My family and I have been living in Canada for almost 9 years now. We have already established a new life in Winnipeg, my husband and I have secured permanent jobs, we have a house, we made new friends (some of them were almost family to us), we got used to the way of life here… needless to say Winnipeg is where our life is. So, yes, we have considered Winnipeg to be our “home.”
I don’t know how other people will define “a long time,” but for me, 102 months is long… That’s how long I’ve been away.
Honestly speaking, when we left for Canada, I thought that visiting Philippines will be easy…. but after living in Canada for 3 years, I realized I was wrong, getting a month long vacation from work and matching it with my husband’s vacation days have always been a challenge, saving at least $1,300 each person for the air fare is tougher than I thought and in our case, this is multiplied by 5. So bottom of the story, it took us 8 years and 6 months to fly to the Philippines.
In 2015, my husband and my youngest child both traveled to the Philippines already. As for me and my 12-year old son and my 10-year old daughter, it is our first visit to the Philippines, they were just 3 and 1 when we flew to Canada.
Our travel time was 17 hours and that’s not including our 12 hours lay over in Vancouver. Since Manila time is 14 hours ahead of Winnipeg time, it felt like we spent 2 days travelling, we left Winnipeg on October 28th and we arrived to Manila on October 30th. After flying to Vancouver for almost 3 hours and flying another 14 hours from Vancouver to Manila, we finally reached our destination. We passed through the immigration, after which we picked up our luggage and “balikbayan” boxes. Though, it was a longgggg wait to get our boxes out, we didn’t have any problems in getting our stuff. I connected to the free Wi-Fi in the airport to reach my sister via FB messenger and she was already waiting outside. Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) hasn’t change, it was still the same airport that I can remember when we left – it was crowded and very busy. The alphabet” sign when you go out is still there, so I told my sister that we’ll meet at the letter “L” sign. That is what these letters are for, right? Passengers with surname starting with the letters “A to L” goes to the left side, those that have surname starting with letters “M to Z” is on the right side.
There were two vehicles that picked us up, my husband went with the van that carried all our luggage and boxes. While the kids and I went with my sister’s vehicle. And the “welcome to the Philippines” feels started. As we start to head out to the road I can see how amazed my kids were. “Oh Mom, there are so many cars here! I can’t remember seeing this much vehicles in Winnipeg!” While my son, didn’t notice the vehicles, the big billboards caught his attention the most. Since he sometimes watches Filipino shows with me, he recognized the faces of the celebrities in the bill boards such as Kathryn Bernardo, Maine Mendoza and Liza Soberano. As for me, I had other concern, I was holding too tight and kept reminding my kids to wear their seat belt and to not stand from their seat (whenever they see something that excites them, they tend to stand).
When I was in college, I travelled from Pasig to Manila each day riding public utility jeepneys called “Patukan” so I thought I am used with fast moving vehicles. But it felt different this time, it felt that the vehicles were so fast and I am not sure where all the other vehicles are coming from, especially the motorcycle bikes. These bikes just come out from everywhere. The vehicles were all honking, pedestrians are crossing even on a “no crossing sign”, buses and the public utility jeepneys would suddenly stop to pick up or drop off passengers…Oh, these scenarios… they slowly brought back the memories of how everyday commute for me was… I know how I described what I saw were not a positive way of describing it, but this is home for me. And just like that, tears fell from my eyes. I do not have an explanation why I felt this way, all I know is that I cannot stop the tears to fall from my eyes. I missed Manila, I missed Philippines, and I missed my real home.
That moment, the song Manila was playing in my mind and I couldn’t agree less with the Hotdog band when they said, “Simply no place like Manila.”
I don’t have any idea of whichever direction my sister is driving to, it felt like it was my first time to be in the roads of Manila, nothing looked familiar to me! Until I got occupied looking around and I miss being home. I felt so excited when I started to see the big malls, the restaurants and fast food chains that I will definitely visit – Max’s, Jollibee, Chowking, Mang Inasal, Greenwich! I miss these places and I miss the food!
When we finally reached Pasig, that was the only time that I started to recognize where I was. As soon as I saw the big billboards in Bagong Ilog and saw the very busy Rotonda, I looked at my kids and told them “we are home, this is Dad and Mom’s hometown!”
Not sure if it’s just me, but aside from recognizing how lively and busy the streets were, it seemed crowded to me. Actually, since we came out of the airport, I felt that it is so crowded. I could see buildings, billboards, parked vehicles and a lot of people. Are the roads narrower? Or is it just there are so many vehicles and the building s and houses were built too close to each other? I am not trying to be snooty, it was just Canada has wide roads, big spaces, maybe it’s because I got used to that. But whatever it is and though it seemed uncomfortable for me, the excitement that I felt since we came out of the airport is just there. I am so excited to see my family, my relatives and my friends.
It was past noon when we arrived at my in-laws house. Weeks before we flew to Manila, we already talked to my mother-in-law that they don’t need to prepare anything fancy for us, all we want to see in the dining table on our first day are “red” hotdog (Purefoods hotdog to be specific), Andok’s chicken and fried dried pusit (squid). They’re all in-front of me! I think I eat 3 cups of rice and would go for more if my husband didn’t remind me that I had too much!
Expecting that we’ll arrived at my in-laws house at noon time, a week before we flew to the Philippines, I also requested my sister to please book my afternoon for a salon visit but we decided not to do it because I was really tired. I unpacked our things and let my 3 children rest. My husband was so excited and was out in the street to see the neighbors. I could hear them laughing, the neighbors keep asking him about Canada, how our life in Canada was, how’s our kids and what do we do in Canada. My husband was complaining about being stacked in traffic and was telling the neighbors how we don’t experience that road condition in Winnipeg. He was telling them how he wanted so bad to visit Philippines as often as he can. Time went by so fast on our first day. If there’s anyone who didn’t notice the time, that’s my husband, he won’t come in had he not been called for dinner. For dinner we requested for pork barbeque and isaw (pork intestine) with iced-cold Coke!
After dinner, we all sat in the living room, catching up time with my in-laws. They were so happy to hear my three children trying to speak in Tagalog. Dad and Mom deserve a pat in the back for raising kids that can speak their native tongue (I will never stop encouraging them to speak our language). How I miss this, sitting in the living room watching your favorite TV show (especially the telenovelas) and just talking to people. We rarely have this “luxury” in Canada since this evening is the only time to do our house chores as we are at work during the day. And when you look at the window, you would see people still in the street, you would see the bright lights from the tall buildings and establishments. The neighbors were just outside, talking. Then, I heard the balut vendor passing by. When I moved to Canada, one of the first things that I appreciate the most is the peaceful and quite environment… and I never thought that I would say this “I miss hearing this noise and I miss being in a place where you know everyone!”
My first day “home” may seem short and really tiring but I can’t get myself to sleep. I am so excited for the next day and for the 22 more days of our visit. I knew that it will be a fun, exciting and memorable vacation. Finally after 8 years I will experience to live a simple life once again and I will be able to share this experience with my 3 children. My favorite thing to say – “I miss this!” It is nice to be home!