Back to the Past III: My first trip to the Philippines
C. likes telling people that Philippines is my third home country (after Spain and China). My friends ask me if I am trying to obtain a Filipino passport. But I think they are all exaggerating! Or are they? The facts are, I have been 5 times to the Philippines… in the last 4 years.
Everything started after my year in Shanghai. I had been working in the Spain pavilion for the 2010 Expo and I shared a flat with 3 other people. I didn’t know them when I moved there, I just replied to their ad when they were looking for a roomate. Well, we would end up becoming very close friends. Two of them were Filipinos and the other was Malaysian. So when my job in Shanghai was finished I travelled to the Philippines for the first time, together with Iñigo, one of my flatmates.
For this first trip I stayed for 3 weeks. Most of the time was spent in Manila with Iñigo and his family, but I have to confess I didn’t go to almost any of the tourist attractions in Manila. I spent most of the time like a truly Filipina: visiting relatives and going to the mall! As a strongly Catholic country (Philippines’ birth rate is one of the highest in Asia and it is one of the two countries in the world where divorce is not allowed, the other one being the Vatican!), Filipino families are large and there are always relatives to visit. Of course the ones I visited were Iñigo’s relatives, not mine! And why going to the mall? Because, in a country where it is hot all year round, people’s favourite pastime is going to a place with air conditioning! Inside malls you can find basically everything you need to spend your day. So, test me! Malls in Manila? Greenbelt? SM? Glorietta? Powerplant? Robinsons? Resorts World? I have been to them all!
We also had time to visit Manila historic quarters, called Intramuros, which means “inside the walls”. It was built by the Spanish settlers back when Philippines was part of the Spanish Empire, so it reminded me of Spain. It was heavily damaged during the Second World War.
As Iñigo was also on holidays he acted like a great host and drove me everywhere in his car. He didn’t want me to ride on a jeepney because he was scared I would get mugged (we ended up riding it together once, to go to a nearby supermarket).
We ate A LOT. I think I regained all the weight I had lost during my hard work in the Shanghai Expo. American style fast food is everywhere in the Philippines, the most famous chain being Jollibee, but there is also a traditional cuisine (not really recommended for vegetarians!).
We also did a family getaway to the countryside in Batangas, where Iñigo’s family owns a house.
And the next day we visited Taal volcano, situated on a island inside a lake! And the crater… also has a lake inside! Although it was not very high, climbing the slopes was not easy: apart from the normal heat, the ground was also hot from the volcanic activity underneath!
During this first trip to the Philippines I also went to Boracay and Palawan, but I will leave that story for next time!