Thursday, November 17, 2011

My family ties to our "home away from home": the Philippines

In an earlier post I mentioned that within this blog I would discuss traveling in the Philippines.  Just to take a little break from posting about early U.S. coins and American/Ohio history for a bit, and as a prelude to actually writing about my experiences and travels within the Philippines, I'd like to give a bit of background about how I came to visit the Philippines in the first place.

At the age of 24, I met my lovely Filipina wife-to-be back in early 1993, while she was traveling with her parents visiting family in the United States.  It just so happened that her cousin grew up in the U.S. and is married to my older brother, so of course my brother and sister-in-law introduced us.  The rest, as they say, is history.  We hit it off right away, and have been married nearly 18 years, with one child.

After two years of marriage, we took our first trip to the Philippines in 1996. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, but had much to learn about the culture, traditions, infrastructure, and daily rhythms of life in the Philippines.  As an American of primarily German and small amount of Irish ancestry, I admittedly experienced some culture shock, one could say, but also a very profound respect and affection for the hospitality, warmth, and traditions of the people of the Philippines.   The latter was not entirely a new concept to me, as I had quite some experience since childhood interacting with Filipino families mainly from Northern Mindanao and Cebu, who had immigrated to my home town in the early 1970's during the Marcos administration.  Having Filipino friends and classmates introduced me to many of the concepts of the Filipino nuclear family and respect for elders, various Philippine foods such as cassava cake, bud-bud, lumpia Shanghai, and gave me some opportunities to learn a few vocabulary words in the Cebuano or Visayan dialect.   My brother's ties to his future wife's family, starting in 1982, gave me further opportunity to visit and interact frequently, so that by the time I asked my wife's father for her hand in marriage (according to Filipino tradition), I had the full endorsement of my wife's uncle, who knew me since I was 13 years old back 1982.   That being said, observing a microcosm of Filipino culture here in the United States amongst a small number of relatively Americanized Filipino families only gave me a slight clue of what life might possibly be like in the Philippines.

In upcoming posts, I'll detail many of the adventures we've had as a family staying and traveling in the Philippines. I will attempt to provide some general information, tips and reviews about traveling in the Philippines, particularly in northern Mindanao and in and around Cebu, but also including Boracay, Baguio, and the Manila environs.  My family and I have a penchant for spectacular natural features (waterfalls, beaches, mountain vistas, etc.), historical sites, and even shopping malls, and I will try to highlight and discuss objectively many of these destinations.   During our visits, we also try to balance visits of luxury beach resorts and hotels with visits to dramatically more modest settings, particularly in the rural provinces.  There, in the provinces, lie arguably the most beautiful features of the Philippines and its people - verdant rice fields backdropped by hazy emerald volcanic mountains beneath billowing cumulus clouds with farmers using carabao (water buffalo); bamboo-thatched nipa huts as a primary  means of housing for many subsistence farmers, "multicab" trucks of amazingly narrow width carrying full loads of people or agricultural products, gorgeous coconut plantations with sweeping seaside vistas, mahogany groves interspersed with camote (root crop) in the foothills and mountains, and along almost every road every few hundred meters, the ubiquitous nipa or corrugated steel-fronted sari-sari roadside store with its ubiquitous Coca-Cola sign stating the family name of the shop owner.  Additionally, I will discuss aspects of Philippine culture and the Filipino people, as well as the joys and challenges of traveling as a family in the Philippines.



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