I stepped out of the plane, blanket in one hand, bag in the other, and my “shades” resting on my face. They looked at my family and I as if we were famous; movie stars or something of high royalty. It was beautiful, but as soon as I stepped outside it got bad. There was a horrible stench of over poluted air, it was over 100 degrees hot, and I got uncomfortable stares from older men. It was my home for the next month however, and the place of my culture, I was in the Phillipines, Manila to be exact.
I was greeted by my family, which at first came off as frightening. My uncle with a crooked finger, my aunt Esther and her son Christian. All my family, all whom I coudln’t conversate with due to the lak of knowing my own language; Tagalog and Ilocano. We stayed in multiple homes to visit each relative; in the Phillipines it’s somewhof an honor to stay in one’s home when you’re on vacation.
Growing up in the U.S. with family from the Phillipines means you get to hear a lot of stories, especially scary one’s. There is doubt in many minds that ghostly things exist, but in the Phillipines, anything is possible. We traveled to a resort called Villa Escadora. It was amazing. We stayed in huts over a lake, had our meals at the bottom of a waterfall, swam when it rained, and sang karaoke in a bar at night. However, we were the only one’s there, which didn’t seem coincidental. At 10 o’clock, the workers told us they would guide my family back to our hut because no one could be out past that time. It was, of course, my uncle’s idea to tell scary stories out on the patio. My uncle laughed as I plugged my ears with my hands. Then I heard it, “Oh my gosh, do you guys see that lady over there? I’m serious, she was all in black.” With no wind in the air, the hammock began to sway back and forth, and we heard a kind of grunt. We all ran into the hut, as my mom’s fiancee and uncle got extra matresses from upstairs. Somehow we managed to fit eleven people in a 2 bed hut. All through the night we heard tapping on the windows, and feet running across the patio. As we left the next day, we learned that Villa Escadora was a sight where many died from a flood some time ago. We decided to never go back.
Traveling in cars was the worst. People had tags which allowed them to drive cartaing days and hours of the week, a way they kept traffic under control. On the side of the road you could see homeless women holding their clotheless children. The one’s old enough hop onto the side of moving cars and collect change. Freeways were more like our regular roads, and only a few billboards were on display, mainly one’s that advertised food.
The food in the Phillipines is the most delicious, and fattening. After 1 week, I can honestly say I gained ten pounds. However, Mcdonalds is better than it is in the U.S. Their Big Mac’s are put together neatly, resembling the pictures. The Mcflurry was half the normal size, and they sell spaghetti and chicken. Their family sized Coke’s were our single sized bottles, and their bread rolls come as little donut holes. The easiest business to start in the Phillipines, can truthfully be said to be a restaurant.
Our next island was Boracay. If I were to reccomend a vacation spot it would be those islands. My family enjoyed riding on banana boats, “flying fish,” and going snorkling, ignoring our burning bodies due to sun burns. It had beautiful clear water, shops on the side of the road, and soft sand everywhere. It was like heaven, a place with such fresh air. Every Friday the whole island held a huge parade. Everyone would come out to dance, drink, and go to under ground clubs. Unlike the U.S., there are no age limits to anything in the Phillipines. When it came to parties, not only were the adults drinking, but the children were as well.
Despite their freedom to supplies we are not allowed to have in the U.S, kids in the Phillipines are just like us, they love to shop. Every mall I saw had at least four floors, and the best was the “Mall of Asia,” which contained an amuesment park on the top level. It was like a movie theatre to adolescents in America, and Las Vegas to adults, it was their hang-out spot. Who cared about all the beautiful, authentic, somwehat similar to American clothing, as soon as the rides opened, stores were empty.
It seems as if they have a good life, but many, including myself, struggle to get used to the Phillipines. Public restrooms did not provide toilet paper; everywhere I went I had to hold a roll of paper in my bag. In the Phillipines the way of cleaning themselves is called a “tabot.” They would fill a small container of water and wash themselves as a way to”wipe” after using the bathroom, and take a shower. Homes had shower heads, but they preferred to use the tabot instead.
Saying good-bye was the hardest thing to do. They have such great lives in the Phillipines, but would trade it all just to see America. We left them money and clothes, and in return they left us their family pictures and tears. My last image of leaving was during their summer, which was in January; 100 degree weather and rain. I hold memories of my culture. The way they lived, their problems, their joys, and their appreciation.
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