When I found out that I was going to California I made an agenda to be certain that I did everything that I wanted to. Once my siblings found out that the kids and I would be in California a couple of them made the trip out to see us from Utah. We were feeling very loved and special!
When we found out that we were going to live in the Philippines for a couple of years we wanted family and friends to come visit us. And our first guest was my brother (that our children call Rah Rah) who arrived December 3 and stayed with us until January 10. He got a first hand experience to figuring out how to live in the Philippines with us since we were still very new to living here. He was with us while we were living in our serviced apartments and then helped us move into our condo. Rah Rah has traveled with us through Europe and also done his own traveling with friends through Europe, but this was his first time in Asia and in a developing country. I think he enjoyed his time in Asia and we all LOVED having him visit us.
Christmas starts in September in the Philippines. They decorate all during the “BER” months (SeptemBER, OctoBER, NovemBER, DecemBER) and the decorations are pretty nice… it’s almost ridiculous how beautiful the Christmas decorations are when you remember that the Philippines is a developing country! And during the second week of January they start to take down the decorations. So, for a third of the year Christmas is “celebrated” in the Philippines with music and decorations!
There are over a million people who live in downtown Manila. During December that number increases as oversea workers return to the Philippines for the holidays. And then the number decreases as all of the Manila residents and oversea workers return home to their provinces for the holidays. We decided to go to “our province” as well for Christmas…that being Siquijor island where my grandfather left around 1925 to go work on a sugar cane plantation in Hawaii. However, he also left a wife and 2 children in Siquijor, whose descendants we recently made contact with.
We spent 5 days on the island with family. We rented a car and our cousin drove us around. There were no presents, no Christmas trees, not even cold weather. But, we all had a wonderful time enjoying the company of our family and seeing the beauty of the land. God must really love us to have blessed us with wonderful family members.
More Siquijor photos here.
We knew we wanted to spend Christmas with our extended family in Siquijor (the island that my grandfather is from). The first time we visited Siquijor we flew to Bohol and took a 3 hour ferry to reach the island of Siquijor. This time we decided to fly to Dumaguete so our ferry ride would only be around an hour! An added bonus is that we have a cousin that is living with her daughter in Dumaguete. So we made arrangements to stay a couple of nights at the Pura Vida resort and meet up with our cousins before taking the ferry to Siquijor.
More photos of Dumaguete here.
Having visited the Philippines several times over the past two years, we knew that there would be a lot of fun family activities waiting for us once we moved here. Looking back over the first two months since our arrival it’s amazing how many trips and memories we’ve made in such a short amount of time. Below is a summarized list with links to photos documenting our experiences. (linked photos are also displayed at the end of this post)
During the past two months, we……
- Met cousins for the first time in Manila, and went to the Ayala Triangle Light Show together
- Flew to Cebu City – stayed at the Shangri-La on Mactan Island, activities included paragliding, cultural dinner show, sun bathing
- Flew to Thailand on a business trip (two weeks after arriving in Manila, so the family didn’t join me)
- Flew to Cambodia – 3 days / 2 nights (hastravel.com package), visiting temples in Angkor Wat (with Robbie) (here we realized that Kalani, at 8 yrs old, has vacationed in 10 different countries!)
- Flew to Dumaguete – met up with new-found cousins for the first time and took the
- Ferry to Siquijor Island for Christmas, activities included:
- Sports (basketball and volleyball with cousins)
- Family picnic at Salagdoong Beach Park
- Village Disco (outdoor late night dance, no age limit – toddlers to grandparents were dancing!)
- Cantabon Cave Crawl
- Randomly meeting relatives for the first time as we drove around the island (1st cousins, 2nd cousins, cousins of cousins)
- Cambugahay Falls (swimming and diving)
- Butterfly Sanctuary
- Enchanted Tree
- Capilay Springs
- Open ocean fishing, from a small motorized boat (Banca)
- Christmas dinner at our cousin’s (Jacqueline Cento) new house (where we witnessed a traditional Filipino house blessing)
- Stayed at the gorgeous FireFly Cove
- First typhoon hazard – missed our return ferry to Dumaguete due to the storm (which worked in our favor, we had a lot of fun with the extra day)
- …and just enjoying catching up and getting to know our relatives!
- Drove to Anilao, Bantangas to hang out on the beach for a day and snorkel with sharks
- My front-top-right tooth fell out while eating… 6 times! (Manila 3x, Thailand 2x, Dumaguete 1x) (A new permanent crown is being fabricated next week)
- We attended the amazing Chevron Christmas Party (and I had the pleasure of participating in our department’s skit)
- Attended Halloween and Christmas parties for our apartment complex
- Church Activities:
- Attended the branch Christmas party/dinner
- Invited to dinner by five different families in the first two weeks (+2 more invites from co-workers)
- We both spoke in sacrament meeting
- Tia was called to teach primary
- Matt is the new branch clerk
- and of course, Saturday morning basketball
- Played in the work-league basketball tournament (3rd place) (we also do pickup games 1-2x a week)
- Mason had his first professional haircut (he did great)
- Enrolled Kalani at the International School of Manila (ISM) (she loves it)
- Watched the Mall of Asia fireworks show
- Added 30+ Facebook friends (relatives and co-workers)
- Relocated / moved twice (Houston -> Ascott Makati, then Ascott Makati -> Rockwell)
- Witnessed some amazing random public performances
- Tia’s brother Robbie visited for six weeks, so in addition to much of the above, he was also present for the following activities
- American Cemetery
- Rizal Park
- PBA Playoff Game (PBA is the professional basketball league)
- Eating Balut
- New Years Eve Fireworks – aka World War III
- The King and I, performed live at ResortsWorld
- Shopping at Greenhills, Divisoria, Market Market, Glorietta, SM, Greenbelt, and more
- Taal Volcano (tour to the crater rim)
- Dampa Seafood Market (2x)
- Dinner at the Hobbit House (followed by Midget Boxing)
- Watched the movie, The Hobbit (with friends from work)
- 3D Art Museum
…. and as if that wasn’t enough, over the next few months we’ll have three separate extended visits from friends and family (Nate and Laura + 3 kids, Ryan and Sarah + baby, and Felicia, who will accompany us to Thailand on a combined business trip + vacation)!
Photos from the links above: