As summer quickly drew to a close, students across the school gathered to exchange stories about their summer adventures. Amongst the student body is junior Kristian De Leon.
First was a luxurious Mexican cruise. Although not very far from home, De Leon got to experience a romantic movie style day on the beach.
“It was the glorified version of Mexico,” De Leon said. “I rode a horse down the beach.”
The food was another point of discussion. Southern California is known for delicious Mexican food, but of course nothing beats Mexican food in Mexico.
“The Mexican food in Mexico is way better. The oysters there are so fresh,” De Leon said. “The ocean was on the restaurant so it was just so good.”
The trip to Mexico was rather short compared to the Philippines and Singapore; so after the extravagant cruise, De Leon jetted across the Pacific to the rural side of the Philippines for a family visit.
“We went to the farming community, not the glorified Philippines,” De Leon said. “The level of living that we have is much higher. We take things for granted. They don’t have running hot water or shower heads. What we consider suburbs is high class to them.”
One of the most common things Americans use daily is the road. Luckily our government keeps up the maintenance and safety laws of the road.
“The traffic there is absolutely a mess! I could never drive there! I could never want to drive there!” De Leon said. “What we can consider freeway is not their considered freeway because there will be a lot of people driving through barangays, which is like districts. It’d be two lanes, no center divide, then there would be a truck that would be trailed by a little tricycle.”
As one can imagine, driving off-road was much worse.
“I was driving through the coconut groves and the roads were dirt,” De Leon said. “They were lumpy and wet. It was almost near impossible to drive. You couldn’t go above five miles per hour.”
Another point of concern was the lack of seatbelts.
“Seatbelts are not really necessary because they have these things called jeepneys,” De Leon said. “It’s honestly just a regular school bus but turn all the seats sideways so you’re up against the rails, except it’s really short. It’s the size of a regular car and there’s people crammed sitting down, crammed hanging out the back and sitting on top and that’s how people get around. [To get off] you literally just scream, ‘Hey! I need to get off!’ Then they’ll stop the car and you can get off.”
Because the Philippines are a series of islands located in the Pacific Ocean the food was different to what one might be used to.
“The food is very exotic. The last night I was there I had a spit roasted pig,” De Leon said. “If you don’t eat the food, they’re very offended, so you have to eat. It was really good, except for the brains. That part was not good.”
The pig was the family pig they raised themselves because in the area De Leon visited most families practices subsistence farming.
“Most of the farming was subsistence farming. Where they would farm rice, so they could have rice for their family and that was kind of fun; trying to walk through the rice patties without falling over and getting wet,” De Leon said. “[The rice field] is like a big patch of water with plants growing out of it and the way you navigate is you go through these little trails. It was only 3-4 inches wide, just enough for your foot.”
Since your family survival depended on farming, school isn’t a terribly high priority.
“School would depend on their class of welfare. By our age, they’re already in their first or second year of college,” De Leon said. “One person I met was sixteen and in the middle of his first year of college. They learn math, science, English, Tagalog. They’re used to hearing their dialect of English so that when I speak straight English they won’t understand it. So I have to speak very slow and articulate and sometimes even add their accent so they can understand it.”
Once out of the Philippines, De Leon flew to Singapore where everywhere he turned there seemed to be a mall, even in the metro station.
“The way they have it set up, you would go down into a mall and from the mall you would go to the next station. Every station is a mall.” De Leon said.
Even with a mall on every corner, the style in Singapore didn’t differ much from American fashion.
“It’s not much different than here because, we as Americans spend our fashion trying to look like Europeans and Asians.” De Leon said.
The individual malls were only a small portion of what was to come because next was the extravagant Mall of Asia.
“You look in one direction and its all mall. You look in a second direction and it’s still all mall. You turn around and it’s literally mall everywhere. Then you go out to the next building and you see a strip mall then you go to the next building and there’s another strip mall,” De Leon said.
Comparatively, the malls in San Diego are nothing like the malls in Singapore.
“Malls there are not as spread out as we are used to,” De Leon said. “It can be really squished; for the most part it’s one building. That was very new to me. When I say squished, I mean the size of a room of a movie theater would be a mall with a decent amount of stores.”
Besides the countless malls, De Leon stayed in the lavish Marina Bay Sands Hotel.
“It has a landmark in Singapore for having 3 towers 57 floors up but on the 57th floor is a boat across three towers and its an infinity pool,” De Leon said. “It’s a hotel that they expect you to have money at. I think it was $400 a night.”
Overall, Singapore and the Philippines was filled with the colorful diversity of southeast Asia.
“Everyone there is a different nationality, but they’re proud to be one nation. They’re all different people, but they’re happy to be together,” De Leon said. “It’s a really good experience to have to see what other people expect out of the world and their lives and to compare that to what we have and take for granted.”