10 Days In The Philippines: How Did I Do It?

People have asked me why I only stayed 10 days in the Philippines. I guess this is a question that people should avoid asking because whether I spend 5 days, 10 days or three weeks in the Philippines, it will still not be enough. I guess the most important thing is that I was able to go home and spend time with my parents, my family and some of my friends. Ten days is very short indeed, however it is definitely how you spend those ten days that matters. In my case, I had to divide my time between my father, my mother, my pamangkins and my Aunt who was also visiting from the States at the time. Although my visit was short, I can say that I had the most amazing time. It was all about maximising each day, visiting places that mattered to us, knowing when to spend quality time with my parents and spending time with people who were worth my while.

So, here's how I spent my 10 days in the Philippines:

Day 1
- I arrived in Manila early in the morning, so we drove straight to Tagaytay for lunch. I chose Hillbarn Cafe and Restaurant because of the barn concept (with the windmill) and good reviews. And I must say, it didn't disappoint. The food was good- it came in big servings and was fairly affordable, and the service was excellent. After breakfast, we headed back to Manila to explore the Bonifacio High Street. We left for Zambales late afternoon and got home around 10pm.

As expected, my parents were still awake when we arrived home so I was able to briefly spend time with them. I remember lying in bed with both of them, my father and I at the foot of the bed, talking about random things. Perhaps when my mother noticed that I was tired, she asked me to go to sleep.

Day 2
- I briefly spent time with my mother in the morning before she went back to sleep. Afterwards, I went to visit my brother's farm with my Aunt and my father. We managed to pick some fruits and hang out under the mango tree. To be honest, one of my favourite memories during this vacation was hanging out with my father in our hammock. These are priceless moments that I will forever cherish. My mother on the other hand, will be sleeping during the day and awake at night, so most of my bonding moments with my mother was at night.

Anyway, that evening, my Aunt and Uncle wanted to visit a local bar and restaurant  so the whole family went. It was our first time to hang out as a family since 2015. It was fun to say the least.

Day 3 
- We originally planned to go to Baguio on a day trip, however my sister-in-law suggested that we go to Ilocos instead so we can visit her family. I'm really glad we did that because I was able to harvest tomatoes and chillies from their farm- a dream come true for me. It was also nice to see her family after so many years.

After Ilocos, we drove to San Juan, La Union to stay the night. The kids have always wanted to go there and I knew I had to make it happen during this trip. We arrived in San Juan just in time for sunset. There was no time wasted as we headed straight to the beach after we dropped off our stuff in Dal-luyon Cafe Gallery where we were staying. It is a simple accommodation, however it has everything that you probably need whilst on vacation. It is a few minutes walk to the buzzing San Juan beach and the service is good. Anyway, the kids discovered Brewsko when we got to the beach, so we had their milk teas whilst watching the sunset. 

Day 4
- Still in San Juan, we made a courtesy call to the Honourable Mayor, who happened to my friend's father. Afterwhich, we went for breakfast at Kabsat, courtesy of Manong Richie. Kabsat, I must say is one of the best restaurants I have been to so far in the Philippines. The food was very good and affordable. The service was very pleasant, nothing was too much to ask. 

We left San Juan, La Union just before lunch. It was indeed a very short but sweet visit to the surfing capital of the Philippines, but this experience is good enough reason for us to go back again.

Day 5
- Last time I went home, I didn't get the chance to go to the market so I made sure to visit this time. Nothing much has changed in the last 6 years in my opinion, however some of the stores that I frequented when I was younger have either closed or now owned by different people. The excitement of seeing my favourite foods remained the same. I love the market vibes whether you believe it or not- the haggling, the vendors convincing the customers to buy their products and the general bustling energy of everyone. With my Aunt and sistier-in-law in tow, we bought fish, meat and some vegetables for our lunch in the island later on that day.

We left for the island around mid-morning. Now, this island in Anawangin is owned by a family friend and is not available to the public yet. We are very blessed to have had this opportunity to solely enjoy the island. 

That evening, I also had a very meaningful catch up with one of Keith's friends, Iona at our local cafe. Yes, it is weird for me to say that we now have a local cafe in our small town. It's called 21st Bean and it definitely didn't disappoint. Their iced coffee was very good as well as their cakes. The customer service was on point, the lady was very friendly and accommodating. 

Day 6
- I basically stayed home on my 6th day. My father and I went back to the farm and I managed to feed my brother's pigs- one thing I can't remember ever doing as a child. The rest of the day was spent bonding with my family.

Day 7
- Day 7 was a very busy day. It was my Aunt's birthday and we were in the farm all day. The preparation started early in the morning and didn't finish until about late afternoon. The party then started around 6pm. It was attended by my Aunt's high school friends and our relatives whom I have not seen for years. It was good to see a lot of familiar faces and spent some time with them, albeit very very short.

Day 8
- It was a choice between a night out with the Gen Zs or the Gen Xs and the baby boomers. Haha. And of course, your Tita here is young at heart and therefore decided to hang out with the Gen Zs. The place of choice was Le Quovoh, apparently a popular hang out of local youngsters and tourists alike. The vibe was invigorating. The music was wonderful, kudos to the DJ. It was reassuring to see what kind of environment and people my niece and nephew are exposed to. It also gave me so much joy watching them have fun with their friends. Needless to say that we sang and danced until midnight- which according to the Gen Zs was early.

Day 9
- The day before we flew back to the UK and US respectively , we had a small gathering in the farm attended by close family and friends. It was a fun day to say the least. The rest of the day and the night was spent with my parents.

Day 10
- I left for the airport early in the morning with my Aunt and Uncle. It always breaks my heart to say goodbye to my parents. I tried to hold back my tears but I couldn't, especially seeing the sadness in my mother's eyes. I hold on to the hope that time flies fast and sooner than later, I will be able to go back home again.

Of course my trip will not be complete without visiting Keith's new place on earth and also Daddy Henry. One thing that I was not able to do this time though was to visit Casa San Miguel. Perhaps next time.

Tin x

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