Hello and goodbye, Guam

“Hafa adai,” Ivan said as we stepped off the Continental Airlines plane that took us from stormy Manila to sunny Guam.
Still shaking off the cobwebs in my head, I replied with an eloquent “huh?”
“Hafa adai,” he repeated.
“Ah yeah, we practically lost half a day traveling.”
“No, I meant hafa adai,” Ivan said while pointing to the sign welcoming visitors to Guam.
“Oh so that’s how it’s pronounced!”

Tumon Bay
Tumon Bay as seen from the 16th floor of the Hotel Nikko Guam

The locals greeted us with hafa adai every where we go, whether it’s day or night, whether we’re just seeing each other or parting to go our separate ways.

From the first night meeting the Guam Visitors Bureau team along with the other contingents from Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, South Korea and the USA at the Chamorro Village Night Market up to the fiesta in Santa Rita, we were warmly welcomed like long lost family members.

It’s hard to ignore how similar Guam is to the Philippines. Both have the same tropical climate, terrain and underwater treasures. Like the Philippines, Guam was also colonized by Spain. The huge Filipino population in the tiny island meant that there are plenty of Pinoy fare (or very similar to it) on the buffet table.

But as the Southeast Asian cliché go, it’s same same, but different. Since Guam is a US Territory, the infrastructure is similar to that in mainland USA. The laws are also the same, though there are also local laws. The US dollar is also the local currency.

We came here for the Maila Ta Fan Boka food festival. The Chamorro phrase means “come, let’s eat” in English, and eat we did. We tasted every possible meat that you can barbecue or make into kelaguen (including Spam). Kelaguen is like the Pinoy kilawin, though made with lemon or lemon lime, depending on the recipe. I’m no fan of kilawin, but I’m a really big fan of kelaguen, specially when made with fish or shrimp.

In between all that eating, we shopped. We did some sight seeing too, but it was the shops that really excited us. With duty-free shops, outlet stores and 24-hour K-mart, how can you not be excited?

We’re flying back to Manila tonight and we’re trying to squeeze in some more shopping, swimming, sun bathing and in my case, Internet time before checking out. I’m excited to go home, but I’m also intrigued to explore more of Guam when I don’t have a schedule to stick to.

My US Visa Interview Experience

On the early morning of May 3, I found myself on the side walk outside the US Embassy in Manila, bewildered by the number of people waiting to enter the embassy. It’s not the number that shocked me actually (I know there’s always hundreds of people lined up outside the embassy), it’s the suits and business attire worn by the applicants, as if dressing to get that job they’ve always aspired for.

US Ambassador to the Philippines at the inauguration of NOX1. Photo by Jane Tenefrancia Uymatiao, used with permission.

The time in my confirmation says 7:15, but I was there an hour ahead, even if the instruction was to be there 30 minutes before my schedule. I walked away from the hoard and found a quiet spot facing the Manila Bay. Distracting myself from the unappealing aroma wafting from the water, my mind wandered back a month when I first learned that I need to apply for a US Visa.
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My Bulusan

Bulusan is not my hometown but my parent’s. I was born in Quezon City and save for the 3 years I lived in Makati, I’ve lived here all my life.

Dulipay River 01
Dulipay river

My first trips were to Bulusan. When I was young, the family will make the epic 14-hour journey to this small town in Sorsogon. It would usually be during the Holy Week — we leave Wednesday evening, rolling into Bulusan morning of Maudy Thursday, eager to swim and explore, but getting told off that we can’t because it’s Lent. The first two days of the trip involved hearing mass at the Parish of St. James the Greater and getting our freedom to head to the beach and swim in the river on Saturday. On Easter Sunday, we pack up our things and head back to Manila in the afternoon.
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The joys of a staycation

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It’s the same thing every year: while everybody is heading out of the city for some much needed holiday during Holy Week, I willingly (sort of) opt to stay in Manila. It’s more like I have no choice – I work for an American client and we follow the US holidays. Though it pains me to see all my friends’ updates about how much fun they’re having at the beach, I relish the nearly empty metropolis. No traffic, no hoards of humanity… bliss.

UP Diliman
Every time I go to UP, I take a picture of this road.

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