My First 48 in the Philippines
I have a very rare opportunity to put an entry together now that I'm seizing. Updates of any kind are going to be rarity on the Philippines leg of my trip for two reasons: 1) staying with family means time to yourself disappears in favour of meeting your hundreds of relatives who each have a list in their back pocket of where you should go, and 2) Internet? What Internet? The country that sends the highest number of text messages per second has the second-slowest wifi in the world. This is one of the first facts about the Philippines I was given on the car ride to Quezon City from the airport two nights ago. And it didn't take long before I found out was true. But let's backtrack slightly:
3 days ago I was finishing up my writing retreat in Tel Aviv, Israel with Pink Pangea. It was a really cool experience. I didn't put up a lot of written updates because I was given writing assignments every day, and to write about them felt very redundant. I met a handful of really inspiring women, which is what I had expected to happen. But in short, I found out I have a lot to offer myself and the retreat was incredibly validating in that regard, which I wasn't expecting. Rewarding, yes. I wasn't sure how Israel really made me feel as a first-time visitor. My experience certainly had its highlights but unlike the women I met there (all but two of whom were Jewish, might I add) I didn't feel any connection to the place. I loved the food and the beaches the most. Oh, and riding a plane in from Amsterdam full of gorgeous Israeli men was a great first impression too. 3 days, 3 planes, and a 5-hour time difference later, though, I know exactly why I went to Israel - what going there meant for me.
Flying out of Israel was a nightmare. I had a 12.5h flight that involved two layovers - Tel Aviv to Amman, Jordan; Amman to Doha, Qatar; and finally an eight-hour stretch from Doha to Manila, Philippines. That's not 12.5 hours. Not when I left Tel Aviv at midnight on a Saturday and showed up in Manila three hours late on what ended up being a Monday morning. Oh, but the plot thickens. Lapit m'nga, kaibigan (come closer, friends).
My friend Sara, who I met on the retreat in Israel, accompanied me to the Ben Gurion airport on Saturday night. We planned to take the train but ran into trouble when we got there and found out the trains weren't running on a regular schedule because of Shabbat. It was at this point, when we knew we had to head back upstairs to find a taxi, that I absentmindedly got rid of my train ticket thinking I wouldn't need it anymore. I did - to get out of the train platform area and back outside the station. Sara had to buy me another ticket 😣 then once we finally did get a cab, the driver charged us 170 NIS which was a massive ripoff and we didn't think we had enough cash, since both of us had spent the day trying to rid ourselves of our extra unneeded Shekels. We ended up making the fare between us, albeit with a lot of coins. We both rushed off to make our flights on opposite sides of the departures terminal.
My first flight to Jordan was only 25 minutes long. I was out of it though. It was a pretty large plane that was less than half booked, and what I remember about it before I dozed off to sleep was turbulence. I thought I was riding a rollercoaster through the sky. Funny thing is there was no announcement for turbulence, yet on my flight to Manila, when they announced turbulence I couldn't feel a thing. In this case I felt everything. And it was not particularly pleasant.
I did manage, however, to snap some photos of aerial Tel Aviv slightly clouded before the turbulence got really bad. That along with my three boarding passes. But I don't have those pictures now. Not those, not the ones from earlier in the day when my other friend Jane and I had lunch in Old Jaffa and dined over the Rocks of Andromeda, and not Sara's phone number which I got her to put in my phone before we parted ways. I don't have any of these things because my phone disappeared on this brutal 25 minute flight. Not because someone snatched it from my seat pocket during the 20 minutes I was napping. But because I left it in the seat pocket - or it got lost in security. I don't actually know what happened. But the irony is that once I got through security, the first thing I went looking for was a new portable phone charger because I had found out earlier that day that the one I had got left behind in our last hotel. When I found one, i also bought a new selfie stinck for the one I left behind in Amsterdam. It wasn't until I made my way to the LG charging station next to my gate that I found out my phone was missing. The entire purpose of the charger, the selfie stick, and... well, everything. My phone was my life. And I realized I was about to fly into the middle of nowhere, and ultimately to a country I'd never been to as a coherent human to meet people I hadn't ever met since becoming a coherent human. I was totally fucked. I walked to my gate and I started laughing. Not because if I didn't laugh, I'd cry, but because of all the Mary fails I've ever committed in my life this was the most ironic. I was counting my blessings that I didn't lose all the photos from my trip, because I had everything else on iCloud, and I could see all my photos on my laptop. I was a little sad about losing the photos from my last day in Israel, and that I had no way to visually document my experience of traveling to the Philippines. Writing this entry now on my new phone, that I bought second-hand from a mall kiosk, I really miss that phone. Even though I have all my notes, photos, contacts (minus Sara) and reminders, it isn't the same. But I really am grateful. And the remaining 19 hours of my journey to Manila were really memorable as a result - I felt like I saw everything in all of its colours. I'd tell you I wouldn't trade that for my phone but that's a lie. If I was more responsible I wouldn't have had to make that compromise. No grand resolution here, folks, Mary is a fucking idiot sometimes.
When I got to Doha I used the free wifi to get on my laptop and update Facebook with the status of my connectivity. I told my cousin, who was picking me up at the airport with her kids and husband, that I lost my phone and she couldn't believe my stupidity (but didn't use those words 😜). She also told me I could buy a new one for cheap once I got here, so I felt a little better after that. Three weeks into my ten-week adventure and I've already replaced ALL of my electronics and electronic accessories. Headphones in Amsterdam, portable charger/selfie stick in Jordan, and my iPhone in the Philippines. Unfuckingbelievable Mary. But yeah. I can take pictures again. So that's cool.
Now it's 3:25am and I've officially been in the Philippines for 2 nights. It's hot as fuck here. It isn't even "summer" anymore but it's like I'm trapped inside a hot yoga studio 24/7. I can't do hot yoga, btw- migraines. It hasn't happened yet, but my unhappy head makes me want to sleep all the time. That isn't helping me adjust to the time change. It's only 5 hours from Israel but flying all night and day really didn't do anything good for adjusting to Asia time. But I do know why I went to Israel now. It prepared me in a lot of ways to come here. As a Filipino-Canadian, I've been chastised my whole life for not coming here to visit. Yet I've also been warned about other Fil-Cans who have about the culture shock and how much it will fuck with you. I'm good. Really. I'm having a good time here in spite of the consequences of my own stupidity and being acclimatized to much colder weather than this. But I was ready to come here, mentally. I don't really know what I was signing myself up for and the development of this part of my trip happened mostly organically. I know I wouldn't have considered it if I wasn't already going to Israel, so for all the "meh"s and "*sigh* f'real?"s I had in Israel, my time in the Holy Land led me back to my roots. The culture shock is real, 100%, but I'm handling it better than I thought I would thanks to the seven days I previously spent burning in the desert. And okay. I'll talk about the Philippines now.
My cousin, her family, and I are leaving on a road trip to Bicol shortly. We're at my aunt's house right now, which is how I have wifi that actually works. My cousin's husband is sleeping in the next room to get ready for the long stretch ahead. Bicol is where my mom's family is from, so I'm really looking forward to getting to see it. I don't know my mom outside of her Canadian realtor self, but so far everyone tells me I'm a lot like her. I'm grateful to be hearing that now and taking it as the honour that it is-like the single floor ticket to Drake I bought while in Israel, that's a bigger accomplishment to me than what booking the plane ticket felt like.
It's hard for me to put into words what it's like to meet my family that I never met now as a 25 year old woman. I hear their stories and it's like they've been an active part of my life forever because already, just 2 days in, I'm seeing how they've shaped me and the dynamics of the family that I do know. I wish I had words for you to describe being in a country where everyone looks like me, when I've spent my whole life questioning my identity without physical role models, and without a Fil-Can community of friends to grow up with. I wish I could tell you how much it saddens me to know that growing up without Filipino pride is the mainstream experience of those of us who grow up abroad. Those words will come. But for now I'll tell you I'm grateful. I'm grateful to be here, alone, supported and loved, and I look forward to the next 19 days chasing waterfalls and wifi. Until next time!