Every three years I get the amazing opportunity to squish myself in coach seating between overly excited tourists awaiting their new adventure. As long and claustrophobic as these plane rides are, I would not trade my trips to the Philippines for anything. From them I have gained an appreciation for diversity and culture as well as an international outlook that will benefit me for the rest of my life.
The summer of 2010 I was able to travel to the Philippines with my family. After the long fourteen-hour plane ride, Hawaiian Airlines landed in Manila. This city is like a mix of cereal with it variety of people and classes. As my family exits the air-conditioned airport, we enter the hot and sticky atmosphere that engulfs the many islands nestled on the equator. I meet up with my relatives that live here, my family that is on the other side of the world.
As we drive out of the city, I glance to see eloquent hotels and casinos on one side but on the other side I see the poverty that strikes my core every time. The squatters have nothing; children play in mud and once they reach a certain age are forced to help their parents with the vendors that line the street. Every trip I try to do something to help—this year I brought my extra clothes to give to my Grandmother’s church for distribution. After an hour of traffic, Manila traffic, we finally reach my uncle’s house. His three story house is my home away from home, and contains all aspects of a family gathering: the warmth, the noise, and the most important to Filipinos—the food. Filipinos live by the motto, “others eat to live, we live to eat” and my family is no exception. Our arrival is greeted with a feast of traditional Filipino foods. The warm smells and tastes overwhelmed us for the night. The next couple days are filled with stories, swimming, and adjusting to the time change as we get ready for our big excursion.
After a week of relaxing my family, cousins, aunts and uncles head up north to my mother’s hometown of Batac, Ilocos Norte, Philippines where my grandmother was waiting for us. Our first stop was Anvaya Cove, a new resort resting on the bright blue ocean and warm white sand. Each day was filled with some variety of aquatic activities. For example snorkeling to see giant clams, going on a banana boat ride, or even just swimming in one of the many pools. After three nights we continued our quest. We drove for hours upon end and would pass farms and cities. After a full day of driving we stopped at a friend’s house. The owner was a long time judge and a World War II vet. That night I listened to his stories of the Japanese invasion, how he joined a guerrilla army, how he witnessed his family’s death in the Bataan March, and how he wrote articles to inform others about the Japanese. I was awe stuck by his stories and the power and depth he told them with; it is a story I will never forget and to this day moves me. That morning we woke up early to continue our journey.
After several days we arrived at my grandmother’s house and were welcomed with more food and the warmth of family. This is just one incident of my many trips to the Philippines, each one contains their own stories, food, laughter, history, and warmth. And each one has taught me to further grow.
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