For those of you who don’t know, I’m half Indian and half Filipina. I proudly call myself an American, but in terms of ethnicity, I identify more with Filipinos. This Spring Break, I flew to the Philippines to visit relatives in anticipation of the time constraints coming up in my program.
I typically fly from Chicago to Savannah by myself. I’ve done international travel to Spain with a friend, but I have never attempted international travel all by myself before. I didn’t think it would be a big deal. It’d be 20 hours of flying, a few annoying hours during layovers, then BAM– I’d be in the Philippine capital, Manila. Friends, I need to stop assuming that life can actually be simple 😉 Maybe it’s because I have magnets in my hands that break every machine I touch, but the flight was nowhere near as easy as I anticipated.
Let’s do the International Shuffle! My Cathay Pacific flight out of Chicago was cancelled (due to engine malfunctions) for 24 hours after we waited 4 just to get through check-in and security lines. The plane finally took off the next day, the airport promising that during the
course of the 15 hour flight, they’d rebook us to connecting flights. We landed in Hong Kong, where we found out that no one had been rebooked. By this time, I had met several passengers from my same flight, and I was “adopted” by a group of Chicagoan Filipinos– two free masons, a business man, an engineer, and a retired political hero. Together, we managed to make it to a hotel in Hong Kong at 1 AM. The next morning, after an engaging discussion about the free masons, I wandered outside into a public park where people were doing Tai Chi, sword dances, and fan dances. There were even bonsai trees! Despite the fact that relatives in both the States and the Philippines were panicking over my international delay, I can’t deny that this stopover was fun.
So we’re on the plane again, and it’s speeding up to take off for Manila. Speed up, speed up, speed up– HARD BRAKE. And another 3 hour delay to fix the landing gear.
All in all, my International Shuffle was a nightmare. But it all became worth it once I touched ground in the Philippines.
Philippines. Many people can’t point to the Philippines on a map. A few people I had met didn’t even know what continent it belonged to. Some hadn’t even heard of it. It’s an archipelago right under China.
What do I like about the Philippines itself?
1) When you picture a tropical paradise, what do you think of– coconuts? White sand? Beautiful beaches? Lovely tanned natives? Food? Massages? The Philippines offers all of that, and at the glorious exchange rate of US dollars to Philippine pesos, you can indulge in a massage and excellent meal for a lot cheaper than you expected.
2) Farms. When I stay in the provincial areas of the Philippines, I will often wake up to the sound of roosters crowing either next door or right outside my window. You will see all kinds of livestock, from cows to pigs, from goats to chickens. Stray roosters are completely common.
3) Fish markets! I drag my poor aunty to the fish market when I visit Bohol (a common and recommended place to visit) because I am so fascinated by what I find there. There’s not just beautiful, colorful fish. They’ve got stingrays, eels, squid, mussels, crabs, and chicken spleens just laying out on counters for customers to inspect for themselves. The first time I brought my camera to the fish markets, even the shopkeepers couldn’t not help but giggle and smile. I’m such a shameless tourist.
4) Tarsiers! The smallest primate in the world, these are found in Bohol. We used to be able to have them perch on our shoulders (they look like Gremlin-E.T creatures), but because of the stress of being handled by so many tourists per day, the tarsiers are now allowed to sleep in trees while people quietly take pictures of them.
5) Family. I’m obligated to say that ;)I’ve got a ton of family who welcomes me with open arms when I touch base in Manila, Dumaguete, Bohol, and Santa Cruz. I love them all.
6) Food. The Filipinos can cook anything that does or does not move… and do they can do it WELL.
Because the trip lasted a good week and a half, I don’t want to bore you with awesome details, but it was a fun trip, I took lots of pictures, met with almost all of my relatives there, and ate a lot of good, good food. Now, I am back in Chicago. Roommate is gone for the month of May, so it’s just me. Looks like I might have to investigate some new adventure spots here in my own city this summer 😉
Hope you are all doing well! Thanks for reading!