Who would have ever thought that I'd find myself back in the Philippines for the second time in just 5 months, after having not been there in roughly 12 years before 2016? Yes, maybe my girlfriend working there for an entire academic year was enough of an incentive to visit, especially before she left back for the US, but being able to see family that I didn't get to spend much time with (back from my visit in February) and having the opportunity to immerse in a beautiful culture that both of my parents grew up into were the reasons that ultimately led me to coming back. This time, however, Christina was done with work and had already been doing some traveling with family and friends, so we were ready to take on the Philippines and even a little bit of Hong Kong [which may be viewed by clicking here] during my three week trip to Asia.
Throughout the entirety of this trip, one prevailing thought kept running through my mind. This is real life. The tranquility of Ifugao and its mesmerizing rice terraces, the constant noise, hustle, and bustle in the city of Manila, the beautiful beaches and rumbling thunderstorms of Pangasinan, and so on. Not only was it hard to believe that my parents spent a chunk of their lives in this beautiful country (both are from Manila and immigrated to the United States in their teenage years), but I also couldn't fully grasp how amazingly generous and loving my family that I still had here in the Philippines was, despite our little contact and communication in the past. After Christina and I were able to spend a handful of days with them and experience how things were, I felt a deeper and more intimate connection with them after saying our goodbyes. Again, I was reminded that this is real life. I'm already looking forward to the next time I'll have the opportunity to visit, and the new (and old) stories I'll be able to share. Most of all, however, I couldn't get over how blessed I truly am to have the opportunities that I have. Being here reminded me to take a step back and allow things to flow at a more organic pace, humbling me from the moment I landed. We often get so caught up with social media, our own needs and wants, and ultimately our own personal, confined "bubble", that we forget what else is happening outside of our world - even with relatives and friends that we don't keep in contact with often. This travel experience definitely left me speechless, turned me into a storyteller, and humbled me enough to feel the urge to share with you all.
Special thanks to Kuya Wilson, Kuya Mulin, Ate Kat, Kuya Ronald, Kuya Mark, Tita Jing, Tito Mak, Ian, Maika, Maji, Juin & Reg, Jon & his family, and my dad's side of the family for the hospitality, laughs, and great times. Those are what made up the bulk of Christina and I's three weeks in the Philippines -- the moments that can't be explained by a mere glance of a photo, but rather the ones that we will keep in our hearts. Thank you all for reminding me, simply, that this is real life.