1. i am in bologna 2. it's not as hot here as it was in the philippines... yet 3. i've been here for a whole day and i haven't had gelato.. what's wrong with me? 4. oh right, my lymph nodes have been swollen for the past 3 days and hurt a lot 5. i have a cute little flat that i share with two girls: georgina and mija 6. learning latin is like doing review for greek 7. except in another language and with an alphabet that's less pretty 8. right behind our living complex there's a shopping complex called "centro lame" 9. i have been watching a lot of the world cup 10. 27 days until home (picture via ashley from vi.sualize.us)
on our way back from laguna, we took a short detour to tagaytay to visit lake taal with its volcano. the taal volcano is the smallest in the world and still active. i remember coming here with my dad 11 years ago, but it's still beautiful as ever. the elevation is fairly high up so there's a really pleasant breeze as you look across the lake.
after checking out the view, we stopped at a little restaurant for merienda. if you're familiar with spanish at all, you'll know that merienda is a little afternoon snack in between lunch and dinner. and it's awesome. you usually eat some bread or a little pastry, but you can pretty much have whatever you want. we opted for some traditional filipino dessert: halo halo, bibingka, caramelized sweet banana (can't remember the tagalog name) and turon. the perfect afternoon pick-me-up.
when i was 7 years old, i spent june-december in the philippines with my mom, brother, and all of our family in mandaluyong. it was my first time in the philippines and to me, a really important experience in my childhood. being in the philippines as an adult 14 years later makes me look at things much differently. i see the poverty and the hearts of the people in a new light.
but somethings are exactly the same, and i couldn't be happier: 1. getting fresh buko (coconut). they chop it off for you and you can drink the juice fresh from the fruit. i hate brown coconut in america, but buko is so delicious.
2. jollibee. the largest filipino fast food chain. along with burgers, they also sell fried chicken, rice, and filipino spaghetti. this was daniel's first encounter with them.
3/4. riding the tricycle. it's a motorcycle with a little carrier thing attached to it and you ride inside. they get you where you want in the neighborhood for just 7 pesos.
5. stik-o chocolate wafer thingies and ube ice cream. some of my favorite filipino desserts. my aunt used to have a little sari-sari store in front of her house where she sold tons of candy, soda, soap, and a lot of random stuff. the stik-o's were my favorite. and ube (taro) ice cream is delicious. it's also extra cool because it's purple.
6. soda in a plastic bag. in the sari-sari store, my aunt also sold soda. in order to make sure that she got the recycling money back, she kept the glass bottles and put the soda in a plastic bag with a straw. maybe it's just nostalgia, but it's my favorite way to drink soda now.
my sister, daniel and i were able to leave busy manila for a night and stay with some family in laguna, south of the capital. my grandma's brother rented the house and all of his children and their children stayed for the weekend to celebrate father's day and some birthdays. the house had a really nice, private pool with a little fountain that fed water from the hot springs. we got there in the evening, swam, ate, swam, and went to sleep. the water was really warm and once in a while, it would rain cold water- probably my new favorite way to swim.
things about filipino culture: you call your grandmother "lola" and most everyone has a nickname for their full name. our family is a little different. we have the nickname part down- "hely" is a nickname for "consuelo," but we call my grandma "mama hely" because she helped raise a lot of us and is basically another mother to us.
it breaks my heart that the last time i saw her was 8 years ago. i regret working almost every summer since i was 15 and going to greece last summer. why didn't i go to the philippines? why do we wait until times are desperate to finally do things we planned for the distant future? one of the things i've learned from all of my traveling is that if you want to do something, you can do it. it may seem too expensive, or unlikely, but if you want it bad enough than you make it happen. you save and save and make it happen.
mama hely, i'm sorry i didn't come sooner. i'm glad that we were able to see each other and that even though you have "bad days," you still have good days. that you're surrounded by family that loves you and that you still enjoy ice cream when you can't eat other things. i wish that i could have stayed longer but you're always in my thoughts and prayers. we love you so much. please keep strong.
the paluto seafood market is a cluster of (air conditioned!!!) restaurants that you go into, and then go through the back of to the wet market behind it to pick out the seafood you want to eat. everything is so fresh. instead of eating fish that has been traveling around and sitting in the supermarket freezer for who knows how long, you get to choose from this (in the clam picture, you can see water that a clam was squirting).
anyway... after you pick what you want, you go back to the restaurant and they cook it for you. and give you rice and a banana leaf plate. and fresh coconut to drink out of. and chopped mango and red onions as a garnish. basically... this was the best seafood i've ever had.
daniel's face in the last photo is the best expression of how we felt after seconds (and thirds...) so much good food that sometimes it was overwhelming. but not enough to stop eating.
this trip has been an array of everything for me. happy, nostalgic, sad, angry, you name it. i haven't been here for 11 years and everything is so different but just the same. i'm seeing things in a new light, with my grown up eyes. i want to understand the history of my family but it's hard to ask the questions. i didn't know where to start to talk about my trip here. and i'm leaving in 2 days. but, i think this is a good start.
during the search for old family photos of my paternal grandfather, i found these. my great grandfather and my great grandmother. i never imagined that i would get to see photos of them and i understand that they might not mean much to you, i can't get over them. i didn't bring a scanner with me, so i just took photos of the photos in the albums. i just want to keep everything.