Life at UCB through the eyes of our international student bloggers

Philippines: An Unforgettable Summer

Philippines: An Unforgettable Summer

Waking up to bitterly cold, rainy and gloomy weather hasn’t put me in high spirits lately. I have found it quite tricky to get out of bed. Not only is it comfortable, but I dread picking out layers and layers of outfits to keep me warm while I’m out. Therefore, as an escapist: I put on my headphones and pressed play on my feel good’ playlist (well, more like a playlist that reminds me of the spring and summer) as I daydream of the warm weather. 

One memory in particular that has always stayed with me… It was the summer of 2019, and I had just landed on a seventeen-hour flight from London to the Philippines. 

I remember it so vividly. It was 23 July 2019. It was seven o’clock, and the sun was starting to set. Waiting in the queue for the passport control, I remember wearing an oversized mustard-coloured hoodie and black cycling shorts. It was extremely humid, and I was sweating under my jumper, but I don’t know why I didn’t take them off. Once I was done, I walked towards the exit. I wheeled the massive luggage behind me and the small one in front of me. As soon as I stepped out of the building, it was warmer, and I remember feeling as if I had been put in an oven. It wasn’t piping hot. Imagine this: you’re smothered in Vicks Vapor Rub, and then they wrap you in cling film. It was one of those temperatures. I stood at the corner, and I pulled out my phone. ‘Dang!’ I murmured under my breath. I totally forgot how slow the internet runs in the Philippines. I tried to be patient as I watched the buffer go in circles, waiting for the Messenger app to respond. 

It took a while to work. Once it did work, I immediately called my grandparents. The excitement was unbearable. It had been three years since I last saw them in person. My Papa answered the call and told me to cross the road, and they’d pick me up from there. I told them I was wearing a bright hoodie. It would be hard to miss. I ended the call, and I proceeded to cross the zebra crossing. Immediately, I spotted Mama grinning at me in a sea of crowds. A smile crept to my lips as I shyly waved. I hurriedly walked over to them. Once in front of them, I let go of the luggage, and we all hugged in silence. 

After a while, we pulled away and walked towards the car as Papa helped me with my bags. We talked about the journey and life in general. As night dawned into the busy streets of Davao, Mama asked me what I wanted for dinner. Of course, as an indecisive person, I couldn’t think of anything on the spot. In fact, I was so hungry that there was nothing on my mind. I literally could eat anything that night. So, my Mama said, “Would you like to go to Dencia’s?” And by the snap of a finger, nostalgic memories flooded into my brain. “Yes, please! I miss Dencia’s!” I excitedly said. I may or may have not jumped in my seat like a child. I don’t remember! 

Dencia’s… Oh, good ol’ Dencia’s. It’s been one of my favourite restaurants since I was a kid. It’s an atmospheric restaurant, and it’s a place that holds many memories. It’s one of those places that really takes you back (at least for me). Oh! And my go-to order is a pork barbecue on rice! With soy sauce and calamansi as a dip! After dinner, we headed to SM, one of the largest chains of malls in the Philippines, and bought a box of munchkins from Dunkin’ Donuts! 

Then we went home to recharge some batteries because the next day in the earliest hours, we would embark on another journey which was to go home home

The City of Kidapawan. 

This is home. 

It honestly felt like a breath of fresh air, seeing the familiar streets and the tall green trees aligned at the centre of the road. 

Oh! I also forgot to tell you something… None of my family, other than my grandparents, knew that I was going home. Yep… It was a surprise. The excitement was out of this world! As soon as we pulled up to the driveway, nerves started to play on me. I didn’t want any family members suspecting anything. Funnily enough, my grandparents were kind enough to play along with my ‘prank.’ But before we went inside, we had to stop by our neighbour’s, which is basically my Mama’s brother’s home. They also didn’t know I was coming home, so it was also a surprise. 

Here are some other stills from surprise videos that my Mama had gotten: 

Later that night, there were more surprises and we topped it off with a simple dinner in the city with the rest of the family.

The majority of my days were spent revising for my A-levels (which I ended up not taking because… Corona), doing my assignments for my sociology class, reading books, listening to music and especially riding bikes. I haven’t ridden one in so long. I felt like I had lost the skill. (Surprisingly, I hadn’t.) I also had the opportunity to visit my old school, and meet some of my old friends! It was so lovely to see them again!

(Here’s a somewhat awkward photo of me posing in front of my grandparents’ house project!)
(Listening to ‘La Paloma’ by Billy Vaughn on a turntable)

I also had spent a lot of my time travelling back and forth between Kidapawan to Davao City because, to be fair, it was one helluva busy week. Just a few days after I settled at home, I was invited to a wedding, but this is all I’ve got on my camera roll from that day.

11 August 2019: We went to Sitio Maupot. It’s a resort located in the hilly parts of Magpet, just about twenty minutes away from where we live. A scenic family resort with lots of greens, tall trees, bamboo huts, and a majestic view that overlooks the mountains, Sitio Maupot is well-known for its infinity pool with the view. However, we couldn’t get a glimpse of it as it was only for those who had overnight booking or night booking. We had the day booking, therefore, we only had the regular pool, but it was fun regardless. My Mama had brought lunch from home, a tuna sandwich, which I helped her make the night before.

15 August 2019: It was the Timpupo Festival. ‘Timpupo‘ is a local term for harvest season in Kidapawan City. The festival aims to showcase the booming fruit industry in the city. The harvest celebration includes dance and film competitions, fruit design making, and cultural presentations. I was really excited about this day because it’s one of the most eventful occurrences in my city, significantly growing up. I remember the street parades, the majorettes dancing, and the band playing loudly as they saunter down the road. And overall, the city is bursting with beautiful colours! It’s just so beautiful, and everyone is so happy! Not only that, I get to eat a variety of fruits ranging from your daily such as bananas and apples to more tropical ones such as mangosteen, durian and rambutan!

(Performing traditional dances in front of the City Hall)
(Posing with the variety of fruits in celebration of the harvest season)
(Posing minutes before the event starts)
(My Aunt and I with ticket wristbands)

The days between these remarkable events were mainly spent at home, just soaking in the memories because my time was counting down, as much as I didn’t want to believe it. My Mama also tagged me along in many of her work quests, travelling to the farm and to the offices at midday, and meeting new people. My little cousin was in school at that time too, so there were times when I’d pick her up from school with her Mum as well.

A lot of the days weren’t always like this, you know… doing things. Sometimes I’d have a lot of nap times instead of work. Or sometimes I’d hang around my Aunt’s workplace, which is just in front of the house, and sometimes I’d do some of my work in there, simmering under the fan and trying not to overheat. When the night fell upon the city, we’d sometimes play loud music on the radio while playing UNO.

I also remember cooking lunch for my family one time. Oftentimes, some housemaids come in on certain days to clean the house or to specifically cook food for us that would usually last us two or three days. However, I decided to cook something special for my family that day, and it’s a dish called Arroz a la Cubana. It was one of the dishes I learned to cook, and I thought I’d share it with my family. Arroz a la Cubana is a rice dish (one of the reasons why I chose to learn this dish! Filipinos can’t live without rice!) The main ingredients were rice (duh), fried egg, plantain banana and tomato sauce. I remember it was Sunday, and we had just attended a mass which was held in the mall because the main church of the city was under construction at that time and my grandparents usually attend the Saturday mass, which I wasn’t able to come to for some odd reason that I couldn’t remember. After the mass, I headed straight to the grocery shop alongside my little cousin and my Aunt, who helped me find the ingredients I needed. Luckily, I arrived back home with enough time, and I was able to cook and serve the dish on time.

They told me the dish reminded them of a Filipino dish called Giniling. It is, in fact, very similar. The only difference is that Giniling doesn’t serve it with fried egg and bananas.

(Mount Apo – the tallest mountain in the Philippines)

I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t sob like a baby when I had to part ways with my family on 28 August 2019. Whenever I scour the depths of my mind, I always visualise a box like Pandora’s Box, but instead of the horrible things flying out, it was positive, full of colours. It was bright, I could see smiles, and I could feel the heat on my skin. I guess this is what you’d call the ‘happy place,’ the place to which you would seek refuge whenever you’re feeling down.

To conclude this wonderful reminiscing, I thought I’d share with you some wonderful facts about my city, Kidapawan City. It is located at the foot of Mount Apo, an abode to the almost extinct Philippine eagle. (It is the only thing I would brag about to my Manila friends! HAHA!) The city is well known for its celebration of the harvest season that features a variety of fruits. Kidapawan City is hailed as the ‘Spring in the Highlands,’ considering it is surrounded by springs and lakes such as Lake Venado, which is hidden among mountain ranges, Lake Agco with its steaming blue lake where hot and cold springs converge, the Marbel Falls, Mawig Falls, Paniki Falls and many more! Lastly, the word ‘Kidapawan’ comes from ‘tida’, which means ‘spring,’ and ‘pawan’, which means ‘highland.’

I hope you enjoyed this journey down memory lane with me, and I hope you also learned something about where I am from. If you’d like to visit, you’d have to come to me and talk about it. 😉 Just kidding!

(Unless…? 👀)

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