America, as they say is the “land of the free,” and for most of us who now have settled here, freedom and independence are both very important to us. However, per my recent visit back home, I missed being the ultra independent person I am, to the point of being annoyed because suddenly, the freedom we have all been used to here is nowhere to be found there.
Tip #1. Make sure you’re aware of the horrendous TRAFFIC situation in Metro Manila, particularly during weekdays; it usually takes two to three hours to go from one point to another, which is really annoying. Try NOT to go through EDSA, which is the main hub, running from the border of Bulacan up north all the way south to Bicutan and Laguna. Unlike here in LA, people can divert through the side roads that can lead them to the direction where they’re going or rely on their car’s or phone’s GPS systems. In Metro Manila, one can’t escape from TRAFIIC jams even on “side streets.” Part of the reason for these traffic jams is street construction, where most politicians running for election have to “maximize” their budget to enable them to have a “reason” to be elected by placing banners where their supposed “construction projects” were set up, giving them relevance and something to “show for.” So, if you’re planning on going back home for the holidays, try to ARRIVE at NAIA (airport) on a Sunday, when there’s lesser traffic to go through wherever you wish to go.
Tip #2. If you’re renting or borrowing a car you can drive, be aware of various types of UNDISCIPLINED drivers on the streets with no regard for driving laws. We were almost hit twice while on our way bringing a friend home; once, by a tricycle with a passenger who swerved in front of us cutting through two lanes to enable the driver to make a u-turn and the other was a fully-packed jeepney driver who pushed his way through in front of us while we were in-between two large buses. Otherwise, your other solution is to have friends drive you around, but that is another story in itself, because you are “at the mercy” of people who may not be able to drive you because they’re on a “coding” system, or they’re already near the place where you’ll be meeting. The most annoying part of course, is when you lose your freedom and independence to just drive and go wherever you need to.
Tip #3. In borrowing or buying a cell phone to use while you’re there, make sure you have a DUAL capacity phone system. By DUAL, that means you can call BOTH on GLOBE and SMART systems. While I was grateful for the thoughtfulness of my nephew Richard who lent me his GLOBE phone, I learned early on that when you use a Globe system and you happen to call a number on a Smart system, your phone’s “LOAD” has been maximized and you experience dropped calls where unbeknownst to you, the person you’re talking to on the other line is gone. Again, this was really annoying unlike our various phone systems here, where you can pick and choose the kind of fee-based coverage you desire.
Tip #4. Due to CLIMATE change, the weather might still be very humid during the months of November and December. Try to wear summery, loose clothing in order to alleviate the humidity in your body, as you tend to wish taking a shower three times a day. I remembered visiting there in January, and it was a better option as one wouldn’t feel the humidity due to the more temperate weather condition.
Speaking of options, the best advice I can give you if you wish to go home for the holidays and you wish to experience the various, wonderful sights our country offers, there are DIRECT flights now available and heavily promoted by several airlines that serve our balikbayans. As an example, you may now take advantage of direct flights from LAX to Cebu, LAX to Vigan, LAX to Boracay, LAX to Palawan, LAX to Clark and many other selections.
Finally, here’s wishing you good luck, have fun with your family and loved ones and have a safe trip back home.