Friday June 9th marked the start of my journey of a two- month stay and internship in the Philippines. The last five days has been an exciting whirlwind of Filipino cultural explosions. As a South Asian hailing from Nepal and studying in the U.S. for three years, I find that Philippines is an interesting in-between of eastern and western cultures. It did not take me much to make an impression, feel loved and feel comfortable. Why? Keep on reading ! 🙂
The place: Numerous shops crammed next to the side walks, crowded roads, electrical poles running along the side of the streets and the rolling green hills, all remind me so much of home. The Asian lifestyle is so much prominent yet the high influence of the western world is also embedded in this place. The presence of fast food chains, of which some were American chains like (7 eleven, Mc. Donald’s and KFC), was very fascinating because my home- country does not have such chains. Majority of the population seems to know English and are very familiar with the western (American) culture. They love their Jeepneys (popular form of public- transportation, pictured above) as well as their fancy cars. You are bound to see a variety of vehicles being driven on the roads.
The people: “Are you Filipino?”, “You look like a Filipino” and even “Maybe you were born or raised in America but..you ARE Filipino.” ; these are the remarks I get from people here in the Philippines. Although I could not agree with them I certainly felt the instant connection made between us, something that made it easier for us to have conversations. Even if I did not look like a Filipino I know I would get along with the people well because they always have a warm smile on their face. I think I will have a nice time getting to know more locals here at Los Banos.
The highlight: The people’s expressions while they tried to figure out my nationality as I stood beside my other American friends…. or when they attempted to talk to me in Tagalog.
The food: The top Filipino foods on my list before I left America were chicken adobo (Filipino style chicken curry), pancit (stir fried noodles), lumpia (like fried spring roll) and halo-halo (desert in a glass). It was just fantastic that I got to try all of those within two days of my arrival to the Philippines. I must say that my favorite is pancit ! I like when I get to eat unique foods and I have been impressed by the food so far. The things that are unique to me are ube (purple colored yam that is popularly used in drinks, deserts and snacks here) and buco (young coconut). Turon was like a deep fried spring roll filled with bananas and yam. It was a new flavor to my palate but it was delicious. I have also been enjoying the fresh drinks infused with flavors of fruits like mango and lychee.
On the other hand , the food reminds me of home too. There is rice in every main meal, just like home (in Nepal). The meat dishes have well spiced gravy but sweeter. The grilled pork (pictured in the plate of meal above) that I have eaten two times so far is the same cooking style. The fruits also taste much fresher just like home.
My exciting experiences: I did rafting, specifically bamboo-rafting, for the first time when we were taken to Villa Escudero which is an hour away from where I am living in Los Banos. I had never rowed a boat before but me and my friend maneuvered it pretty well. It was just the most peaceful feeling. Then the cultural show of dance performances was a spectacle. Our group also got to experience a Carabao ride!