Jeepney engines growling all-day and all-night long. One of the most unique, abundant, and world-renowned ways for transportation in all of the Philippines. You definitely didn't visit the Philippines if you don't remember taking a ride in one of these. Oh, and don't forget those good whiffs of fresh diesel fuel burning throughout the entirety of the ride. Roosters cock-a-doodle-doo-ing as soon as the first light hits. Cockfighting, locally known as "sabong". Completely legal in the Philippines and, not to mention, extremely popular. Men walking around and yelling "taho" and "balut" in hopes of reeling in potential customers. Two well-known snacks/delicacies that cost less than $0.50 USD (~20-25 PHP). Both delicious and must-try foods to all, for both tourists and locals alike.
While this mostly portrays the city of Manila best, these are the sights, sounds, and smells of a typical morning in the Philippines. Constant hustle-and-bustle is the name of the game throughout all of the Philippines' largest and most-commercialized cities, while the slower, simpler life is depicted in most other parts of the country. Despite being in the Philippines for only six full days, I was able to experience and attain a solid grasp of the lifestyles that both had to offer. In just that short span, I was able to stay in the city of Puerto Princesa in the beautiful, lush island of Palawan to go on the Underground River and Honda Bay Island Hopping tours during the beginning of my trip before flying back to Luzon, where I had the opportunities to wander the congested and traffic-filled streets of Makati, snorkel and explore a beach with USF Casa Bayanihan's staff and students in Batangas, tour the beautiful campus of Ateneo de Manila University, shop around the "young and hip" area of Katipunan, venture through the unique markets of Quiapo, and visit my dad's side of the family in Valenzuela.
A friend of mine once told me, back when I was studying at the University of San Francisco, that the Filipino people she had met and interacted with during her two-week long immersion trip to the Philippines were some of the kindest, respectful, helpful, and loving people that she had ever met. Not only that, but they were also incredibly generous and willing to give all that they had, despite not having very much to begin with. After spending less than a week and having had a few opportunities to interact with the locals, her words definitely hit home and confirmed that for me. The Philippines was an absolute culture shock in that regard, as if I hadn't been exposed to culture shock since the beginning of this entire trip (starting with my first week in Japan) already!
I'd like to give a special thanks to my girlfriend, Christina, and the rest of the Casa Bayanihan staff and students for the hospitality during my short stay while I was visiting them for part of my trip. The program is absolutely wonderful, to say the least, and although I admit to counting down the days that Christina returns back to the US, I'm beyond excited for the students partaking in Casa Bayanihan this semester and the lessons and blessings that await them. I'd also like to give a special thanks to my dad's side of the family for being always willing to drive, cook, and help out in general. I'd like to thank them most of all, though, for their unconditional love and hospitality as this reminded me that home is truly where the heart is. Despite not seeing everyone for almost twelve years, it felt like time hadn't passed and everything simply felt right.
I do wish that I had the opportunity to take more pictures on this trip than I was able to (especially portraits), but being in this beautiful country for only six full days and spending half of them visiting my girlfriend, Casa Bayanihan, and my dad's side of the family didn't present me with a ton of opportunities. I do know that the memories and experiences alone were completely worth it, though, despite not being captured on a digital medium, and I wouldn't trade those moments for anything. Like what I had said about Japan, I'm already looking forward to the next time I get to come back here.