So for those of you that have been asking (and those of you who haven't), here's the link to photos from my trip to the Philippines, complete with caption-'narration' so you can make sense of what you're seeing.
I had a little reportback brunch today (thanks to Germz, Efren and Howard, among others, for coming) with friends who supported my trip (I fundraised for a good portion of my expenses, which really helped a lot with both my trip to meet my father in Philadelphia and my trip to the Philippines) and one friend asked me to sum up my trip to the PI in one word. I thought for a moment, then said, 'Intense.' If it's not anything else, the Philippines can be a very intense place.
From the nearly daily 100 degree heat and ridiculously oppressive humidity that made my ankles swell up to the culture shock of a nation where Catholicism and Christianity and colonialism are so deeply embedded in the culture but still strangely unrecognizable at times, from the intensity of being around so many family members at once and for an extended time period to the emotional overwhelm of meeting all my relatives for the first time, this trip was quite an experience. But I'm glad I went, and glad that I survived, and I can safely and confidently say that I am a better person for it.
It's strange how connecting with family--long-lost and otherwise--can somehow ground you in a stronger sense of yourself. It's about touching your roots and knowing your history, yes, but it's also about knowing that you are not just a product of your family and upbringing either, that you have choices and privileges and outside experiences that shape you and make you the person you are. I've realized how rich my life is, and how much I have done to build myself up after having some traumatic experiences with family in the past, and now that I know that I have blood-family that I never knew existed before, now that I've made those face-to-face connections and lived amongst my kin, I know that everything leading up this springtime of journeys had a purpose and was part of my preparation for these realizations.
Okay, enough philosophizing and self-analysis. I hope you enjoy the slideshow.