“Girls” she yells. The house looks nice from the outside, the mother herself has a warm, friendly expression, so I decide to take my chances. I hurry Kaitlyn out of the vehicle that I guess we can call a hybrid between a jeep and a rickshaw due to its open sides. We enter the big veranda and the whole family is there to greet us. A whole of 5 daughters, 1 mother and a father to represent the male force. Sometimes it’s just enough to sense the energy to get reassured or to re-establish your worries. Luckily, the first case was working in my favor and we started getting along from the very second.
We arrived on a Friday morning so we had a full weekend to just relax with our host family and understand their means of entertainment and daily life. The “nana” (the philippino word for mom) showed us our room, which was small and cozy, and the moment I opened my suitcase I already knew there was something I had forgotten. My flip flops! How does one go around the Philippines without a pair of this essential piece? I ask nana for the directions to the store, but instead she just sends not one, but two daughters with me to make sure I’ll find my way alright. We stop by a few houses on the way to the store, which of course are owned by relatives. Turns out that the most homes around ours are either cousins, aunts, mothers or grandparents. I finally understand the true meaning of a Philippino familia. I’ve always wished to be a part of a huge family and to gather together for at least holiday celebrations and festivals. Partially because the closest my family got to a circle of relatives was having my aunt, uncle and their kids over for lunch. Our gatherings were nothing compared to even the daily breakfasts held at our host home- all the girls would wake up early and start wipping up dishes raging from eggs to rice and shrimp to make sure there’s enough food on the table for all the relatives who come over for a bite before work.
The second day we wanted to explore Buena Vista, but we needed some sort of transportation. We went to our neighbors who happened to be Mike and Horice’s host family (the guys we took the trip with) and asked the primer to call us some sort of a vehicle. They got us a tricycle-my personal favorite and the driver just came and sat down on the porch, chatting with the host-mum of the guys. Just when we thought that it’s another normal thing for the locals to be overly socializing with the people who provide the services, it turns out the driver is the host-mum’s brother-just another proof that everyone here is somehow related.
The next day me, Kaitlyn and the guys took up on the guys’ host family offer to get the family truck and go around our businesses and just see the surroundings. We stopped at McNester-Mike’s working place. Five minutes after our entrance, the man there was already bringing us food and drinks to get a taste of the local production. Even if you’re no one’s family here, the people still treat you as if you are a part of theirs. On the way back to our houses we stopped by the huge windmills. They were spinning so slowly that it resembled the pace of the daily life here. Nobody hurries for anywhere, everything is so relaxed, the concept of time is so diluted. A refreshing break from the maddening city. When we arrived back home, nana and the girls had already started the making of the banana pudding. Me and Kaitlyn unsuccessfully tried to jump in the making, but after realizing that you gotta have some muscle to push down the wooden stick to stir the ingredients we gave up and patiently waited for the final product to become ready.