When I went to the Philippines this past year, there were some questions I wanted answered. Anyone who knew me personally would admit that I had been a workaholic- a person who relentlessly works, inside or outside of college and part time jobs, until I was available to work on something new to fill the vacant spaces of my schedule. Although I knew a lot about my culture growing up as a child, I have always felt distant from my extended family due to the fact that I was raised differently, living away in the US. I felt like it was time to learn more about who I was, where I came from, and how my life has been intertwined with my family generation. I was ready to openly understand the life of my family in the Philippines and learn more about my grandparents, Lolo and Lola.
My trip in Bicol was heartwarming. Every time I visit, I learn so much about my family and myself that I leave the Philippines in hopes of revisiting again. Despite the illness I encountered from my last post, I was still able to explore the province of where my parents grew up. If you ever decided to visit Bicol, one of the highlights from my trip was staying at The Oriental Hotel Legazpi.
Oriental is a great name and description for this hotel. The ambiance really gives off a luxurious style that enlightens guests about Asian culture. However, I was also impressed with how they fused contemporary design into their hotel rooms, lobby, and restaurant. As a tourist, I felt right at home in the Philippines.
It all started when I had lunch with my cousins. We planned on hanging out at the mall, and I suggested eating at a restaurant that catered to everybody's food preference. I ended up ordering a chicken meal with rice and macaroni salad. Everything tasted great, and my cousins and I even ended up watching a movie afterwards. It was another typical, great day with my family. As we ended the day grocery shopping, I didn't think there would be a problem until I immediately felt like fainting in the middle of the store.
During my travels in the Philippines, it was brought to my attention that I should stop by Palawan. Although I have heard of the beautiful beaches, I have never felt obliged to go in the past years. However, that changed this summer when I flew to Puerto Princesa and explored the island! Reflecting back, visiting Palawan was a huge highlight during my trip in the country, and it was worth every single penny.
Right when I landed, I went straight to the Underground River. Some of the things I learned from my tour guide was that the Underground River was considered the newest addition to the 7 Wonders of Nature in 2012. The name of the tour spot is misleading since there is no river underneath the ground, but rather, a river inside a cave. The area is also home to exotic types of animals, such as the monkeys, eagles, and insects that are only found within the island. I really felt like I was inside of a travel channel show as I was sitting down in my tour boat waiting for the tour to begin.
When I decided to prolong my stay to the Philippines and return back from Japan, I remembered discovering the Venice Piazza in Manila through my cousin's Facebook account last year. My first reaction when I saw her photos was A) gasping for five minutes, then B) saying a combination of ,"Whaaaa?" "Wowwwww!" and "Oh my goshhhh!" put together. The beautiful design of the grand canal and gondolas made me instantly want to pay a visit in person. Needless to say, this beautiful spot in McKinley Hills was an absolute beauty that surpassed my expectations.
Easter time had an annual ritual during my childhood- my family and I would attend Easter Vigil mass, the Filipino church community would host an Easter Day picnic party, I would stuff my mouth with tons of food from the potluck, and the day would end with a toothache from all the chocolate bunnies I had consumed. It wasn't until I moved to college that I had realized that Easter wasn't that "big of a deal" with many people, even those of Christian faith. And although I regularly attended mass, prayed a lot, and was active member of my local church community, the magic of Easter had dwindled every year. It seemed as if people only cared about the Easter eggs when it came to the holiday. The lack of people celebrating Easter- the day the Lord had risen and saved us from sin, made the holiday not special to me. Thinking back, my college years were filled with stress, bad anxiety, and not so great people in my life, which had blinded me by the importance of Jesus's sacrifice. Ultimately, it was from my own suffering that made my faith uninspiring.