After a day’s worth of travelling, we arrived at Manila, Philippines, and once we took our first step out of the airport, we were greeted with humid air. I could feel the beads of sweat forming on the side of my face and my hair slowly unwinding into its natural kinks due to the moisture in the air. Having visited India on numerous occasions, you’d think I’d have been prepared for the weather, but I suppose no one truly adjusts to scorching weather.
The following day, we attended orientation, where we learned about Filipino culture, basic phrases in Tagalog, and the do’s and don’ts of the Philippines. Rather than pointing with our pointer finger, the orientation speakers said it was more appropriate to gesture using our index and middle finger or with our hand with our palm raised up in the general direction. My friends have always pointed out (pun intended) how I obnoxiously wave my pointer finger around, so it’s going to take some time to drop the habit.
Following orientation, we traveled in a Jeepney, a common form of public transportation, to where we’d be having dinner. The seating floated on water, and my dinner consisted of rice, fish, chicken adobo, Sinigang Ni Hipon (shrimp soup), and pancit (noodles), which has been my favorite dish thus far. The night ended with halo-halo, a common dessert in the Philippines made of shaved ice, evaporated milk, and fruits and a performance by a guitar ensemble.
The next day, we went to Villa Escudero Plantations and Resort, which consists of 800 hectares of coconut plantation and an hacienda (estate) owned by the Escuderos, a family well-known for collections they’ve brought back while traveling, which are displayed in their museum. We rode a carabao (water buffalo) cart, visited the museum, went bamboo rafting, and then went to Labassin Waterfall Restaurant where we ate lunch at tables next to a waterfall as water flowed under our feet. Then we watched a cultural performance, which consisted of dances from various regions of the country and a cockfight, which was surprising to say the least.
Monday, June 12th was the Philippines’ Independence Day, a national holiday, that commemorates the Philippines’ declaration of independence from Spain in 1898. Since we had the day off, we decided to explore Los Banos. The students split up into different groups. Some of us went to the mall, while I, along with others, went to get massages. I also had cupping therapy done, which is a form of alternative medicine. A fire is lit inside round, glass cups, and then it’s removed, creating a vacuum-like suction when placed on skin. After the massage, my skin turned a shade of purple. I’ve never even gotten a sunburn, so seeing my skin turn that color was surprising! We finished the day celebrating Ross’ birthday with buko (coconut) pie and flan and ube cakes. Ube, or as I’d like to believe it’s spelled “ubae,” is the purple yam that’s commonly found in Filipino dishes. It’s food “bae” while I’m at the Philippines.
Overall, it has been a fun weekend, and I’m looking forward to my internship. We’re with a wonderful welcoming staff, who have already done so much for us, and it’s only been a few days. I’m with a great group of interns, and I’m excited for all the adventures to come!