“I loved the Philippines,” claimed a traveler I met at the border between Costa Rica and Panama after I told him where I was from. “Which part of the Philippines do you come from?” he asked. “Manila.” I said. “Oh, I didn’t like Manila. It’s just too… crowded.” I read a lot of articles from foreigners who say they love the Philippines and I met a lot of people in my travels who say the same thing but sadly, it is rare to meet people who say they love Manila. I know our country’s capital has its flaws, but it’s the place where I grew up and it has influenced how I see the world.
Related Post: How Travelling Made Me Less of a Princess
Chichen Itza, Mexico
Is Public Transport Too Difficult?
Once a public school bus from the USA, the colourful chicken bus cuts through the morning crowd in the central market of Santa Ana, El Salvador. The already cramped and uncomfortable bus catches the attention of more people – vegetable vendors, fruit vendors and local passengers – each struggling to squeeze onto the jam-packed chicken bus. I sit quietly, another face in the crowd. The wind blows upon my face, the scenery changes, and more people come aboard.
My mind drifted, and I recalled the well-crafted jeepneys in the Philippines, the overcrowded MRT, and the undisciplined bus drivers who cause traffic in EDSA. As much as I want to scream out and complain about how difficult public transportation is in Central America, it’s not much different to where I come from. The same hustle and bustle to get from one point to the other. The traffic. As my friend used to say, “Be competitive.” I learnt to adjust to this challenging transport system (which I hope will improve in the future) and somehow, I learnt to be patient.
Chicken Bus in El Salvador
Santa Ana Volcano, El Salvador
Do You Like Crowded Markets?
Street buskers, snake charmers and monkey performers breathe life to the already crowded souks (markets) in Marrakesh. From traditional ceramics and hand-made leather bags to colorful metal lanterns – they have almost everything you can dream of. I watch this scene from one of the terrace restaurants near the square. As an outsider, it seems like everything is in chaos, but is it?
I’ve always loved artisan markets. The crowd? It didn’t bother me so much. When I look at it, it’s not so different from the streets of Divisoria or Quiapo. Okay, these are not “artisan” markets but you get what I mean. Different people try to get your attention and sell stuff you probably don’t need. You mix along with the crowds early in the morning to find a cheap bargain and you celebrate your reward when you reach home.
Souks in Marrakech, Morocco
Would You Rather be in a Small Town or the Big City?
My eyes widened and my face lit up at the sight of the buildings in London for the first-time, our entry-point in Europe. At first sight of the city centre I was instantly captivated by its unique charm, filled with historical buildings from different generations and impressive architecture that has long stood against time. It didn’t stop there. I fell in love to with the cities we visited in Europe – Budapest, Prague, Bled, Venice, Granada, Lisbon and Paris – to name a few. From someone who grew up in Manila, it was surreal, beautiful and unlike anything from home. No wonder so many Filipinos dream of traveling to Europe.
Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France
Dare to Try Some Street Food?
Hungry and exhausted from a day of sightseeing, my boyfriend and I roamed the streets of Mexico City for food. With my very little Spanish, I managed to translate some of the items on the menu of one corner taco shop – lengua (tongue), corazon (heart) and cabeza (head) were some of them. We ordered three tacos with lengua and were quite satisfied with the taste. There is nothing wrong with eating tongue, right?
Kwek-kwek (quail eggs), isaw (intestines) and baga (lungs) are examples of street food most people from Manila grew up with. Filipino street food which most foreigners find odd, weird or disgusting is part of our unique food culture. Given this kind of adventurous palate, it is not hard to appreciate new flavours and be open to trying new things. From our Southeast Asian neighbours to Latin America, street food is not hard to find and some of them tastes surprisingly similar to food from the streets of Manila. In Mexico, I found chicharon and adobo (adobo tastes different, though). In Nicaragua, they have Bisteck like our Bistek Tagalog.
Related Post: The Dirty Dozen: Top 12 Must Try Street Foods in Manila
Ruins in Palenque, Mexico
For nearly a year, I have been traveling around the world with my New Zealander boyfriend, Jon. I took a career break from my work as a Civil Engineer in Singapore and saved enough money to go on this big world trip, which will end in December in the Philippines. It is a fulfilling journey and I can’t explain how happy I am to be living one of my childhood dreams. I hope that other Filipinos will be inspired and reach out for their dreams to travel the world.
I may be far away from the Philippines but my heart will always be with my country. Some people may never learn to love Manila, but to someone like me who grew up there, it will always be home.
For more of my travel stories around the world, visit my travel blog, mismatchedpassports.com and my boyfriend’s travel blog, jonistravelling.com.