By Sebastien Lai
Our host family in Guimaras, Lala, her daughters and her parents, have welcomed us as if we were long lost relatives. Going out of their way to accommodate for us. A example of this is when we sang karaoke at their house. People sing karaoke to relieve stress, there is something therapeutical about shouting at the top of your lungs a song that you heard somewhere in the past whose lyrics you try your best to guess. Some of the singing that came out that day would have been better left unheard, it was almost like someone captured the noises of glass scratching metal and turned it into a dub step remix, it was like the musical equivalent of a horror movie. It was incredibly nice for Lala and her family to help us set it up and then sit through it… twice. Then there was that time her daughters taught us swear words in Ilongo which is the local dialect, there is something about offending someone in a foreign language that appeals to the child in all of us.
Let’s not forget the time when she took us out into the city for a night of drinking and fun. I don’t think you can fully comprehend the culture of a city unless you’ve seen it intoxicated. We went to a live music venue that night, met people, danced, sang. Drunk on youth and whatever was in our cup we felt not like tourist but explorers among the locals, as if we ventured into uncharted territory armed only with our wits, charm and the twisted mix of English, Spanish, Tagalo and Ilongo that we used to communicate.
And then there was, Lala’s brother, Anthony ‘s birthday. Our host families house was basically turned into a nightlife venue. Loud music, flashing lights that threatens to cause a epilepsy fit, you could close your eyes and you would be transported back into Lam Kwai Fong. Not really my scene but the whole night was fun, a break from the calm that we experience in our day to day lives.
Then there were those night where we were introduced to Korean drama, and even if the show isn’t good so to speak, you can’t help but want to watch the next episode. You also pick up tips on how Korean guys flirt, which mainly consist of just being really handsome and saying things that woudn’t otherwise be acceptable.
On my first blog post I wrote that it is the thousands of little things that make the place special, and it really is true. The dozens of conversations we’ve had at the sofas or those time that we teased one of the daughters about liking our group mate, those little moments cumulate to form a magical experience.
I guess the point which I am trying to make is that I am truly grateful for the hospitality that was provided by Lala and her family. I really could not have imagined a better way in which we would have enjoyed Guimaras and Iloilo. For me traveling is a matter of treading that line between familiarity and the unknown, relativity helps me understand the experience and capture the rhythm of the foreign land, the power of a warm cup of Starbucks coffee and a burger from McDonald’s are vastly underestimated when you’ve had disentary for three days straight from eating some delicious but unknown meat from a street food stall. Among those things that are so familiar, the one that is the most important is hospitality, the feeling of being welcomed, when someone accept you into their family, at their table, it give you a warm feeling somewhere between the heart and the stomach. Thinking about it puts a smile on your face, one of those rare selfish smiles, it is among the few things you truly do for yourselves, not for social acceptance or to look good to others, but for the sole reason that you are happy.