This past summer, I was beckoned to the Philippines by the passing of my grandmother. As much as I miss my relatives, I admit to having a slight aversion to a vacation to the motherland – reminders that emerged on this trip. It’s not so much the city I’m not fond of but the countryside where my grandparents were from. Despite its serenity and natural, almost untouched beauty, I faced challenges thriving in a rural environment. And, with these challenges, it brought to light how much I take for granted at home.
The two main challenges were the heat and the insects together. Removal of these two key environmental factors would create happiness all around. Nonetheless, they worked against me. Even though I managed to perspire my way through 40ºC weather and make the occasional escape to the only room with air conditioning, the bugs – especially the mosquitoes – adored the foreigner. I, however, absolutely detested the mosquitoes and the large cockroaches. One night, during a brownout, the mosquitoes descended on me with my defences down, scrambling to find a flashlight. I guess my insect repellent had worn off. By the next day, the battle had just begun with slight itching. Not too long after, it was evident that I developed a reaction to the bites as they transformed into angry, red welts.
The bites were hard to ignore. I spent some nights awake, doing the “wee hours” shift during my grandmother’s wake. I can’t really call it much of a jetlag cure but it was nice to be awake during the time when the temperature was at its coolest. A couple of nights, there were heavy rains bringing storms with a deafening clattering of thunder. Quite the acoustic nightmare as I saw many of my relatives protecting their ears with their hands. During clear nights, the most eager of roosters would crow at 2am or 3am the earliest, but they would often hit their mark right before the sun peeked out. At this time, I knew to get my camera ready for the beautiful, warm shades of pink and purple. The shot seen in this post was taken from one of the kitchen windows at my grandparents’ house (which really belongs to my uncle now). The view is of the rice fields my relatives own as well as the guesthouse behind my aunt’s place.
For me, this photo is symbolic of growth and the hard work my grandparents spent to tend to the land. They even worked through heat and insects! More importantly, the view through the window is one they had everyday; it was something they shared together. As beautiful as the view is beyond the window, I could probably adapt to the heat and the way of life (if there was proper, indoor plumbing). The swarms of insects, however, are another matter. Shortly after returning to Manila, one of the bites on my ankle swelled enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room. One week and a number of antibiotic pills later, the welts had subsided. Days after the return home was a heat wave with similar 40ºC temperatures minus the humidity, the air conditioned room, and thankfully, sans insects.