I guess I’ve been away from home and the Philippines for a long time that a lot of things have changed. And will continue to do so in my absence.
It has been years since I had a vacation but I haven’t talked about my experience. So here I am sharing my observation.
Take note this post is not a rant nor all about negative feedback. I am merely describing the conditions and places that have tremendous change since I left ages ago.
(I have a dual citizenship now so that means I’ve been away for a long time but still act like a newcomer always curious of what to discover in Calgary or wherever I am.)
What the Heat!
It was summer when I went home and spring in Canada so I wore a shirt and khaki pants. I brought most of my light clothing with me and some hand-me-down for my sibling.
But nothing can prepare me for the hot weather. I knew summer is hot in the Philippines but I didn’t expect that it will get worst.
What happened with the climate? I keep telling that this is the effect of climate change.
In Canada I noticed that it isn’that cold in winter than it used to be. Summer is less hot and shorter; it gets cold by end of summer, too soon, according to my winter-fearing skin.
What I did to adapt to the weather?
1. Wore borrowed shorts. I don’t wear shorts even in summer in Canada. It’s always sweatpants and hoodies and socks so I basically look like someone who is ready to take a nap any time. I do comb my hair, though sometimes it doesn’t seem like it. Comfy clothes, sound sleep.
Bless my sister who has lots of shorts to lend me. She even added walking shorts to her closet which used to be filled with pants and shirts. I can still fit in her clothes. How lucky are her clothes.
2. Ditched the lotion. I brought sunscreen with me and that’s the only thing I put on my skin (and foundation). Body lotion felt sticky for my skin that finally sweat after a long time. My armpits are the only parts of my body that sweat in winter wonderland or in steam room.
3. Stayed hydrated. I am a pack rat. My backpack is my travel buddy; it always has my bottle water. To stay hydrated, I drink water often on vacation but noticed that I seldom have to go in the washroom which is a good thing because I had to pay in order to use a washroom in one of the malls in Manila.
4. Protected the eyes with sunglasses. I used to think that sunglasses is only for achieving a cool look. Pang porma lang.
As an immigrant I realized the importance of wearing sunglasses to protect eyes especially in winter when the snow reflects UV rays from the sun. Don’t drive without sunglasses. The sunlight can literally block the view.
Turned on the aircon. I requested to furnish my sister’s room with aircon because I don’t have my own room in a house my parents and I bought together. The cold felt so good and unfamiliar as if I never curse the harsh winter. The irony of temperature.
5. Took a bath every day. I shower twice a day. If I didn’t go out a lot, I might had a bath midday. I use the electric kettle to boil water because it’s faster and save gas.
My effort mitigated the heat but based on my experience I will avoid going home in summer and rainy season. Christmas would be a perfect time to be reunited but not for the pocket.
Are You Sure It’s Free?
Before I went home, I asked on Reddit about where are the affordable (or free) places to visit in Manila.
The National Museum of Natural History was highly recommended and it’s FREE. What? How? Why?
I can’t believe my eyes that such a beautiful place has no entrance fee. My mom, aunt, sibling, and I went there before spending a night at Sofitel Hotel.
If only I can stretch time, I’ll visit more places in Manila from my list.
- National Museum of the Philippines
- National Museum of Anthropology
- National Museum of Fine Arts
- Intramuros (we made it to Fort Santiago, a section of Intramuros or Walled City)
- Manila Museum
- Binondo (food trip)
In my next vacation, I’ll visit the places on my list. Fine arts is my priority; I want to see The Spolarium by Juan Luna.
It was my hobby in college to stare at the mural of Carlos “Botong” Francisco at the chapel. The proportion, magnanimity, and technique are astounding that all I could do was sigh. And sigh in between bewilderment.
Going Up Up Up
Seriously! I paid 70 pesos for a plain Gardenia bread. And 200 pesos for a small Off lotion because we planned to go hiking which didn’t pan out so we went instead to Intramuros.
Because I’m a vegetarian and wouldn’t miss eating in Jollibee, I had palabok, my all time favourite.
The taste (if I still remember it) is the same except, again the price of 150 ish pesos surprised me. I can’t remember if I had soda though; cold drink is my Kryptonite. There’s no way I’m going to spend my vacation in bed or hospital (and pay out of pocket).
Why everything seems so expensive?
I shifted my budget mentality in Pesos so as not to overspend. But I had to convert the price in Canadian dollars to somehow enjoy spending within a budget.
After arriving from a 5-day Siem Reap trip, we stopped by for breakfast in 7/11 and spent 25 pesos for a noodle. And also paid for plastic spoon. This remind me to buy spork and add it to my zero-waste travel essential.
Amidst all of these somewhat splurging, I can’t pay with my Home Trust Preferred Visa Card in fast food. Why is that?
A food chain as big as Jollibee doesn’t accept credit card while franchises made it here in Canada. We have two Jollibees in Calgary.
Get Lost in the Crowd
Gremlins are everywhere! Call Ghostbusters.
I may have turned into a hermit that when I saw influx of people, I want to run in other direction.
The malls were packed of shoppers. It’s been a long time since I experienced waiting in line just to get inside a mall and have my backpack check with a stick (which reminds me of LRT and MRT commute).
I didn’t spend a lot of time in malls because the movement of crowd was giving me headache. We went to National Bookstore to buy a pilot pen which used to be my fave yet the current version is disappointing.
Add pilot photo
We ate at Tokyo Tokyo. Sulit! And bought a Casio watch (on sale) for our dad. His old watch bought by my sibling on Amazon.com has kicked the bucket.
For a little bit of perspective, it is possible to fit a mall in Canada in an SM mall and still have lots of space left.
Also malls are favourite destinations of Filipinos especially in summer to cool off and get free Wifi.
In a nutshell, I often go to grocery than mall since I started minimalism. Seeing green spaces in park is my favourite free past time.
Wait. I must say that city, for me, is overcrowded.
So although we bought a house in the city, someday I want to have a sustainable house in province. I want a solar panel, organic garden, vermicompost and everything else that I will need to live off the land and nurture nature.
Staying in the Trend
I observed that Canada being a first world country is lagging behind in terms of transportation, mobile phones, and malls.
On the other hand, Filipinos are always following the fashion trend which doesn’t surprise me. But it did surprise me to see some brands in the street.
While waiting at the airport on our way to Cambodia, I was surprised and happy to see travelers using Cabinzero bag. More people opt for light travelling.
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In the street, I also saw Fjällräven and Herschel backpack which I used to fancy. My bag enthusiasm is diverted to travel bags.
As a student, I used to dream of having Jansport bag, a typical bag here in Canada for students. No biggie. Teenagers doesn’t seem to mind whether they use a branded bag. They don’t even mind bundling up in cold weather.
More Changes Ahead
I had a culture shocked in Canada and didn’t realized I’ll experience the same thing upon returning home.
The Philippines will continue to change especially in infrastructure and transportation sector which I am looking forward to in my next vacation.
I am excited to have a subway ride in the Philippines. We don’t have it here yet in Canada.
As an immigrant, I get to experience the best and not-so bad of both world.
Reminder to myself: always be open-minded. Become a citizen of the world, appreciative and respectful of the people , culture, and country.
What are the changes in the Philippines that you like or dislike the most?