MANILA - Boarding the plane preparing for the long 15-hour flight is something unusual for me and new for my 15-year-old daughter Myria.
We are going to the Philippines because she has been invited to play for the U15 Philippines national soccer team. So, I decided to take this opportunity to reconnect with my past and my heritage.
I grew up as a first-generation American. My parents came over from the Philippines just a few years before I was born. But, growing up, I did not learn to speak the language of the Philippines and I never had a strong connection to traditions and customs of the native land of my parents.
The journey across the world takes us three planes, three countries, three airports.
I made this trip once before --going to the chain of 7,000 islands located south of Japan on the western edge of the Pacific Ocean. I was 8 years old with my mother.
I remember bits and pieces of that trip; meeting my great grandmother; being in a country in the midst of a rising revolution; and riding a carabao -- a water buffalo.
But, this time as an adult, I want to have a different experience... one that helps me appreciate the personality of the Philippines.
We are greeted by my Dad's Cousin Pablo Salangang. We call him Uncle Pabs.
"You have plenty of relatives here," Uncle Pabs, said.
The first thing you notice when arriving in Manila is the traffic and the driving.
"It's different," Myria said.
There seem to be no rules. Drivers change lanes by physically blocking the car in that lane. Motorcycles and scooters cut in and out of traffic like they don't want to live a long time. Uncle Pabs owns one of the largest driving schools in Metro Manila.
"You have to drive like a Filipino because you will not survive Manila if you drive like an American," Uncle Pabs said.
Metro Manila is home to 13-million people, all packed in, overcrowded. Most intersections don't even have any signs to control it. Drivers just go when they can.
For those who don't want to drive they can take one of the iconic Filipino traditions called the Jeepney. People jump in when they can and jump off when it's going slow enough. Not only are they a mode of travel... they are considered to be works of art.
"You try riding one huh? You experience all the Philippine way of traveling," Uncle Pabs said.
We are staying in a place called Bonafacio Global City. This is a more affluent area with high rise condos on every block.
"When you are inside, you don't feel like you are in the Philippines because of the buildings. You don't see the poor area," Uncle Pabs said.
We don't see what we will later learn is the heart and heartbreak of this nation of 100 million people.
CONTINUING COVERAGE: From Tuesday through Friday this week, Nelson will share parts of his experience in the Philippines. At 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nelson will run a 30-minute special called "Storytellers: Lost Heritage". It will run on Channel 20.
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