Trip to the Philippines gives insight into daily lives


Melanie Calimlim

Two men working on rice terraces in Ifugao province, Philippines.

Melanie Calimlim, Staff member

For any immigrant family, having the opportunity connect to our roots and visit our homeland is an experience I highly recommend.

It’s been ten years since I have been back to my parents’ hometown in the Philippines, and each time I visit, I learn more about my family and the history of the country.

The diversity of a place is what makes the trip worthwhile. Whether it be the physical geography, a different culture than we’re used to, or alternative customs which have been preserved over time. It makes us feel like there’s so much more to life, and allows us to experience more than the way we live day to day.

Driving from Manila to our province, Malasiqui, was already a different experience. The traffic there was unbearable. Two lane streets turned into four or five “suggested lanes,” because obviously, traffic laws aren’t as imposed. Motor vehicles created unnecessary traffic by cramming into the lanes without even turning on their signals. I knew that I probably would have gotten into a car accident within ten minutes of driving around on my own.

We took showers in our tiled bathroom, separate from the house, where cold water ran from the faucet. In order have a warmer shower, we would have to boil the water, which took a few minutes of forethought. We used a “tabò” – something along the lines of a water pail – to get the water from the basin and wash ourselves.

Not that taking showers like that was difficult. It wasn’t. But heating up the water from the shower-head back home in California is a bit easier.

One highlight of my trip was a nine hour ride to the Banaue Rice Terraces. I thought that seeing how rice was grown wouldn’t be worth the trip, but it really was an amazing sight to witness. Especially after learning that these rice terraces have been cultivated for over 1,000 years. And the mountain elevation allowed us to see the extensive, multiple stair-like terraces.

Walking around Banaue, we also were able to speak with a friendly elderly man who was asking about my camera. After a few moments of conversation, he then introduced himself as Tomoyuki Yamashita’s grandson. This was exciting for me, because I’ve heard stories about the infamous Yamashita gold and how it was never recovered, being hidden in the city of Baguio.

In the end, being in a different country gives you many worthwhile life experiences. There’s some good and some bad, but in the end, it’s worth it to just give it a try, especially if it’s where your roots originate. Whether you’re visiting loved ones you’ve missed, or traveling to historic landmarks to learn about your country, there’s always something you can take back with you from these trips.