How 5 fresh grads survived Hong Kong

EXISTENTIAL BLABBER - Kara Ortiga () - April 15, 2011 - 12:00am

If anyone asks how I survived Hong Kong with a few college friends right after the last day of final exams, I would acknowledge it to the hospitality of the many Filipino workers residing there.

The trip was really spontaneous, a result of one of Cebu Pacific’s super promos where you book on a whim without really much planning. We booked the tickets back in January, and didn’t really weigh the odds of how the trip would coincide with the crunch-time moments of graduating (insert a little bit of regret here). But the experience was really one of a kind.

Take five ambitious and fresh graduates from college and put them in a foreign country. Lour, Kristine, Sarah, Aimee and I really should have thought this trip out better. We packed floral dresses and summer shorts, only to be faced with a below-20-degree-Celsius weather. We brought high-heeled shoes, only to be faced with hours of non-stop walking. Call us unprepared, or maybe just a little stupid and vain… but we survived, and we owe our survival to many things.

May it be because we were all female, under 5”1 in height, and perhaps full of uncertain sparkling in our eyes. Or what we call the “cheerleader effect,” how travelling with an all-girl group upped the ante of our social value. Like when we pleaded because we were lost, legs and feet jolting with pain from all the walking (because we’re budget friendly like that) asking, “where can we find good Peking duck?” Obscure shop owners and locals began whipping out their Google maps on the Internet and calling friends just to help us satisfy our touristy craves. Of course, the communication barrier, paired with some angry Chinese cursing, shunned us away a couple of times. But what really acted as kind of a deus ex machina for our trip was friendly kababayans, Filipinos sprawling everywhere.

In the end, we simply called it our Filipino luck. How, when we were lost in the streets of Macau, or running back to catch the ferry from Hong Kong Island a little tipsy, we found a friendly Filipino walking in the streets, telling us exactly where to go.

It began the first night at the Irish pub beside our budget hotel in Tsim Sua Tsui. Free welcome drinks for all, because the bartender recognized we were Filipino. The luck was also felt in Hong Kong Island, at the supposedly happening nightlife of Lan Kwai Fong. Our infectious laughter and loud sharing of stories bought us another pitcher of sangria, on the house, care of the friendly waiter and bar tender, both Filipinos, who urged us to stay a little longer and just “continue laughing.” Maybe they missed the sounds of boisterous Filipino inuman.

But the Filipino luck was felt most of all when we battled a one-day trip to Macau. When we didn’t know which bus to take, and a kind lady told us we could follow her to the Senado Square. Or when we decided to watch the Cirque du Soleil in the Venetian (not worth it), and the Filipina receptionist gave us the great “Venetian experience” for free! In addition, she upgraded our seats in the theater. We were able to experience that rip-off gondola ride, a set dinner and one bottle of Tsing Tao beer — all for free.

Not to say that all these freebies determine the incredible hospitality of the Filipinos there, but the smallest things saved our little all-girl group. Into day three in Hong Kong, we figured out the solution to surviving: when in doubt, look for a Filipino. They give the best advice. The culture of the locals, you realize over time, is bordering on a little but rude. And then you realize how warm Filipinos really are.

And although they referred to us as tourists, and consider themselves “locals,” I’d like to believe that their hearts still reside back home and they are still 100-percent Filipino. And though this is not supposed to be a sad comment of how I have witnessed firsthand the Filipino diaspora, I find it more hopeful actually, and comforting, in knowing that elsewhere in this massive world, our Filipino heritage assures us that we have fellow Filipinos looking out for one another.

Take it from five, giddy, fresh graduates travelling together, filled with existential questions and a hopefulness that only youth can provide. We have truly experienced a different kind of nationalism and sense of brotherhood that exists between Filipinos.

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