Travelling is a remarkable experience. It has made a lasting impact on my life and has given me a new outlook on both the world and myself.
Today, I would tell you that I take pride in my American as well as my Filipino heritage. But this did not always hold true; in fact, it was only recently that I came to such a conclusion.
Exposing me to two cultures was somewhat of an experiment for my parents. While they were eager to star anew in America, they also taught me to celebrate my Filipino heritage. But growing up here made me feel detached from my cultural background. So as I got older, we would visit the Philippines every other summer. I then realized that my parents’ homeland was not as inaccessible as I had imagined. The Philippines was not an idea anymore, but a tangible entity rich in both history and culture.
We took our most recent trip in 2010, landing in the bustling city of Manila, a thriving metropolis adorned with glimmering skyscrapers and the blaring sputters of the colorful Jeepneys*. The city is jam-packed with pedestrians darting through the streets, drawn by the tantalizing smells emanating from the wet markets or strolling through Luneta Park, admiring the large statue of José Rizal, the national hero. On days when the humidity and the parades of people and traffic were too much, we cooled off inside the Ayala Museum where I learned more about the country’s history or the enormous Shangri-La Mall where you can indulge in the three story food court, which offers delicacies from all corners of the world. It seemed as though Manila was always animated and lively; a five-minute walk was a vibrant symphony of sights and sounds that begged to be applauded.
After a week, we took a trip to Batangas, my mother’s hometown. It allowed us to relax in a serene oasis of rolling valleys, lush fields, and beaches such as Nasugbu and Laiya to enjoy the cool breeze and shimmering sand. Every morning, we woke up at dawn to watch the silhouettes of local fishermen ready their nets for a day at sea. I was always in awe of these men as they hauled the nets, and filled their buckets with their catch, while remaining in high spirits, smiling and laughing as they went along despite the demands of their trade.
We then visited our relatives, who lived in the nearby town. They own a school supplies shop fronting their home, where three generations of the family reside. Their humble abode is small and simple, just big enough for us to fit inside. But as soon as we entered, they welcomed us cordially with a stunning array of grilled seafood, spareribs, puto**, ripe bananas, mangos, and santol***.
What I had witnessed in Batangas was a spectacle. Manila is fast paced and thriving; but here, in a small town, there are kind, optimistic people, happier than any urbanite I had seen. I saw that the country is an elaborate and diverse mix of two worlds: old and new, rich and poor – just as intricate as any living thing. And for the first time in my life, I truly wanted to be a part of it.
Travel is often misconstrued as a luxury that requires both time and treasure. But it is the essence of travel – our unique ability to perceive a situation outside our own – that distinguishes humanity. I am proud to have participated in our experiment; and if I could, I would gladly do it all over again.
* Refurbished models of the surplus jeeps from WWII that are now a common form of public transportation in metropolitan Philippines.
** A Filipino rice cake.
*** A juicy tropical fruit native to Southeast Asia.
- Ayala Museum website:
- Shangri-La Plaza website:
- Batangas City website:
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