So I’m down to my last few hours in the Philippines. The trip has been mostly nice, a little hectic, and not very relaxing. The last bit was okay though, as I don’t get to see my family too often and I was able to make them happy by sucking up oxygen at various locations. Here’s a random rundown of the trip.
– We went to a lot of family gatherings. A lot of days were comprised of traveling to different houses, eating, karaoke singing, lather, and repeat. At first, this was extremely overwhelming for Noot. She was meetings dozens of people that were speaking a blend of English and Tagalog at a very fast pace. All my relatives were thrilled to meet her, but between not understanding most of what they were saying and the oily/non-spicy food, it was a bit much. After a while, she thought it was really cool that my uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, and nieces got together regularly. She liked the closeness of the extended family, which is very different from her family in Thailand.
– We went to a place called the Tagaytay Highlands. It sounds exotic, but it’s pretty much a country club up by a volcano. The views were beautiful. My brother rode a horse and went to the crater. Noot and I stayed with my mom, uncle, aunt, nieces, and nephews. We went to a small zoo, played some bowling, played some billiards, ate, and slept by the pool.
– I miss my parents a lot and it was nice to see them, but it was also quite difficult. My Dad has these terrible mood swings due to illness and medication. It makes him very short tempered and unreasonable at times. I pretty much shut up so as not to start anything. He got into some nasty rows with my Mom and brother though. My Mom is an overzealous scheduler. She likes to pack the days with visits and activities. It’s nice, but it’s also tiring. She wants us to see the sights and see a lot of family. It’s hard to do both and stay rested. The first few days were a whirlwind, but I was able to subtly conduct mutinies so Noot and I could sleep.
– My parents have a two-bedroom condo in Bonifacio. It’s kind of like the Irvine of Manila. There are tons of new towers going up, as well as a lot of shopping centers. My brother wasn’t able to find much outside of a McDonald’s, but if walked the other way he would have found tons more. There are so many shops opening up. There’s also a small university right down the block. It’s already pretty busy for a new area. In a year’s time it’ll be even more so.
– My uncle (a family friend that my parents spent a lot of time with in New York) owns an excellent wine cafe. The wine and food were fantastic. I can totally see dining there with P Andy and Nong Mod.
– I’m starting to really enjoy Jollibee. My brother hasn’t really enjoyed the food here and has eaten way more McDonald’s and Pizza Hut than he ought to have consumed. I’ve been trying to get him to at least eat Filipino fast food. It hasn’t worked and now I’m enjoying Champ Burgers more than I ever dreamed I would have.
– We spent one day getting check-ups and cleanings from cousin Jojo. Noot had five cavities. Reggie, Johan (more on him next), and I were clean, though I finally had the hole filled from that time I cracked a tooth on a Tums in Thailand. None of us have insurance, so that was a nice treat.
– My brother brought his friend Johan. They went to college together and are now roomies in Hawaii. He really, really, really helped my brother out a great deal when he broke his back. I’m extremely grateful my brother has a friend like him. I think of him as family now and sometimes tear up when I think about what he’s done for my brother.
– My Dad’s brother died during the trip. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a few months ago. It was sad seeing my Dad and his sister cry about it. Uncle Roland was always great to me (his family is in Union City) and always extended hospitality without being imposing. I feel bad I didn’t spend more time out there with him.
– I forgot to mention that I haven’t been here in 25 years. A lot of my cousins laughed at what a brat I was and also told some stories of how we played back then. Now lots of them have kids.
– It’s been a long time since I’ve seen my Mom have this much fun. I didn’t get to do any work out here, but it was fine since I got to make her happy by hanging out with family.
– A lot of the family gatherings have the uncles, aunts, nieces, and nephews hanging out inside with the food and karaoke. The cousins are in the backyard with the beer and cigarettes.
– Oh yeah, Cebu Pacific Airlines is crap. They have a 20 kilo limit per passenger and include carry-on luggage in their calculations. I had to pay around $130 in overweight fees.
– If anyone wants to hit up the Philippines, we can stay at my parents condo. Just say the word!