn’t get mugged in the crowed halls of vendors, you were good to go.
After my family and I paid respects to our recently deceased loved one and others who had passed away even before I was born, we decided to tour the capital of our homeland. During the entire trip we had water bottles on us because of the paranoia of catching something from drinking foreign water. The food in the Philippines, no matter which restaurant we stopped at tasted how real food should. Their “fast food,” via street carts or family owned chains topped any mainstream McDonalds or KFC that tried to invade Manila. With the right pallet, Filipino food can taste absolutely delicious with its plethora of flavors; not confined to one taste.
With Manila’s hectic and smog-filled atmosphere, we were dying to escape to the countryside a few hundred miles east of the capital to see my other relatives. In the countryside of San Marcelino, there’s not much to do except for relax. We mostly stayed there because of the food and pristine beaches. I was all for relaxation but with no internet connection available at hand and the hot sun blasting its insufferable heat, it got hard to stay cool-headed.
I loved the Philippines; the country is so different from what I experienced growing up. It truly was an eye-opening experience. Although for the most part I sound like some travel brochure, I did learn a few things as well as become extremely grateful for the amenities we take advantage of in the U.S. A few of those things were of the toilets, bathing, conversing, and always having a working cell-phone as your van might break down in the middle of nowhere. Compared to Philippines, the toilets we have in America are immaculate; even some public restrooms can top all of their bathrooms/toilets. When I came home to America I truly felt home and the things I took for granted I wanted to worship. However, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love to go back to that tropical haven, I’d just prefer to go in a cooler season.
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