Wasting no time, I flew out to the Philippines just two days after leaving my job at jhr. I’ve been planning this trip for a while now because lately, there’s been this sort of longing inside of me to visit my country of origin. I was born in the Philippines but moved to Canada when I was just four years old and all my visits back have been too short to really get to know the country. And I guess more than anything else, I was too young back then to really appreciate the wealth of culture and history this country has to offer. The Philippines has always been a place where family was and nothing else outside of that mattered.
But lately, there’s really been that itch to go back and learn about the history of my native land…something I think every person should do. After all, it was our national hero, Jose Rizal, who once said, “he who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination”.
And so begins my journey to the motherland… I’ve been here for just a week now and it’s really been overwhelming. So much has happened in just a week, so much of my thoughts, conceptions, and feelings has changed that I honestly don’t even know where to start. It’s like I’ve been thrown into this entirely new world that’s so different from all that I’ve come to know and yet it’s all still so vaguely familiar.
The pace of life here is something else…it’s painfully hot (45 degrees with 90% humidity on most days), the traffic is intense, and there is just this unapologetic chaos that seems to permeate every aspect of life. I was half expecting to be taken aback by all of these things, especially considering I haven’t been back to visit in over six years. But I think I’ve adjusted pretty well…I’ve commuted on my own to a relatively far away city, which I know from a North American standpoint sounds pretty trivial…but trust me, commuting here is a whole other beast. There are jeepneys, tricycles, FX vans that you can take to get to your destination and each has its own system and routes...and like I said, the traffic...oh, the traffic!! It'll take you 5x the time to get anywhere around here.
A day after arriving, I started working with a non-profit media monitoring organization (like I said, I don’t waste time!) and the transition in thinking and speaking from English to Tagalog (the main dialect here) has been pretty smooth. Learning about the press system here and the culture of impunity has just been a whole other experience on its own. It's where my passion lies, especially considering what I've done and where I've worked in the past and to be able to contribute something of my skills to my country of origin feels just...right.
And yesterday I visited Intramuros and Fort Santiago, the heart of our colonial past and actually the only remaining physical remnants of it. That was something else too. To see our country's roots and the very obvious physical--not just cultural--Spanish influences...well, that was a side of the Philippines and of Manila that I've never seen before. More on that experience later...
And of course, I've been able to spend time with my family. Very important people in my life that I haven't seen in years, some of whom I haven't even met yet. Spending time with two nephews who have pretty much become my tail has been fun (so far, at least!)
So in a quick blog post, that's been my week. A bit fragmented and all over the place, but nonetheless, incredibly enriching in every way.
Every day is a new adventure here and my thoughts run faster than words could ever capture...