As we walked out of the plane, a wind of stickiness wraps my body and the smell of coconut oil lingers through my nose. It’s not the same coconut oil you sunbathe in, but the coconut oil that is used in most Filipino dishes here in the Philippines. We went through customs home free and straight to the letter “P” area to meet with my Tita Lou. My Tita Lou is my dads cousin that I’ve met only a few times, but have never really gotten to know her until this trip. She was with my Tito June and we packed our 4 boxes into their big SUV.
Looking through our window we get a little glimpse of life here in the Philippines. The sky is very hazy and gray. I roll down my window and the city releases a strong scent of car exhaust, oil, smog, dust, and all the smells are trapped inside by the buildings and bridgeways of Metro Manila. It’s almost hard to breathe. Even the trash in every block is thrown outside to lay there. The trash is mushy, stinky, wet, and it drips down the street like a stream.
A group of barefooted, dark brown teenage boys are walking on the street wading in between cars selling flowers, cigarettes, or quail eggs. All of the vehicles are crammed into such a small space called a 2 lane road. There are about 5-6 cars in a row inter-mingled trying to get through. Next, my Tito June tells me, “Dis is hau you make a U-turn here in the Pilipins.” He slowly turns his car to the left facing the opposite traffic going almost 45-50 mph and he slowly squeezes through to the other side. In my mind, if I were to do that myself I would have caused an accident. They are all laughing, “Welcome to the Philippines.”