As most of my circle knows, my trip to the Galapagos Islands was book-ended by one of the worst possible events; not one day after I arrived back home to DFW, my brothers and I received a call that my mom’s health had taken a turn for the worst. On the two-hour drive down from Dallas to Temple, we got the terrible call that my mom had passed away before we could say goodbye in person.
The next few following weeks were a complete blur, but I do remember feeling constantly overwhelmed. From all over the United States and even the world, my mom’s extensive network of friends and family came pouring out in excess to offer their support and guidance through this difficult time. My mom had been a private person, particularly with her kids, so many of her affairs were unknown to us. One thing we did know, was the she wanted to be brought back to the Philippines and laid to rest with her family.
So, in July, that’s what we did.
One of the places DJ and I were looking forward to most was visiting Banio Kreek Farms, the resort started by my Uncle George, his wife Tita Mirna, and my cousin Ate Joanna. Sixteen years ago, it had been a humble house and stairs down to the creek below. What we found when we revisited was a property eight times bigger, with every new section carefully and lovingly crafted:
We spent the day just marveling at how beautiful it was, exploring all the small and large areas. DJ compared it to uncovering the map in a FPS! 😀 We cannot wait to come back.
Following initial celebration, it was time to prioritize arranging my mom’s final wishes. We spent a lot of time with my Tita Catherine going back and forth with the red tape of paperwork, but slowly started to see everything come together in the final days before her birthday and her service – July 13th. We held mass at the church right outside the family house in Chrysanthemum Village, and a reception near Manila Memorial, where my mom was laid to rest with my grandfather.
Afterwards, family time was both inevitable and necessary. For a long time, my mom was a warrior; she’d raised three kids on her own, in a city with no immediate family to help support her. It also meant she sacrificed a lot of time, effort, money, and desire to be closer to family for us. Part of that was giving up the chance to visit Philippines so often. When she died, an unexpected feeling that arose was this feeling of home that I’d lost, and not knowing where to find it. I found a piece of it here:
After my mom was laid to rest, my aunts and cousins spared no time making sure we got to visit as many places as possible. Villa Escudero was a beautiful resort and plantation south of San Pedro in Tiaong, Quezon, Philippines – the kind of place where you could stay and get what you need from a trip to the jungle. One of its best features was the restaurant right on the river, where patrons have to take off their shoes and slowly make their way across the current to the metal tables. If I could pick this area up and move it to the United States somehow, I totally would.
In their spare time, my cousins also took us out to both hidden and well-known gems across Metro Manila, including this HEY HO Garage Burgers, tucked away in a tiny village that served the most appetizing peanut butter – bacon hamburger:
Okada Manila, the massive casino that houses the largest multi-colored dancing fountain in the world and the nicest bartenders…
… among others, including Chinatown and Makati nightlife! It was great reconnecting with my cousins in a way that not afforded to us growing up.
Oh. A vain side-note interjection here. For all those who noticed, I did get my eyebrows micro-bladed while in the Philippines, which was MUCH more affordable than doing it in the States. Thanks to Bela Marana Makeup Artistry for the time she took to get them right! I won’t show the very unattractive “during” photos and instead just post one a day after they were done. They really are DARK for a few days! But like any tattoo, once the healing process is over, they look pretty natural. My morning routine has been cut down significantly, and my desire to be more active in San Diego and less concerned about my face has been well worth it.
Unfortunately, all the traveling this summer meant that I was short on vacation days. Thus, I had to leave much earlier than the rest of my brothers. Before I knew it I was packing everything up and heading back to the States. Though short, this trip was so memorable for me, as it jumpstarted a whole new outlook on my life – a new chapter, without my mom, but with support and family that are closer. As promised, our next trip will be less business and ALL vacation, including a visit to the Palawan Islands and Cebu! 🙂