It’s my second trip to the Philippines after living here for 9 months in 2012-2013. I always think it’s so interesting how a travel experience changes when you visit a place for the second time. All the magic wrapped up in stepping foot onto a foreign place is gone the second time around. It’s been replaced instead with a measure of comfort and strange sense of foreign home. For me, several emotions defined my initial trip to this country. First of all, I am half-Filipino and half-American, so this first trip was something of right of passage I’d been waiting to take for a decade. I was in anticipation for all sorts of questions about myself and my heritage to be answered. Second, the fear of the unknown on my first visit became a major contribution to my experience at the time. I spent so much time scrutinizing maps, yet getting lost anyway. Every attempt to speak Tagalog was riddled with fear of ridicule. And then there was the unknown of how to simply exist in a major metropolitan landscape that was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I could not “google map” jeepney routes to get places. I had to operate the old fashioned way: ask someone for directions, then ask again at the next block, and ask again until you get there. I did not know my place in relation to neighborhoods I should or shouldn’t be in, or people I should be especially polite to.
This time, I notice that I have carved out paths of familiarity from my first trips, and I generally don’t stray from them. I can glide through certain train and jeepney routes without hesitation. I know exactly where I want to have my Indian food, or which café has the best internet connection. I had carved out a way of life for myself. I do allow for little explorations here or there. But, I definitely have a way of life here now–a way to live in the Philippines, a way to be part of the Philippines.