I knew my trip wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t spend any time with my family. I had the blessing of seeing my nephew, Joshua, even just briefly when I was in Manila. God blessed me with one more day in the Philippines and a wonderful family who gathered to see me that day.
Alvin and I arrived in the Philippines from Bali at 2:30AM. Exhausted, we made it to Z Hostel at around 3:30, and were in bed by 4AM. A few hours later, my Kuya Jun and Kuya Bing picked me up and took me to Teresa, Rizal where my family is from. We stopped by a flower shop in Antipolo first where I picked out flowers for my Lola and Lolo’s bouquet. He showed me the church nearby that was celebrating mass, with people pouring out of all sides of the church. Supposedly people come from all over to celebrate here on Sunday. We walked around the mall that was right across the street, which was also filled with people enjoying their day off.
When I got to the house in Teresa, immediately heard my Tito Boying chanting “Holly! Holly! Holly!” I hugged and kissed everyone. It was about a year and a half since I’d last seen them. My nephew Chino was just a small baby when I first met him, and was now talking, playing, and walking. My nephew Sancho was incredibly taller than both me and his mom, Ateh Sheila. And Bianca who is only ten was just as tall as me now. We ate lunch precisely around 12. They asked if I was vegetarian and I joked (partially) and said I loved meat too much. Good thing I’m not vegetarian because we had the most delicious menudo, barbecue, fish, and gulay for lunch. After we ate lunch and then ate a little more, we went to visit my Lolo and Lola at the cemetery. I always get really teary just thinking about her (as I am while writing this), so I braced myself and was just happy that I could be there again. It was raining so we didn’t stay long, but long enough for us to adorn her with flowers. say a prayer, and sing a verse of Amazing Grace.
On our way back, my Ateh Ting had us stop by a food stand with Filipino street food, which I had been wanting to try but weary because of my previous case of Bali Belly. The food was delicious! We bought cheese sticks (my favorite), deep fried quail eggs, and fish balls. We devoured it all at the house and shortly after bought even more food for me to try.
Of course, I had to hit food coma eventually, so I took a nap in the living room sitting with some of my nieces and nephews. I woke up to the sound of more food! Pili Pili, deep fried yam things, are supposedly my mom’s favorite and are definitely my new favorite now. Ateh Melinda was making them fresh in the kitchen. My mouth is watering thinking about them right now. I sat back at the dining room table chatting with Ateh Dang, Ateh Jojo, and Ateh Ting about their travel ventures and about all the wonderful destinations there are in the Philippines.
I completely forgot it was Sunday but was happy when Ateh Sheila said they would be attending the 6PM mass. We walked about five minutes to St. Rose of Lima (who is also my patron saint) and attended mass. The music was beautiful and most of the mass was said in English. The gospel and homily were in Tagalog and I tried really hard to understand – luckily Ateh Sheila helped me out with that. We went back to the house for dinner and ate more cake. I had lots of pasalubong and snacks waiting for me. I’ve been snacking on all day on my way back to Los Angeles. They packed me some baon for the road, and I said goodbye to all my family and my Mama Ellen next door. We went back to Makati and stopped by my nephew Josh’s house to pick up more pasalubong and say goodbye and happy 20th birthday to him too.
My Kuya Jigs, Ateh Jojo, and Ateh Ting dropped me back of at Z Hostel. I thanked them for arranging the wonderful day that I had with my family. It really was the perfect way to end my trip. Although I had loads of fun traveling and moving around the Philippines and Bali, seeing my family provided some much needed grounding and love for me that prepared me for going back home.
I spent the rest of my night on the rooftop of Z Hostel, where there so happens to be a rooftop bar with a stunning view of Manila. Alvin introduced me to his new friends that he ended up spending the day drinking with. They were super nice and told me that I was Jennifer Aniston with a tan (which may possibly be the nicest compliment I’ve ever gotten). We all stayed up until 2AM drinking Red Horse and listening to amazing acoustic covers. It was like my last day of traveling couldn’t have ended any better.