I’ve been feeling a bit homesick lately. Sometimes it’s the little things I miss: fresh milk; cooking my own meals; sleeping in my own bed; and of course the luxury of having no insect bites (my family call me the mosquito early warning system). I also miss the big things: seeing my parents; seeing Ferg’s family; our network of friends and family who support us.
However, over the last week or so I have totally fallen in love with the Philippines, and right now I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world but right here with my family.
How to describe the Philippines? After just 20 days, I’m not qualified. The country covers a vast area, and is made up of over seven thousand islands, of which we’ve managed to see only three. Even those remain stubbornly difficult to classify: mountains, volcanoes, beaches, rice paddies, lush green valleys. You name it; the Philippines has it. In the last 400 or so years, it’s been under Spanish and subsequently American rule, leaving a mixed legacy of thousands of beautiful churches, Christianity as the national religion, meatloaf on the menu, Graham’s cracker-based desserts, and perfectly spoken, USA-accented English.
It’s the people that have made the biggest impression. Everywhere we go we encounter big smiles, people waving and saying, “Hello!” and an endearingly polite, and yet somehow giggly, way of interacting with each other and with us tourists.
Water is a big part of daily life for a nation of islanders; it’s the only place we’ve been to where locals swimming in the sea outnumber tourists. The water is crystal clear; we thought we’d seen good beaches in Thailand but every single island here has it’s own deserted stretch of white sand, turquoise water and abundant coral reefs. And here, you get the beach to yourself.
The food is also a switch-change from the rest of South East Asia. Out with the chillies and fish sauce, no Little India or Chinatown meals here. It’s all about the BBQ chicken and the stewed meat. As long as you enjoy pork, you’re fine. In fact, I think they may be trying to compensate for the below-world-average consumption of pork in the surrounding Muslim nations. It’s delicious, but seriously fatty. The fish ‘sinigang’ (a kind of sour soup) makes a healthier choice, and the rotisserie chickens are divine.
I’d challenge anyone not to fall in love with this place. With kids playing on the beach; locals swimming & fishing in the sea; all the smiling faces; the luscious countryside; outstanding trekking; historical buildings; relaxed dress code (women wear shorts and vest tops – hooray!); clear waters; brilliant diving & snorkeling; delicious food; some of the cheapest beer in the world; local rum that is cheaper than drinking water; all topped off with glorious sunshine and sunsets to remember forever, why would anyone ever want to go home?
Thank you Philippines. Homesickness: cured.