Going Home

Home is truly where the heart (and mind) is. People in the UK often ask me, "Do you miss it?" Unequivocally I say 'yes!' How can I not? Everyone and everything is back here, back home. It is always an emotional experience for me the minute the plane starts to make a descent towards Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

I remember in December 2004, coming home for the first time after 16 months, I could not stop crying as I had a glimpse of the shanties peppered in the coastal area of Paranaque. And the same thing would happen in May 2005 and the next time I come home. So yes, I do miss it very very much.

Being in Manila twice a year isn't a luxury for me - it's a necessity. Now I don't cry as much, but I still get teary as we taxi and the plane comes to a full stop. Then my grin is as wide as it can be. I would say to myself, "I'm home!" This is why it's heart-wrenching to leave each time my holiday is over.

Not to dwell so much on the differences between the two places (Manila and Norwich), I would like to share with you why I love this place so much. And soon hopefully with photos, but not before I go back to Norwich as my connection over here is a tad slow.

Apart from the obvious - my babies, family and good friends are over here - I love:

1. Having a house that is my own home. Knowing that I'll always have a roof over my head, that is also my sanctuary, is a very comforting thought. The thing is, even if I were renting a house in the Philippines, I know that my landlord cannot come into the house without my permission. In Norwich, the place we're renting at the moment has a clause that allows the landlord to let anyone in with or without us. So for someone private like me, that's quite troublesome.

2. Being able to hug my babies anytime! They're little people in white fur who have lots of stories to tell me everytime I come home. I speak dog, you see. I just love them to bits!

3. Going shopping - whether to actually buy something or just to browse. For a shopping goddess, it was a shock to the system to find out that shops in the UK generally close at 5 or 530pm. The earliest shops close in Manila is 8pm. Rule of thumb is at 9 - including Saturdays, Sundays, and bank holidays! And talk about midnight sales that go on until 1am. And I miss haggling - an art I learned from my mother at the age of 5.

4. Basking in the sun - although probably more to the point just enjoying the warmth. Even during the typhoon season it's still warm. I'm a tropical girl through and through.

5. Scuba diving and feeling exhilirated being 120ft below, communing with the thousand fishies in vivid kaleidoscopic colours. Mind you, I can't swim. But the two are pretty much mutually exclusive. Certainly would help if I knew how to swim, but hey, there's no law that says I can't dive if I can't swim.

6. Eating a wide array of dishes that tease the palate and satisfy the taste buds. Yesterday my husband and I were at a food court and I remarked that it's just really great how you can have almost anything you want to eat when you're at a mall in Manila - be that something hot or cold, sweet, sour or bitter, filling or light, Filipino, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese or American. So I had 6 pieces of squid balls (it's not as disgusting as it sounds) with sweet and spicy sauces and he had 3-flavoured fries (cheese, barbecue and sour-cream).

7. Ringing friends - old and new - to hook up. Over here, people make time to see friends because most of our relationships are personal - even the business ones. We operate at a very personal level, which can be both good and bad, but more good than bad.

8. Just swinging by my parents' place (without needing to ring them first) to have something to eat when I feel lazy to make something and they'd happily oblige. I suppose it's safe to say that family in the Filipino (Asian) context is slightly different from others. We take care of our young and old. We look after our grandparents and parents when they are old because we love and respect them and the thought of sending them to a home to be cared for by strangers is just so alien. True, it's not always easy, but is family ever is?

9. Wearing flipflops, no matter what day of the year. There is just no price for my feet breathing freely!

10. Driving my own car on the right (and correct) side of the road. Having mobility is vital to a freespirit like me. In my car I used to keep food and at least 3 pairs of shoes, in case I needed them. You can never tell with the way traffic goes.

11. Spending some of my afternoons daydreaming because I can afford to. I have a housekeeper who helps me. I don't have to worry about the laundry or the dishes not getting done.

12. Being me, being Filipino, without fearing racial discrimination or abuse.

And people ask me, "Do you like Norwich?" And I always respond by saying, "It has its charms." Which are:

1. It's clean. The air is fresh and the grass is green. What more can I ask for?

2. It's safe. I know that walking home alone in the dark is alright. I don't have to keep looking over my shoulder nor do I have to constantly worry about my bag being snatched or slashed, but of course I am never complacent.

3. It's a gateway to Europe, as many people claim. From Norwich Airport I can go anywhere in the world I want. It's very convenient.

4. It's a place of opportunities. There are plenty of excellent courses, a lot of them for free, for personal and professional development.

5. It's got people I admire and respect.

6. It's spring over there and I just love the myriad of colours as I step outside the house.

7. It's guaranteed that I will always have water and electricity.

8. It's a quaint city, with two cathedrals, a Norman Castle and an excellent university, and it's only 2 hours by train from London.

9. It's a good place to discover one's strengths, as I have done.

10. It's got 3 beautiful seasons (and then there's winter). Inasmuchas I love surprises and unpredictability, there is so much to be said for the sun making an appearance 365 days a year (366 in a leap year) in Manila. I know that when I plan to wear a tank top with a pair of shorts on a hot summer's day that it will be appropriate for the rest of that day, that month! Which is unlike the UK. One minute it's sunshiny and five minutes after it's overcast. But even the weather has its charms in Norwich and indeed we can talk about the weather!

11. It's where I have met the most amazing and fascinating women in my life! They are women of beauty, strength, love, generosity, curiosity, loyal friendships, tenacity and intelligence - Amalia, Marina, Ruth, Chris, Rosita, Soo, Kaiyin, Wendy, Cath, Catty, Marian, Caroline, Cauline, Sheetal, Illuminee, Jan, Joan, Alex, Jean, Rowena, Miriam, Audra, Suzanne and many others.

All in all I feel blessed having the best of both worlds, and I can only wish that I get to even it out further by being able to spend more months in Manila.

Look out for photos that I shall be posting in a couple of weeks from all my travels, to help you get to know places a little better and may want to discover them yourself.

Love and kisses from the Pearl of the Orient!

The Goddess In You


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