I don't like saying this but I don't like going home if not for my family and friends. The Philippines has simply lost its amor on me. It's always exhausting, especially whenever I stay in Manila for a few days (thankfully we only stayed a little over 24 hours there this time). I don't see any improvement in its infrastructure; it's as congested and polluted as ever.
The city looks like grimy blocks thrown randomly. There is no sense of planning, or even an effort to plan at all. Public transport is as dilapidated as ever, and over-burdened by its roughly 20 million residents.
Lara Stone, surprisingly, was enamored of it, he said he would've wanted to stay longer. But that's most often the case for visitors who find something positive about Manila. They see something exotic in such a chaotic place, but they don't necessarily live in the city for an extended period. They don't experience the inconvenience of having to queue for the MRT or breathe its fetid air daily.
For me who has lived in Manila for several years I get frustrated to see it not just getting stuck in squalor but in fact getting worse and worse.
The same is also the case for my hometown. I'm sad to see many swamps in the city that used to be filled with mangrove jus rapidly overtaken by slums. The roads that cut across the swamps only sent a message to people that they can erect their houses by the road, clearing precious mangroves, and using the swamp as one septic tank.
There's nothing wrong with building roads per se, but regulation should've been enforced to keep encroachers at bay. Better yet, give people affordable housing options.
Also, there's such poor urban planning in the city. There are hardly any pavements to speak of. Tricycles (our version of tuktuks) over-run the streets. We even experience traffic congestion now in such a tiny city.
In fairness to my hometown, I'm seeing new businesses springing up here and there. This modest development is surely a call for the city administrators to plan ahead on how these developments are going to be managed such that the livability of the city is not compromised.
OK, that's the customary post-visit-to-the-Philippines whine, thank you very much.
Anyway, so the highlight of the trip was indeed attending my sister's wedding. This entailed meeting many of my cousins from my mother's side. I have not met some of them in ages, at least those who live now in the US and some other far-flung province.
I was thrilled to hang out with them. I realized how little we have changed, in fact. We're the same rowdy, crazy bunch that used to send my grandmother in fits when we regularly visited her in Siargao for many summers.
Because I had such limited time I only got to meet a few friends in Surigao. I find these meetings very precious because some of my friends are going through key moments in their lives. I have the utmost admiration for their tenacity and courage, something that I draw inspiration from.
By the trip's end, I felt thankful (to whom, I don't know) to be surrounded by such wonderful friends and relatives.
As expected, none of my relatives or friends made a big deal of Lara Stone. I meant that in the positive sense, of course. I am lucky to have open-minded people surrounding me, and I confidently introduced Lara as my boyfriend.
They welcomed him with such fondness, but then that's expected because Lara has amazing charm anyway (tse!). He was in fact more keen to hang out with my relatives than I was, after all I had ANTM episodes to catch, no? It was very heartwarming to see him blend seamlessly with the crowd, and he quickly caught up on Pinoy humor, too.
Having two weeks with Lara after not seeing each other for five looooong months was the most fun I've had in recent months. It's not all romantic time, of course. We annoyed each other a few times, but that's normal because we're both stubborn in our belief that one is always right and have no qualms expressing it.
For the most part, I appreciated more his openness to new experiences and people (I was more stressed during the trip than him). There are more things to say about his awesomeness but that's something I'd tell him instead of posting it here.