I’m going to try to take you away every Tuesday. Well not literally, I can’t afford that. *haha* For my first ‘travel tuesday’ I’ll be going about 8500 miles for the furthest trip I’ve taken so far. In April of 2004, I finally made my first trip over to my parent’s homeland. I’m Filipino, but I was born in the US and unfortunately have no more relatives to visit there. My mom, aunt and I took the trip with family friends.
The Philippines is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. It’s an archipelago with 7,107 islands. [image from merriam-webster online]
The flight was about 18 hours = 3 movies and standing and sitting and reading and sleeping… We had left the east coast at night, stopped over in Seattle and Taipei, then arrived in The Philippines in the afternoon a day ahead. The heat and humidity hit me as soon as I walked off of the plane, but I was too excited to worry much about it. I had landed in a different world. The next two weeks were a whirlwind of visiting the beautiful Island. They were so accommodating and made my first trip a wonderful memorable one.
There were people everywhere in and around the airport, people waited for their arriving parties on the other side of the road in large groups behind iron fences – they were broken up into groups that stood underneath large lettered signs for their party’s first initial of their last name. There were cars everywhere and crazy traffic, two lanes one way three the other – and in 2 seconds it would switch in another configuration… sometimes 6 lanes, on a 4 lane highway. Here’s a picture i took of a Jeepney (public transportation) from inside the van we were in. Culture shock: the poor children chancing their way through traffic to beg for money. I was so scared that some of them were going to get hit by the crazy cars driving by.
Culture shock: Male urinal on the side of the road. I heard it is very common to find these along the side of the road. I guess if there’s a lot of traffic, and you’re a guy, you can just use one of these. How crazy is that? But why it’s bright pink, I have no clue.
We started our trip in the province. We had to cross a bridge to get to where we were staying. They had a group of homes on the other side. Our house was the one at the top of the hill. The toilets would flush only by putting water in the tank first. The warm water for a shower would come from a little heat tank inside the shower. They would fish in their own little personal pond for dinner and (i can’t even write it) the chicken for lunch. This is a view of us crossing the bridge and going back to the main part of town.
The Philippine currency is called a Peso [filipino: piso]. I traded in my green dollars for some color money. The amount of bank notes I was given back made me feel like such a baller.
After a couple of days we took a trip to Boracay. We first had to get on a plane to transfer to another island, then took a van to a port where we hopped on a ferry-boat to the beach… a narrow 8 meter long wooden boat with stabilizers made of bamboo on either side = FUN! We watched the sunset and arrived on the beaches of Boracay at night.
The first hotel was pretty scary, definitely nothing i was used to. In the bathroom, there was a pipe in the wall for the shower next to the toilet and sink (no walls separating anything). The linens didn’t match and they were quite “lived in” for lack of a more descriptive word. A friend of mine who was going to school in the Philippines was also in Boracay with his friends. And since I had to get out of that lovely hotel, he met us and took us out into the Boracay night.
Walked down alternating between Beach Road and the beach, several sand castles pebble the beach. They were so amazing! We found ourselves at the “hip spot” Cocomangas. There was a pretty cool atmosphere there… music, dancing and lots of people. His friends were able to find prime seating on these raised platforms with bean bags. It was a good night with old friends and new. I’ve heard it’s not one of the best places anymore, but it was alright when we were there. My aunt was able to find more decent accommodations for us. I was thankful for a good night’s rest because it was a LONG day!
The sun was shining as we woke up for another day in Boracay. There was so much to do: mango shakes as we sat in the warm sand, swimming and snorkeling in the lukewarm clear water, falling off the Banana Boat, getting our nails done on the beach, parasailing, sneaking in time for a henna tattoo, exploring Crystal Cove caves, and some beach hopping to Balang Hai Beach. The sunsets were beautiful as well.
Back in Manila we had more time with family friends. We also visited an “Island within a Lake on an Island within a Lake on an Island”. Did you get that? Because I didn’t at first. In reference to the picture: 1 – I’m standing at the Taal Vista Hotel on the island of Luzon taking a picture of Taal Lake. 2 – Within that lake is Volcano Island (see arrow). 3 – Within Volcano Island is Crater Lake. 4 – Within that lake is Vulcan Point. *whew* Amazing, right? I sure thought so!
We spent time at different beaches. Getting my tan on.
We spent time at different malls. The SM Megamall is third largest shopping mall in the Philippines and seventh largest shopping mall in the world by area. It has 750 shops and 250 dining establishments. There are 5 levels and a basement. The mall has a maximum capacity of 4 million people!! Unreal, right? I was so tired and we didn’t even see a quarter of the whole place.
We also visited the Greenhills Shopping Center. Not as crazy as the megamall, but still crazy. There were plenty of knockoff purses, clothes, jewelry, shoes and anything else you probably could imagine. Vendors yelling “rubber shoes” [aka sneakers] to get your attention. You could barter at most stores, I never did because I’m bad at it. There were nice knockoff purses that were 1000 pesos which was about $20.
I had some of my American comforts too: McDonalds – where we were greeted with “hello ma’am welcome to McDonalds” by the cashiers as soon as we entered the restaurant. Strange. They also gave you a choice between fries and rice *hehe* Starbucks – for those with a “richer” taste in coffee.
It was a good 14 day trip. The sun was nice and hot. The food was enjoyable. The shopping was fun. The people were friendly. There were lots of stories, but then this blog would go on forever. So I will leave you at this… I enjoyed seeing my parents homeland and engaging in the culture. There are still things I want to see, so maybe I’ll be going back again sometime. : )