We touched down around midnight Philippines time, a whole 12 hours ahead of the East coast, my body clock was just all confused as we literally time traveled into the future, lol. I was pretty delirious from the long plane ride and the whole day spent in Taipei. I was completely exhausted but at the same time so excited and anxious as I didn’t quite know what to expect. We arrived to the Manila Ninoy Aquino Airport and it was instant madness. It felt like every plane arrived at the same time and every single person had to go through customs and there just weren’t enough customs agents filing the crowds through. It was a lot of people and not enough space/help/organization.
We finally got through customs, got our bags and made it outside. We did it! After a short wait, my parents were there to pick us up. The look on their faces of pride and joy and pure happiness of me actually being in the Philippines is something I will always cherish. Being in my parents’ homeland was something I had only dreamed of and could only imagine; but there I was, finally in their home land and what I had only heard of for 34 years was now a reality.
We got into a chauffeured van and began our trek to Bonifacio Global City, or BGC for short, where my parents live. It was a short 20 minute ride. Our first encounter of Manila was through tinted windows at 1am. Everything was dimly lit except for the Resort World casino which was right next to the airport, and a spectacle in itself. Immediately following were slums, shanties and people just everywhere on the streets and sidewalks. Famous Filipino Jeepneys filled the streets, alongside tricycles and different street vendors. Every now and then a Jollibee was sprinkled right in between the streets. All these sights were brand new (except for the Jollibee’s - I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some chicken). Then everything changed. The slums disappeared and high rise after high rise appeared. The dim streets turned into a lit city skyline. We were in a foreign land completely across the world, yet it felt like we were right back in America. Suddenly there were Starbucks and Coffee Beans and McDonald’s. There were billboards and lights everywhere, restaurants and bars. The contrast of the landscape was just so drastic and mind blowing. We finally arrived to our high rise. Security led us to the lobby and the door lady greeted us with a warm welcome in the middle of the night and finally we made it to my parents skyrise condo overlooking Manila, just incredible.
After a short night’s rest we got to exploring BGC. What used to be an old Philippine Army camp was now transformed into a bustling rich district in Metro Manila. We explored High Street which was full of every business and restaurant you could imagine. We walked block after block until reaching Market! Market! which was a sight in itself. Market! Market! consists of an outdoor market with fresh produce and street vendors and street food. The outdoor market sat opposite of the mega mall where 100’s of people were shopping and hanging out.
We walked over to SM Aura which is a Super Mall that has premium and upscale brands. I don’t know why they need a Super Mall right next to a Mega Mall but we went anyway, it was literally a four minute walk. We explored all the different shops for a bit. I got to visit with the homies from Commonwealth at the first Manila location, it was awesome. SM Aura wasn’t as crowded as Market! Market! and was a little more enjoyable to walk around. We went all the way to the roof of the mall and visited the San Pedro Calungsod Chapel. The Chapel was amazing and the view of both BGC and the rest of Manila was breathtaking. From that vantage point you could look west and see all of BGC, with high rises and development. You then look east past the interstate and all you could see is poverty and miles and miles of slums. The difference was night and day and quite shocking to see.
For the next four days BGC was our home. We met with new family, ate a ton of amazing food, relaxed and enjoyed the lavishness of BGC. We got familiar with our surroundings and adjusted to the time difference, all while preparing for the next part of our trip to the island of Palawan.
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