Tales from the Flip
Everyone should visit the country where they come
from. They go back to find the culture that flows
through their very genes. Maybe in search for who they
are or something lost inside them. I am Filipino,
Spanish and Chinese, so for me, it was the
Philippines. Both of my parents immigrated to the USA
when they were young adults.
At first I was excited, I was finally going to see my
homeland. I wanted to see what everything was like and
my family. Only right before we were scheduled to go,
I became sick as hell, but I was ready for anything.
My dad, brother, and I waited three hours for the
flight, 16 hours on a stinky airplane, and then an
hour to get through security inspection. Then we were
there. Wow. Not. I didn’t feel different. I felt like
I was still in America.
But then I saw these crazy decorated cars and jeepneys
(a kind of car/taxi/bus there) and I was well
informed: “ksssshh…Melanie, we have reached the
Philippines…kssshh.” Whoa! Hello. This was something
different. And I discovered even more when I went on
an eight-hour drive from Manila to Laoag in a homemade
car. The road was terrible and bumpy and I had a butt
ache from hell. But the view was more than I expected.
There were tropical trees and ancient structures. We
traveled through poor cities, rich cities, and there
were houses, huts and shacks. It was a shock in how
the people live there. It was like an oriental Mexico,
Then the mobs of people; it was more than I could
handle. Thousands and thousands of Filipinos, dark
skinned, light skinned. Whoa. I felt like I was
surrounded by aliens, when they really were my own
kind. And I couldn’t speak their language. Whatdya
know? It’s like being pocha in the Philippines. I knew
that if someone asked me something or started talking
to me, I was totally screwed. Just like when I went to
the gas station bathroom, and I was like, where the
hell is the toilet paper?!? I was glad I brought a
full load of supplies.
I saw many different provinces of the Philippines
during that eight-hour ride. From day to night, I
traveled through a warp zone of Hawaii slash Mexico
slash Flea Market slash I dunno… Philippines.
There were gorgeous things, there were crappy things,
what can I say, I was freakin’ speechless. But finally
when we got to my family’s house, it was strange. I
met my uncle, his friends, and my cousins. The house
was old, which my dad said that he grew up in that
same house. And my dad is like 55, so dang, that house
is old. I was finally there, like the prince of Bel-
Air. No. I was just home. Home sweet mosquito augh!-
The mosquitoes were inescapable. Day or night they
will hunt you down! I swear. I had bug bites all over
my face and toes and knuckles. I did not survive
through the night. Repeat. I did not survive through
But day-to-day living was ok. Talk about old school.
You take baths with a bucket of water and soap. Yay.
Caution: No hot water. And you wash and dry your
clothes by hand, no washing machines. Sorry. The stove
was not really a stove; it was just the top part with
a gas lighter on the bottom. And the food. Oh the many
wonders of food.
I was ok for the first few days. And then, it came to
my attention that the food did not do my body good.
Every time I ate out or at a family member’s home, I
would get sick. The peak of this sickness was in the
last days of my stay, during which I couldn’t do
CRAP!! I ate seaweed, then a couple of days before New
Years, bada bing bada boom: I was sick beyond
recognition. I was so sick I had to go to the
hospital. They gave me loads of medication for every
meal. I never want to go to the doctor in the
But on the bright side, I met a lot of my family
members: my aunts, uncles, grandpas, grandmas, and a
whole lot of hyper baby cousins. It was great. My
family is so big. And we visited different family
members every day for the first week. My family there
is fun to be with. Everyone is funny and they help you
out with anything. They took us to visit a lot of
places: The malls, the Fort Ilocandia Hotel and
Resort, the bathroom, the beach.
Especially the beach, it was a wonderful sight. They
had bamboo huts for picnics and then a whole lot of
beach. I had a lot of fun. And I wore a bathing suit,
which I thought was what everybody wore, but when I
got dressed, my dad said, “You’re gonna wear that? All
eyes on you, babe.” Yup. I was the only one wearing a
bathing suit. Everyone there wore regular t-shirts and
shorts into the water. …Great... That is one thing
about the people in the Philippines. They have their
own unique style in the Philippines, they’re more
conservative. Not many people wear short skirts or low
tops: Like my dad said, “Don’t bring skirts. They
don’t try to be sexy there.” And I was forewarned that
a lot of guys would be after me all the time if I did.
And they were, according to my brother.
Every time we would go out walking, my brother would
point out that there were a million eyes on me. Like
one incident when we were about to cross the street. I
was talking to my cousin about something and then she
started laughing. And then my brother and dad started
laughing. I was wondering, “Well, what’s so funny?”
The story goes that while we were waiting to cross the
street, a guy riding by saw me and was staring – a
lot – with his eyes wide open. He kept staring, and
even when he already passed by, he stuck his neck wide
out and stared at me. Uh… whatever. Weirdos.
And my brother was totally awed by every girl that
passed by him. I bet he was in heaven.
One of the best parts of my trip was when my aunt,
uncle and cousins took us to a club. It had a live
band that covered R&B and some alternative. They were
awesome. I forget their name, but they covered stuff
from Keith Sweat to Creed. It was also funny because
my brother was into the female singer. When she
announced her name on the microphone, “Hi, my name is
Juuulia,” my brother just melted. He’s such a dork
Anyway, I had a wonderful stay there, except for the
part when I got sick. And that was the last few days,
too. We could have gone more places, but I was too
sick to do anything. And then, I had to ride the eight
hours back to Manila to catch the plane. Boy, was that
some lap-slapping fun. I wanted my mommy. It was an
unbearable pain, but we did stay at a hotel in the
rich city of Makati.
It was an ideal place for the luxury shopper. If you
want to go to the mall and are a shopping freak, well
you get your own personal share of shopping bliss.
There are huge shopping malls that cover the whole
block and they are from three to five stories tall.
Talk about shopping mania. And if you wanted to go to
another mall, well, you just cross the street and
whoopdeedo, there is another one!! I wasn’t into it
though. Being sick and going shopping don’t mix. I
stayed in the hotel with my brother the last day.
Unfortunately, after my dad left the building the
cable and lights in the room went out because the key
was not in the handle. My brother and I were left in a
dimly lit room with a blank TV for a while.
But in the end, we finally got ready and caught the
plane home. Great God I was going home! The 16-hour
flight seemed shorter than the way there and I was
happy to be home. Hello clean toilet, hello bed, hello
Kiki (my cat), hello clean streets, hello refrigerator
with non-food poisoning food, hello advanced
electricity. I would have kissed the ground, if I
wanted to, but no.
I don’t regret going to the Philippines, but I sure
know what it’s like to be home. It was a great
influence on me to know what my culture is and how
they live over there. One day I want to teach my kids
about living here in the U.S. and living in the