After years outside of our motherland, JG and I have finally played the role of the Balikbayans (literally translated as “return country”, but what we Filipinos call ourselves when we come home to the Philippines after living abroad for a time). This was especially special for JG who last went home in January of 2010 before the Arab Spring in Libya erupted.
You would think a month is long enough for a vacation, but in the Philippines four weeks is a blink of an eye. I was excited mostly because I get to see family again, and was also looking forward to see some friends, but one thing JG and I should remember from now on is to never mix business with pleasure.
I wish I could I say I thoroughly enjoyed our stay, but I found it stressful and for some parts (the seeing friends and family part), left me wanting.
First let me run through the good parts which I can hopefully write about some more (should I find the time). The first week we spent treating our much loved mothers to a week in paradise that is Coron in Palawan. If you have never been, I highly suggest you do, and if you haven’t google it now and the pictures you will see of beautiful beaches are not photoshoped and are exactly as they are when you see it for yourself. JG and I do not, and have no plans of owning a DSLR camera, but these pictures were taken with nothing but our humble point-and-shoot. There is nothing else I can say, no post of mine can ever fully describe how beautiful it is there.
We also spent a day, climbing a volcano, which I will reserve for another post, because that is how much I wanted to say about that… for now here is a picture of the crater.
Another highlight worth its own post is being home during the Asia Fiba tournament, which was a great time for us Pinoys who are obsessed with basketball – JG being no exemption.
We also went on a long road trip to northern most part of the Philippines. To which I would summarize as tiring but totally worth experiencing. I also highly recommended that should you plan to go there too, do as we did and contact this great company called Barefoot travels. We tried riding a bus to Vigan on a whim by ourselves once, but found ourselves clueless of what to do when we got there. Barefoot Travels will drive you by van on an itinerary that will take you to the best places there, with no hassle, for a very reasonable price.
So the bad part? The weeks in between we spent doing what we actually went there for. Visiting doctors, buying stuff we need, for me running around doing research for my thesis, and mostly going to the doctors. I think JG and I are now in the point of our adult lives where we are feeling hints from our bodies that we are no longer the strapping energetic young people that we used to be. BP, sugar level, and Cholesterol are now no longer words we hear in advertisements, but have an application in our lives we need be observant of.
The problem was that we seem to have developed getting too used to our slow and laid-back life in Muscat that we have found ourselves finding a hard time readjusting to the city life we were once so used to. This was particularly even more depressing for me who was born and raised as a city girl, and I have always thought that I was trained and hardened by the urban jungle. You would notice this by the hurried way that I walk, due to all those years of trying to catch a jeepney to school or to work. I also eat like a soldier, and while those who grew in their provinces are proud of their signature dishes and local fruits and delicacies, I would probably take you to a nearest hawker and offer you the most disgusting yet most uniquely delicious street foods, more often served on a stick.
It’s hard to explain without sounding like a snotty social climber who has seen better, and suddenly feel too good for her hometown. Suddenly there seem to be too much people; suddenly I was impatient in bumper-to-bumper heavy traffic, suddenly everything seemed old and chaotic. Before we came I was so excited and confident that I could make two or three appointments in a day and that I could squeeze in time with friends I have missed and longed to spend time with. But none of that happened, one appointment a day was all we could take, everything else had to be rescheduled or cancelled.
There was one point where JG and I were adamant about commuting to the university we graduated in. It was no sweat, we said, we have been commuters for years, we said. But after thirty minutes of waiting in the hot sticky mid-day of Metro Manila, trying to get in a Jeepney that had enough seats for our fat butts, we walked back home defeated to get the car. During the first few minutes of the drive we said nothing to each other, but JG was the first to admit how guilty he felt for surrendering to the stress we over-confidently believed we can do like it was nothing.
It got so stressful that we started missing life in Muscat and couldn’t wait to come back. Perhaps because we tried to do too much for a period of time that isn’t really realistic enough to accomplish them all that we tired ourselves out trying to finish one thing to get to the next.
And then, I think on the second day of the week before we returned to Oman, I found myself happily walking in a drizzle, and stopping for bit of fishballs and sago in the middle of one of the busy sidewalks near the Quezon City hall. After finishing my stick I spotted a jeep that pulled over to let a lady get off holding a box filled with little chicks painted with every color. I got in hoping to take her spot, and squeezed in between a burly manong and a bony lady (or I think “she” was a lady) in hot pink short-shorts. I sat back for a bit of snooze, (careful to hug my bag close to me; burly Manong looked okay, but in Metro Manila you can never be too careful). Across my pew, two women were chatting away about her husband’s infidelity like it was everybody’s business to hear, she swore she was ready to murder him, but for the sake of her kids she had no other choice but to take him back in… Eyes closed I smiled to myself and realized how much I missed being home.
I suppose reintegration is a normal thing, or is it? I am really not sure, but it was really a bit surprising to find yourself unfamiliar to things you have been exposed to for years. And I guess it really does take time for you to get used to it and ease back into things, sadly by the time you do, you realize that it’s time to leave again.