by Rosalie Chan, Web & News Editor
It’s been a very busy week, mostly consisting of going out with my aunt and also seeing other family members. On Tuesday, Auntie Myra and I went to Makati, a newer and more modern city near Manila. She showed me around Ayala Avenue and a park called Ayala Triangle, and then had breakfast at Jollibee’s, a major fast food chain in the Philippines. After that, we visited a new children’s museum called the Mind Museum, and many schoolchildren were there on a field trip. In the Philippines, students begin school in June and end around March. In the afternoon, we went to see a free Italian movie at the mall called “The Last Kiss,” and it was very well-made. We did some shopping before I returned home.
On Wednesday, I visited two churches with my grandma and Auntie Myra: St. Padre Pio Chapel and the Antipolo Church, dedicated to Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. St. Padre Pio is known for healing, and the origin Our Lady of Antipolo dates back to the times of Spanish colonization. Then my grandma and I went to my great aunt and uncle’s house, and we went out to dinner with them and other relatives at Banana Leaf Café, where we ate various types of Asian food on a banana leaf.
On Thursday Auntie Myra and I went to a hill called Tagaytay. The drive on the way up and down was beautiful, as we had a view of the mountains, as well as Taal Volcano and Lake. We had breakfast there and then visited various churches and shrines: Mountain of Salvation, Chapel on the Hill and the shrine of Our Lady, Mediatrix of Grace, at a Carmelite Monastery in Lipa. It is believed that Mary appeared at the Mountain of Salvation and the Carmelite Monastery. The Chapel on the Hill was very small, but the floor was shaped like a labyrinth, where visitors can pray the labyrinth prayer as they walk along the path of the labyrinth.
We finally reached La Luz Resort at Laiya, where we ate lunch and waded at the beach. Living in Chicago, the only beaches are the ones at the lake. The beach at Laiya was at the ocean, so the waters were so blue and the waves were so high that even though I only waded up to my ankles, I got all wet.
On Friday I went to Laguna with Auntie Myra and my cousin Johanna. It was a long drive down south, but I had a great time with them. We had a big breakfast at a garden café, which was built with traditional Filipino architecture and design. We also ate traditional Filipino food such as adobe chicken, garlic rice, longeniza sausages and a dessert made of plantains wrapped in fried dough. I was so full afterwards. Our next stop was Pandin Lake. We walked through the forest and then rode a raft on the river. The water was green, and I heard so many sounds from the lake: birds chirping, women laughing, crickets, cicadas, water, roosters and more. On the boat, we also drank coconut juice from a coconut and ate the coconut flesh. Normally, in Filipino restaurants, coconut juice, known as buko juice, is served by cutting the top of a coconut and sticking a straw into a hole. My dad always likes to order that and then eat the flesh after he finished drinking the juice. However, we drank directly from the coconut, without a straw.
On the way to Liliw, Laguna, we stopped at two historical sites, including a church that dates from the Spanish colonial times. We ate lunch at a café called Arabela, which fuses Italian and Filipino cooking. I loved how the ceiling of the restaurant was very low, so I felt tall when walking around in the restaurant. After lunch, we went shoe shopping, and I bought a pair of sandals. We spent the afternoon at Pila, where we drove around the square and saw the ancestral houses bordering it, built with Filipino architecture. We also visited a small museum and the church there. We ended our trip to Laguna with merienda, or snack, at Kamayan sa Palaisdaan. We had snacks such as paco ferns and suso snails cooked in coconut milk and halo-halo, a Filipino desert made of crushed ice and other ingredients such as beans, coconut jello, plantains and ice cream. The drive home was long due to the slow traffic during rush hour on a Friday night. Cars, jeepneys, tricycles and trucks always clog the roads in the cities. By the way, a jeepney is a mode of transportation that is popular in the Philippines, and it works similar to a bus, except that it can stop wherever passengers want to be picked up or dropped off. A tricycle is a motorcycle which has a passenger seat with another wheel, hence, a tricycle.
I got to wake up later for once on Saturday. I went shopping at 168 with Auntie Irene and my cousins Mark and Brian. 168 is basically like a huge flea market where everything is super cheap, but it’s indoors. We then went out to eat with their family and walked around the mall a bit. At night, I went to see the opera “Madame Butterfly” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines with some relatives. Even though I fell asleep during some parts, I’ve never seen an opera before, and I actually was interested to see what happened towards the end.
On Sunday, I went to Mass with Auntie Irene, Uncle Benito, my cousins Mark, Tricia and Brian, and my grandma at the church, which is also the location of the crypt where my grandfather is buried. Before Mass, we visited his grave and prayed.
For lunch, we ate at a buffet called Circles at Shangri-La Hotel. There was too much food to try, with plenty of desserts, as well as food from the Philippines, China, India, Italy, etc. In the afternoon, we went to see the show “Rock of Ages” along with Auntie Myra and Uncle Lito The actors and actresses, who were famous in the Philippines, sang really well, and there were plenty of funny parts. Overall, it was much better than the movie.
We went home after that, but at night, Uncle Manchic, Auntie Mae and my cousin Avery stopped by at my grandma’s house a bit. I’m spending today at my grandma and Uncle Kendrik’s house packing everything into one luggage. I’ve had such a great time in the Philippines visiting places and being with my relatives, and it all went by so fast.
I enjoyed visiting the Philippines from a new perspective because last time I visited the Philippines, I was only 13. This time around, I learned more about the culture of the Philippines. While the Philippines has its own distinct culture, it is also a mix of other influences from countries such as Spain. Visiting all the churches, I’ve learned more about Catholicism in the Philippines, where churches tend to have higher attendance. Talking to my cousins, I’ve learned about schools in the Philippines, which are very different from the U.S. For example, the school year goes from June to March. Also, at high schools and elementary schools, teachers go to the different classrooms, unlike in the U.S., where students go to different classrooms for different classes. Also, in the Philippines, students in high school and elementary school do not choose their classes and stay with the same class for pretty much the entire day.
In addition, many people live in poverty. According to the World Bank, 26.5 percent of people in the Philippines live at or below the national poverty line. Whether driving through the city or countryside, one can see many people living in small shacks made of scrap metal or wood. Also, when going to the countryside, I saw many small schools that were literally just buildings with only desks inside. I always took school and all its equipment, facilities and classes for granted, but seeing this made me feel thankful. I will be teaching at a school in the Southern countryside when I go to Taiwan, and while the school I’m going to will be better equipped, it will still be very different from the schools we’re accustomed to in the U.S. I hope volunteering in Taiwan will be a good learning experience for myself and the students I will teach.
I still can’t believe I’m leaving for Taiwan tomorrow. It’s crazy to think that I will be spending the next month and a half in Taiwan—it hasn’t really hit me yet. Even though I’ve had such a busy schedule, it was definitely great to see my relatives in the Philippines again, and I will miss them all.