Sunday, January 1, 2012

First Homecoming

I've been silent for quite a time, over a month actually. My heart had been aching to jot down thoughts and memories, to post pictures that I have heartily taken. But, alas!, time and circumstances conspired to hinder me from accomplishing such things that I so enjoy doing.

Foremost reason is that of my three-week visit to my homeland. After two years of staying here in the north pole, I finally found my opportunity to visit my country of origin, the tropical islands of the Philippines. I was accompanied by my hubby and a Swedish acquaintance who had been wishing to see Asia. It was supposed to be an exciting and relaxing vacation, since it was my first homecoming ever, but then, some things happened that marred its supposed joyousness.

Arriving at NAIA, we were greeted by the cacophony of transport vehicles and the thick crowd welcoming their families and relatives who just arrived from abroad. I felt that familiar sweaty and sticky feeling in my body, which used to annoy me whenever I was in the lowland, particularly in Manila. I searched for my brother and my sister-in-law who took their time off their work  to meet us at the airport. Seeing them brought a flood of joy and comfort to me.

We drove straight to Quezon City, where my brother and his wife work voluntarily as translators in the Philippine Watchtower branch office. We slept one night in one of the guest rooms in the residential buildings.

The following day, November 24, we showed our companion some parts of Manila, particularly where one can see distinctly the contrast between the affluent part and the impoverished part of the Metropolis, like the Ayala Avenue in Makati and the squatter areas surrounding it where many poor people live in shanties all their lives. In a way, I felt proud of our own "skyscrapers" there, but sorry for the shanty-people. ( I only took pictures of the tall buildings but forgot to capture the squatter areas)

In the afternoon, we went to Divisoria, where one can buy cheap items made in China. They have everything there, from clothes to electronics, toys, shoes, craft materials, jewelries, etc.

In November 25, we took the 8-hour trip to the mountain city of Baguio where our house is located. Oh, what a joyful moment to see my mother and sister again as they happily welcomed us home! Actually, the best part of this vacation was being with my family, relatives and old friends.

While in Baguio, we re-explored some parts of the city. Much has changed, sadly, for the worse. The former peaceful and refreshing city that I used to know has transformed into an unbearably overcrowded place, where people from all over the country and from Korea had been attracted by its good location and climate, and took residency there. But the Koreans stay there to learn the English language, where it's much cheaper for them than in other English-speaking countries. Everywhere one goes in the city center, he must squeeze himself through the excessively thick crowd. The traffic jams and the amalgam of unpleasant noises from every corner have become too much. The place has become unattracted to me. I couldn't find any delightful sights anymore except the mountains that surround the city and the colorful flowers, which had become scanty. 

After a week of being there, we received the grievous news that my uncle in Bolinao (my mother's youngest brother) had passed away. Those were difficult moments for us, as he was one of our relatives that are closest to our hearts. 

I, my hubby and our companion were scheduled to revisit the Ilocos region, specifically Vigan and Pagudpud, but on account of this tragic happening, we had to change our itinerary. The two of them would proceed to Ilocos, while my mother, my sister and I would go to the funeral and comfort the bereaved family of my uncle and reunite with our other relatives. 

And so my hubby and his companion traveled to the northernmost part of the country and stayed there for over 3 days. I'm glad they enjoyed the serenity and the natural beauty of the places they visited. Here are some pictures my hubby took.


Meanwhile, we had a comforting reunion with our relatives in Bolinao, my town of birth. Although the occasion that brought us there was a sad one, we were able to impart joy and strength to one another, which made our reunion a pleasant one. While in Bolinao, I took some pictures of one beach right in the heart of the town. Actually, there was no beach in this part before, but they are making one right now by clearing away the stones and rocks and hauling in tons of golden sands from another beach in one "village". Here are some pictures of that artificial beach in the making and the hotel alongside it.

Here are also some rural scenes where the funeral took place, and the flowers that my aunts planted around the house, and some fruits in the town.

I also passed by some flowers along the streets and took pictures of them.

Some other creatures, corals and seashells.

We went back to Baguio on the fourth day in synchronization with my hubby. But my mother and sister went to Bolinao again after two days to attend the burial. 

My stay in Baguio wouldn't be complete without taking pictures, so as usual, I took lots of them. 

Burnham Park and some flowers there.

SM, the most frequented shopping mall.

Views from the window of our house.

Flowers in my mother's flower pots.

My mother's night-blooming cereus had two buds when we arrived, and they bloomed out while we were there. Since they would be open only for a few hours, I picked one of them and macro-photograped it in different angles.

December 13 would be our return flight, and so we went back to Manila the day before. It was time to leave Baguio again and part from my mother and my sister. They accompanied us to the bus terminal to Manila, and there, we said goodbye. And yes, it was hard parting from one another again. But then, life must go on. I will see them again, hopefully sooner. 

I took these drive-by shots while in the bus to Manila. 

We slept one night there before our flight. The next day was another parting day with my brother, my sister-in-law and my aunt who also works there. 

Was I glad to leave my home country again? Strangely, yes, though it was hard to leave my loved ones, especially in their difficult financial and physical conditions. I wished I could take them with me right then and there so we could live here together in peace and comfort.

There's so much more to say than this mere narrative of random events there. Some thoughts and feelings that I had while being there. This homecoming  has also changed my impressions and perspectives. It put a seal on how I truly feel about which is real home for me, Philippines or Sweden. I will write about these things in my future blogs.

It's good to be back!