REAL WORLD TOUR: PHILIPPINES

I know these recaps are a few months late but some stories are just too important to completely miss out on retelling.

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My time in the Philippines was short and bittersweet.

The first half was spent in Pasay and Manila, which are predominantly urban hubs compared to the rest of the country’s towns. We also stopped by Divisoria, which is known for its more local-oriented markets. Traffic congestion, shopping, condominiums. Enough to make both LA and NY seem tolerable. It’s amazing though to see how a non-Western country prioritizes the entertainment/consumption economy.

The last time I was in the Philippines, I spent a lot of time in the province or exploring nature. I didn’t do much of that this time around and it hurt a little, but it gives me more reason to return again soon.

Keeping things positive though, one highlight was my dinner at Purple Yam Malate with Mom and my baby brother. Compared to the Brooklyn location, where Lolo Romy is usually found sitting with patrons as they eat meals he prepared himself, this location is more of a training center/culinary lab based out of Lola Amy’s childhood home. Also similarly, the restaurant serves as a symbol of cultural advocacy through the medium of food. All ingredients are sourced nothing short of fresh and local. They only take reservations so that the menu can be decided beforehand and tailored in advance for the guests. Perhaps some recipes may be repeated over the course of time, but no experience is every completely identical to the last, and no experience is ever lacking in tasteful execution.

Check out pictures below from the meal.

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We left for San Pablo City towards the end of our visit.

Laguna is a beautiful region centered around a major lake (Laguna does mean “lake” after all). It is where my grandmother’s family is from and where my great-grandmother and cousins still live.

It was so nice to reunite across the world with my grandparents, who live in Florida.

My cousins have grown up significantly since my last visit 6 years ago. Thankfully, our bond is still there. We come from very different worlds, but in San Pablo, we are all home. It is a humble life. My family always goes above and beyond to show us around the town and how to find the best deals for groceries at the local palengke (“market”). Their homecooked meals will always be packed with life, just like the first bite into a freshly baked, hot pan de sal at 3AM in the morning (also from a bakery nearby).

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I was so happy to see my Lola. My great-grandmother is a strong, fierce little woman with a sharp tongue and sense of humor to match. I like to think I got the same qualities from her. I pray for her health continually and to grow as gracefully as she has. It made me sad to only really spend a day with her during this trip, but I know it gives me more reason to return soon.

 

I also bonded more with my cousin Bri. She is about a year younger than me but very bright and adventurous. She is an independent spirit with a good heart, and sometimes I see myself in her, too.

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The hardest part about all of this was leaving. I was at the airport 2 hours away from my province, for 12 hours before my 14 hour flight even began to board. I am not a big fan of idle time.

In the terminal, I met two women. One: an army vet from SoCal. She was a few years older than me and married to a white man. They have two kids. She had traveled alone to the Philippines to see her Lola, but said she had started to miss America within the first few days of being away. The second woman was a young mom who had come to pick up her 6-year-old daughter and take her home to the US after being separated for some time. They were going to NY then settling in Florida shortly after. The daughter had never spoken to anyone in English before but her mom assured that it would be just one of many first steps to living a new and better life.

On my flight, I had the window and aisle to myself by chance. The stewardesses were really nice, especially considering I was bawling my eyes out during takeoff.

After two movies, no internet, and way too much sleep, I arrived at Heathrow airport in London and things got a little lighter. My Auntie Melanie and her family picked me up and took me home for the 10 hour layover I had. It was short, but I was glad that the loneliness of travel was lifted for a bit. We had late night tea talks. The last time they had seen me, I was 10, and their kids were babies!

I left again for the airport around 5AM, had breakfast at Wagamama, and browsed the many shops. I didn’t realize how far my terminal was for my transfer flight, however, and just like my last visit to London in 2008, I ended up running through all of Duty Free to make boarding call. This has been a literal running gag my whole life as a traveler, lol.

In 2 hours and a half, I would be in Italy.

 

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