The Philippines— a tropical country made up of over seven-thousand islands surrounding the main capital, Manila. From the western-influenced, industrialized cities in the island of Luzon, the white sand and crystal blue beaches of the Visayas, to the mountainous island of Mindanao, the land is divided into three main island groups that contribute to the culture and pride of her inhabitants. Seventeen years ago, I was born in the Luzon province, within small beach city limits of San Fernando and for the first time in eleven years since my immigration to America, I had finally come to reacquaint myself with my home country.
It was a twenty-two hour flight from my small Texas town to the Philippines. When my mom and I arrived, we were immediately greeted by the sight of men in army green suits with rifles strapped to their backs stationed at random places of the airport. After all the routine procedures after immediate arrival into the country, we picked up our luggage, got out of the airport and into the hot and heavy midnight Manila air. My relatives were outside, welcomed us and we all got into a van. As the van maneuvered its way around Manila, I was in awe at the advertisement billboards and buildings that towered over us and was entranced by all the alluring lights that made the city shine so brightly in the night. It was a big change from my small Texas town to this metropolis. After a few days in Manila, most of the food was foreign to me, so I tried eating whatever I found to my liking through trial and error. It was a Filipino custom to eat practically five meals a day, so it was not long until I started to love the cuisine. Manila was a shopper’s paradise, from small stands to one of the world’s biggest shopping malls; my luggage had gained as much pounds as I did.
Over the course of three weeks, we traveled through many places on the island of Luzon. My most vivid memories were in Baguio and San Fernando in the Providence of La Union. They were cities of a smaller scale but I loved them. San Fernando was a coastal city at the bottom of the mountains. It was a growing and bustling place with colorful forms of public transportations called “jeepneys” and tricycles that ran through city’s paved veins. It was my home; a home I had only seen through old videos and photographs. Unfortunately, my childhood home in was torn down and a restaurant was built over it, and it’s where we ended up eating a delicious lunch. Baguio is the greenest city in the Philippines and it served as my second home as a child. Spread out across over high hills and mountains, it was a beautiful and peaceful place, the trees brought color to the city in contrast to the gloomy rainy days of the monsoon seasons.
I was only fifteen-years-old, fully submerged within the American culture. I did not speak nor understand my parents’ native language and I preferred American fast food over traditional Filipino dishes. I was brought up in a comfortable lifestyle with all the necessities and luxuries of middle class living. My mother would always talk about how different life was in the Philippines. As a naÃ¯ve, young girl— I had always thought she exaggerated her stories of home— but after traveling through Luzon that summer, it truly opened my eyes to a whole different world. I cannot wait to get acquainted with it again.
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