While in Manila I got in touch with my “city girl” side. You know what that means - shopping galore! But of course I also basked in the city culture, food, and atmosphere of the area, as well as my family ties to Manila.
I stayed in the house of Christine Dayrit, travel writer for the Philippine star and co-owner of Miladay Jewels. It was a great way to learn about how people in the area live, not to mention she was a wonderful host!
A Visit to Lolo’s
In Tagalog, the word “lolo” means “grandfather.” On my first day in Manila, I actually left the city for a three-hours drive to Lucena, the province in which my grandfather lives. I haven’t seen him in many years (almost 11, I think) and I was a little apprehensive, but when he walked outside of his home to meet us, I felt as if things hadn’t changed.
We sat and talked for a while and ate lunch in his kitchen. The food was delicious - sliced beef, shrimp, pancit, and rice. For three hours, we talked and I told him about my life and showed him my photography. Although my time was brief, I am so glad that I got to see him. Truthfully, I choked back tears as we left the house, both out of happiness and of wistfulness.
A beautiful detour averted my sadness, as we stopped in Tagaytay at a beautiful bed and breakfast known as Sonya’s Garden. Located in the mountain region, this stunning collection of cottages is situated in the middle of a colorfully landscaped haven. We had a healthy dinner in one of the main dining areas then walked around. (Unfortunately, my camera died and I couldn’t take photos of the latter half!) The cottages are two-story houses with wonderful, internationally- inspired design. This place feels like home with its personalized accommodations and fabulously-cooked meals. I only wish that I’d had more time to spend there!
The next day, our friend Carlo took me shopping at one of the various malls in Manila. Well, it turns out, all of the malls are connected, enabling avid shoppers to *literally* “shop til they drop.” Here I tried on clothes and shoes from various familiar brands such as Lilly Pulitzer, Longchamp, and Michael Kors. I felt right at home!
But of course, when it came to purchases, I had to stick strictly Filipino. I ended up buying a dress from the major department store here, Rustan’s, which is somewhat the Filipino equivalent of Saks Fifth Avenue or Bergdorf Goodman. I also bought a beautiful handcrafted silver ring and some pearl stud earrings from a souvenir store.
The Welcome Home Party
On Monday evening, Christine threw a “welcome home” party for me at her sister’s house. It was a marvelous time! With catered Thai food, a hired pianist, and many distinguished guests, it was truly an exciting affair. They even found a violin for me to play! What joy. Of course, the guests were thrilled when I played tunes ranging form Massenet’s Meditation to “Pump It” by the Black Eyed Peas. One of the guests, Bum, was so excited that he did an interpretive dance to my playing!
What a lively crew. I had the time of my life meeting Christine’s family members as well as seeing my own - my Tita Leah and her husband and daughter joined the party! I haven’t seen them in over ten years and I was elated when they walked through the door. The party truly accomplished what it was meant to - I felt welcomed by everyone there.
(Special thanks to the Dayrit family, Tita Leah, and everyone who was there, I had a fantastic time!)
In A Nutshell
Before coming here to Manila, I didn’t really know what to expect. I guess I was really apprehensive about seeing the people I hadn’t seen in ages, but I’m glad I got to experience the more developed side of the Philippines. In a lot of aspects, it’s much like America, with its sophisticated shopping scene, lavish high rises and busy lifestyle. The city girl or city boy in everyone will easily come out in this lively, busy city - with its various activities, you’ll never run out of things to do!