Happy New Year Everyone! Selamat Tahun Baru semuanya ya! Yes, I left Jakarta for two weeks to rejoin my family in the Philippines. After six months of work, I feel like I desperately needed a breather and should go somewhere that would let me forget of the mounting stress at work. Because the Christmas holidays are considered peak season, the most practical place to go is one’s home country considering that it will benefit us in numerous ways. Not only can we spend lots of quality time with our family and friends that we have not seen for a couple of months, we can also enjoy the familiar surroundings that we grew up in.
Going home in the Philippines is financially advantageous for me. As a teacher working in Jakarta for almost two years now, I can really tell the stark differences between prices of both countries. This is also a big factor that made me enjoy my vacation more.
Nevertheless, while in my kampong somewhere in Leyte Island, I cannot feel but miss my other home in Pluit, Jakarta. Here are some reasons why I felt this way:
People talking in Bahasa
I love learning a new language and thus being immersed, once again, in the community that speaks the language that I have known all my life is not challenging anymore. I missed the security guards in Greenbay, the fish vendors in the market, my neighbor in Greenbay and the girls in the salon who made an effort to talk to me in Bahasa and made sure that I understand what they were saying! Lately, I was even proud of my ‘comprehension’ skills of the language as my vocabulary increased and felt so damn lonely when I went home and could not practice my Bahasa skills anymore.
Funny but true. These may be traditional dishes, normal and ordinary dishes to you, Indonesian readers but to a foreigner like me, I find these foods having an exciting flavor. And they’re healthy, too! Unfortunately, these are not in the Philippines and instead, what are being sold in the streets are our own version of tempura and other street foods like kwek-kwek (egg coated with flour mixed with vinegar and seafood. A must try, too!), fried hotdog, isaw (chicken intestine) and fish ball.
The Mie dishes
Almost all dishes in the Philippines would not be complete without rice. Or if it’s not with rice, then it is junk food/processed food like the burgers in Mcdonalds, Jollibee or in the famous food chain in our city, Mayongs. I quit eating burgers months ago when I promised not to eat pork or any meat anymore. So, whenever I go out with my friends back home, it is hard for me to find food that is light yet satisfying like the Mie Ayam or Mie Goreng. And should I tell you that I found rice boring, too?
Jogging around the apartment area
It was a satisfying staycation as I enjoyed our newly-painted house and our newly-constructed bathroom. Unfortunately, as I was relishing the comforts of my childhood home, I tend to delete this one important component in my lifestyle while I was in Jakarta—jogging and doing cardio exercises. This is why I wasn’t even surprised when the salon girls, earlier today, described me as hitam-hitam (darker) and gemukan (chubbier! Ouch!) after my holiday.
We use jeepneys in the Philippines. Angkas (the Philippine version of the Go-jek and Grab bike) is still in its introductory phase yet and can just be found in major cities like Manila and Cebu. Personally, being 28-km far from Ormoc City where I meet friends, riding in a motorcycle would be impractical and a bit dangerous. But yes, I missed using my Grab app, and I missed the drivers messaging me and waiting patiently for me outside my apartment.
Women wearing hijabs
The Philippines is largely Christian, and Moslems commonly live somewhere in Mindanao, which is miles away from where I live. And thus amidst a Christian community wearing ‘normal’ clothes, I missed seeing women in hijabs—the mothers in my tower having half their faces covered with the dark, sacred cloth, or the salesladies in Indomaret or the women staff in Greenbay.
Drivers drinking kopi or teh panas while driving
Drivers in Jakarta have this exceptional balancing skills as they can manage to let their plastic cups stay in place while going through the challenging traffic in Jakarta. Their multitasking skills are simply the best. They can manage to hold their plastic cup while talking to a fellow commuter, and at the same time having their eyes on the road.
Kopi and teh panas in plastic cups can never be found in the Philippines, and more so among drivers. What do some Filipino drivers have then? As far as I have noticed, Pinoy drivers drink Coca-cola and finish it by enjoying one or two sticks of cigarettes, all of these should be consumed BEFORE driving.
Large portions of food
Damn, this is kinda frustrating. There was even one time when me and a former student went to this ‘posh’ restaurant in the city that served as some kind of French dish which costs 260Php (65K IDR). Like duh, it’s Philippines dude! Such price range would be more appropriate in a hotel like Sabin or Sal’s Hotel, not in a newly-opened restaurant that should first build the trust of customers! And the serving is effin small, I was expecting it was a set meal with some side dish included in it but there’s none. Back in June, I also got frustrated upon seeing the small portions of pancit canton (a kind of Philippine noodles) being served to me and my high school friend while we were eating in a restaurant in Cebu.
The whole time I was in Jakarta, I never remembered an instance when I got frustrated with my food—be it street food or expensive food in the restaurant. Everything is served in ample amounts that could satisfy tummies of all walks of life. So different in the Philippines then.
The peanut sauce
Our idea of salad back home is that fruits or vegetables should be drenched in sweetened condensed milk. When you are in a restaurant, salads come with mayonnaise or vinaigrette sauce, but never with peanut sauce. Oh, how I missed the neighborhood’s gado-gado or the ketoprak! And the peanut sauce in the sate. Though, I don’t eat barbecue anymore but I will be satisfied with just the peanut sauce on my rice.
The clubbing experience
Because I lived in a kampong which is 28 kilometers away from a nearby city, I did not have the chance to experience any night life in my latest stay. And who would love to have a night life in a stormy month like December! Commuting after six o’clock back home is even harder and would require a higher fare, so it would be practical to stay home then.
If only I can bring these things that I enjoyed in Jakarta with me to the Philippines. That would be the perfect vacation, ever! Then again, Indonesia is Indonesia and thus should hold no comparison with my country. Each one is beautiful in its own right. I feel at home in both places, in different ways. One thing for certain, I am just glad I had my relaxing libur (vacation), and whether it is in the Philippines or in Jakarta, the most important thing that happened is it rejuvenated and made me ready again to face another six months of work ahead!