Whether you are a permanent resident or an overseas Filipino worker, there are things back home in the Philippines that seem irreplaceable. Even with more Filipinos based abroad and goods normally available in the Philippines are now found on shelves at Asian shops and Filipino stores, there’s still that something that can only be fulfilled when you’re back home.
As OFWs learn new things and better understand different cultures, it also means giving up a lot of things they are familiar with. Here are some of the things Filipinos abroad miss back home as they settle overseas and adopt their new way of life.
Exotic Filipino food
Home-cooked meals or street foods are often on the top list of things Filipinos abroad miss back home. Even though Filipino restaurants begin sprouting in places with a greater concentration of kababayans, there are types of delicacies not found there. Sour mango dipped in bagoong, ginanggang na saging, tuyo at champorado and lechon are some of the foods not normally served elsewhere. Add the animated chatter with family or friends and the warm comfortable confines at home or a familiar dining spot.
Filipinos often complain about the hot and humid weather and dream about making a snowman or being spoiled by a mild breeze that allows people to relax under the sun. Filipinos also deal with typhoons, floods, and other natural calamities. But tourists label the Philippines as a tropical paradise that offers warm days all year round and that bodes well with the warm hospitality Filipinos show to visitors. No wonder Pinoys now living in places with bitter winters make warm fond memories of home.
The Philippines is often visited by several typhoons and floods every year that make the government’s #walangpasok announcement a common way of life. Plus the hot and humid weather makes us wish we’re in the middle of snowstorm. But still we all look forward to the Philippines as a refuge of warmth and away from the cold — literally and figuratively — lives abroad.
Pinoy transport system
Iconic jeepneys, kuliglig, tricycles, habal-habal and other modes of public transport can only be found in the Philippines. Jeepneys not only move you from one place to another at a cheaper cost, but their structure also allows occasional conversations with manong driver, ask a favor to pass the fare, and whistle or knock to get off at your desired destination.
Even though we remember getting annoyed by persistent traffic, undisciplined drivers, and the free-for-all way of navigating the roads in the Philippines, we often make fun of the situation and brush it off as “only in the Philippines” and move on with our daily lives.
‘Gimiks’ and get-togethers
Beach resorts, karaoke bars, movie group dates, fiestas and birthdays, graduation and wedding parties, the list goes on where Filipinos back home take their fellowships and gatherings. No wonder OFWs would love to be part of these activities to have caught up and share hearty laughter with friends and family members. Filipinos abroad may have their own means of entertainment but nothing compares to how we do it at home.
This may mean spending more than planned or have bad experiences with family or friends during vacation, it’s often worth the cost just to be reunited with them and recall happy memories together.
TV shows and teleseryes
Watching television is a popular habit among Filipinos back home. Engaging noontime shows bring so much fun at home and teleseryes pitting the bidas and contrabidas are strictly part of the daily routine that glues kababayans to their TV sets back home. Filipinos get so attached to their favorite TV shows that even when they’re abroad they continue to follow them — whether shared on Facebook, YouTube or on a paid subscription.
Filipino TV shows and teleseryes are often characterized as full of cliches and recycled storylines, but Filipinos don’t mind. Enjoyment does not only depend on the quality of the shows but also with the comfort of friends and family.
Chicken cackles and fighting cocks
Early morning wake-up calls are composed of the noise hens, roosters, ducks, and backyard animals make. In a neighborhood where a breeder of fighting cocks lives, expect a loud cackle.
But more than just nature’s alarm clocks, Filipinos abroad who used to visit cockfighting arenas or even at illegal tupada back home in the Philippines, also miss the game — complete with the presence of sentensyador and kristo — even if such habit is often met with the usual frown from their wives.
There’s a reason why Filipinos abroad flock to book flights back to the Philippines during December. Nothing compares to the festive atmosphere brought by the Christmas season. Simbang gabi novena, Christmas parties, pyrotechnics, exchanging of gifts, endless piles of food at the table, family reunions, old Christmas songs, and pesky carolers, they all get the credit for making Christmas in the Philippines truly a season that’s worth visiting.
People in villages celebrating a patron saint’s feast are more cohesive, close-knit, and manifest genuine hospitality. You don’t have to know the homeowner to be invited; everyone’s welcome to partake of the food and drinks. They are also decorated with hour-long processions, peryas or carnivals, beauty pageants or basketball tournaments. That is why fiestas are also celebrated overseas among Filipinos who come from the same locality in the Philippines, even if in a more subdued manner.
Lechon and boodle fights
It’s not a repetition of #1. Lechon is more than just food, it’s an epitome of Filipino food culture that’s characterized as an abundant and communal eating experience. Healthwise aside, lechon unites a group — family, high school class, or former colleagues — that it often gets the center stage when making group photos.
From a mere military tradition of eating, Filipinos extended where boodle fights will take place. Devoid of spoon, fork, and plates, Filipinos prefer to stand up consuming food placed on top of banana leaves over an extended table.
Filipino street food
You name it, the street across the market has it: balut, halo halo, kwek-kwek, puto bumbong isaw, betamax, fishballs, adidas, pinaypay na saging, mango with shrimp paste, kikiam, banana cue, scramble, sorbetes and buko juice. You enjoy it with the company of friends, siblings or colleagues while going home or simply passing time. Oftentimes, remembering these types of food shared with family or friends makes us think how simple life has been back then.
Who could forget this as the main reason why we miss the Philippines? The weekend bonding at Jollibee after going to church. Celebrating birthdays in high school at with friends in complete attendance. Taking trips to the beach and picnics at the park. Or giggling in front o the TV. While there are also sad and tense moments we shared with our family. But it’s our happy moments with them that we like to remember.
Even if life abroad brings more economic prosperity and financial freedom, there are old habits and memories that we often miss back in the Philippines. Sometimes they are replicated in our own Filipino communities abroad, but nothing compares to the authentic experience we’ll enjoy every time we return for holidays.