...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Philippines 2010, part 1

Zoom! And we're already back in Sweden!

I don't know where I would have found the time to blog during our two-week stay in Quezon City, which is why the last entry proved to be the only one in February. Just when I was getting used to the big city rhythm in Metro Manila, it was suddenly time to go back home. As nice and relaxing as it is to be back in our own apartment after two hectic weeks, it also feels strange to be suddenly back doing Swedish routines again. And we haven't even been gone for that long.

My worries and mixed feelings about "having changed" in friends and family's eyes were, in hindsight, really unescessary. What I found out was that friends and family welcome you anyway the way you are, and that maybe I (and family and friends) hadn't really changed as much as I thought I (we) would. After just a few days of getting used to my childhood home again, I actually began to feel like I never left the place. It hardly felt that I was gone for four whole years! It was the same about meeting friends: it felt same as usual. We have jobs and other new events in our lives now though — but basically, it was as if nothing had changed, even though we lived years of our lives doing separate things. Granted, I never saw some of my friends for more than a few days in a year even when I was living there anyway (hi Cheryl!), but what the heck! This trip showed me that distance and proximity, although they matter, matter little when you're face to face with a friend again laughing your head off.

So for two weeks, I was Quezon City girl again. The changes around me — roads were widened almost beyond recognition, drivers which I percieved to be more agressive, new giant malls, new billboards and new TV shows — were negligable, superficial changes. Everything, although slightly different, was warmly familiar. And that's a great reassurance for me, who at one point, used to wonder if it was really possible to keep two homes.

Itinerary! Observations! Pictures!

Here's a recap of days 1 to 4, which is all I have time for before I spring to work.

Feb 11, Arrival day: No pictures! The heat is always hotter than I remember it to be. I suddenly remembered why people use umbrellas in Manila rain or shine. Nowadays, it seemed even acceptable for men to carry umbrellas. That El Niño was in the region didn't make it any better; even the "locals" were complaining about the heat. Indoors in our Quezon City kitchen, it was +31 Celcius. All around the city, it's campaign period and there are lots of hung campaign materials. All overpasses have banners saying "Thank you Madam President Gloria Arroyo for this overpass!" as if she paid for them personally, and not the taxpayers. In the afternoon, we went to SM City shopping mall and shopped for a set of clothes, as we only had the ones we were wearing. Our pale winter faces must have made us stick out; hordes of SM salespersons were trying to get our attention and they were hard to shake off, even if we were buying something as mundane as sport socks!

Mom and Dad grow tomatoes in two sizes. One sort is the size of a ping-pong ball. The other sort, which tasted really good despite its thick skin, was no bigger than a chickpea.

Feb 12, Day 2: Marcus' suit-ordering day. We went to the large market district in Manila called Divisoria — a half-slum, half-street market, half-mall area where a suprising amount of money gets exchanged every day. It is known for its cloth market, and we bought Marcus' suit cloth from a trusted Chinese guy Benson. In the afternoon, we delivered the cloth to the tailor's, Simon's. In the evening, we ate out with my brother and my dad at an Ilocano restaurant (Northern Filipino food) where we had salty stewed veggies and crispy fried pork. Yum!

At the Ilocano restaurant. It happened often that, when the food came, I forgot all about the camera and started eating. So, no pictures of the food this night!

Feb 13, Day 3: We jogged around the University of the Philippines oval at 6AM with Mom and Dad. Lots of joggers there, although none of them seem to be giving it their all in the morning heat. We felt like pros overtaking the joggers — if they only knew how untrained our legs actually were off running season! Only three people overtook us, but they looked pretty hard to beat and were probably in the end leg of their run. That afternoon, we joined a guided tour about Imelda Marcos and 70's Philippines arranged by Carlos Celdran in the Cultural Center of the Philippines and surrounding areas. This is my third Celdran tour — he's amusing and informative, and his tours are always thought-provoking. Each of his tours leave me feeling hopeful about Manila, though what exactly about Manila, I don't know. After the tour, I met my college friends PJ and Peachy over some sweet, cold Filipino dessert, halo halo. With all that sun and sweat, sweet and cool make perfect sense.

The Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), built for the 1976 IMF-World Bank meeting as one of Imelda's projects. It was Asia's first international convention center. Imelda put the Philippines on the map back then, although she did use agrarian reform funds to build her projects.

Feb 14, Day 4: Hotels and restaurants lost a holiday this day, because Chinese New Year and Valentine's day fell on the same Sunday. We go to Chinatown, a small part of Manila. It appears half-slummy, but has surprisingly one of Manila's highest land value. The Chinese have occupied this part of Manila even before Spaniards were in the picture, and going there is a bit like going abroad. Newpapers are still printed in Mandarin, Chinese drugstores sell crushed sea horse, there are street temples, and crispy duck take-out stores are in almost every street corner. Round fruits, symbolizing luck (actually, money) were sold everywhere that day. Dragons (also luck-bringing) danced the streets and stopped in every store to bring the owners tidings for the new Chinese year. We ate in the Chinese tea house President. Loved the dumplings! Loved the noodles! Loved the lychees! I love Chinese food! Almost had pigeon, but the waiters were honest enough to admit that the pigeons they had on stock weren't good anymore. For another day.

The gate to Chinatown

Cars and dragons. Here the dragon is on the way to the intersection to perform a dance.

Lots of people! (Most were in red, the lucky color)

More to come. Work calls!


Blogger oO-drey said...

Hey hey!!
I was an exchane student also in the US last year! =) everybody did the same mistake, switzerland and sweden is the same country!
How is it in sweden? it's switzerland! Yes this what I was saying switzerland! So how is it in sweden? AAAAAAHHH!!!!
How's it where you are?

10:46 AM

Blogger carlosceldran said...

I do issue receipts now. I am registered as of this year as a sole proprietorship. Would you like me to send one to you?

7:20 AM

Blogger The Pope said...

Two-weeks is a very short holiday, so bitin. But I like the Chinese foods you mentioned, na-miss ko rin ang Manila Downtown particularly the Ongpin street, its been 3 years that I haven't been to the Phils. too.

I'll wait for the next series of this post, God bless you and your family.

7:39 AM

Anonymous Lara said...

you're baaaack! :-)

looking forward to part 2. regards to markus aurelius (sorry, im feeling playful now).

2:29 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

@ oO-drey: Yes. Greetings from Switzerland, err, Sweden!

@ Carlos: Great! I'll edit the post, but there's no need to send me the reciept now that I'm back. I'll ask for one instead the next time I join a tour of yours again, in some years :-) You're highly recommended to my friends, by the way!

@ The Pope: No kidding, bitin, bitin, bitin! Feels really strange to be back again here. Mostly, I miss people and places.

@ Lara: OK lang, sometimes I call him Marcus Porcius. Heheh!

7:08 PM

Blogger meowok said...

Wow, parang di nagbago Mom mo since I saw her last. :D

2:30 AM


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