Ryan Luongo, UCSB Campus Store Computer Department Manager, Visits the Philippines
In July of this year my family and I embarked upon our first international trip all the way to the Philippines. My wife was born there, but her family immigrated to the US when she turned one meaning all she has really known is life in America. This homecoming trip is known as ‘Balikbayan’ in the local dialect of which there are many in this country, and was the first opportunity for all of us to visit the island where her parents were born and raised.
The flight there was long (15 hours to our layover in Korea, and another 5 hours to the Philippines), but the kids thoroughly enjoyed the movie selections, meals and drink options during the trip. We landed on the island of Cebu in the Visayas of the Philippines which is several hundred miles south of the country’s capital, Manila. From there it was another 2 hour ferry ride from Cebu to the island we were staying on, Bohol.
Once on Bohol we were introduced to many family members (it seemed everyone was a cousin in some shape or another) and former students of my mother-in-law who taught 6th grade in her town for many years. Our first day on the island we visited the Chocolate Hills which is a geological formation and are named for the color they take on in the dry season. For us the hills were very green, but still breathtaking. In the same day we visited an adventure park that offered zip-lining by bike and a challenging ropes course.
Over the next several days we ate on a floating restaurant down the Loboc River, visited the white sands of Alona Beach, journeyed to a nearby smaller island (Pamilican) on her father’s boat for the day, and visited a Tarsier Sanctuary home to the smallest primates that are no bigger than your hand. In Pamilican we snorkeled in a coral sanctuary that was abundant with myriad of marine life. Her parent’s house was just walking distance from Baclayon Church, a Catholic cathedral that was built in the 16th century and recently restored due to a devastating earthquake in the area several years ago. On our last day we visited a family friend’s dragon fruit farm that consisted not only of the farm itself, but also a habitat for tarsiers, hilltop meditation center, bougainvillea garden with over 1000 species, and a cave for exploration!
The one thing that really tied the trip together was the communal sense of food and eating together. Nearly every meal was not only shared with our family, but cousins and friends alike. On our last day we were treated to a traditional spit roasted pig known as lechon prepared on her great-aunt’s farm. We look forward to making this a regular visit for our family, and be able to have my wife and children connect with their culture.
By Ryan Luongo