[This picture was taken after the moment the clock struck midnight, where Sheila immediately surprised me with, what would turn out to be, my first of many surprises.]
I've experienced many "first times" during my travels, and celebrating my birthday on foreign soil has just been added to the list. I definitely never imagined that I'd be in Manila for my birthday this year. But there I was, indeed, nearly 10.5 months after I began my travels, and living out of an apartment with a beautiful Filipina who I'd met at a hostel in Malaysia. Life on the road is bliss.
I spent most of the day writing, while Sheila, the beautiful Filipina who I'd just referenced, was at work. Later that evening, however, I hung out with Sheila's family who lives a few doors down and waited for her to return. It took a little longer than usual before Sheila returned home from work due to the rain and the excessive traffic. Poor thing.
Seriously, though: Rain in Manila + traffic = a nightmare for commuters.
I told Sheila that she really didn't have to get me anything for my birthday, as she'd been asking me what I wanted. And I really meant it, too. I mean, I'm a backpacker; I really don't NEED anything. But of course, she disregarded everything that I had said and presented me with an array of surprises:
1.) A coconut cream pie. It's a tradition: every year I celebrate my birthday by eating this delicious pie. It's simply my favorite. My maternal grandmother, Grandma Ida, would make this pie for me every year from scratch. It was the number one thing I looked forward to on my birthday. And after my grandma passed away (God bless her), my mother (God bless her, too. Sorry, she's not dead or anything, but she deserves a 'God bless' also) kept the tradition alive with buying me a coconut cream pie. Very delicious as well - and enormous. So as one could imagine, I was quite ecstatic to be eating my coconut cream pie in the Philippines. I just couldn't believe that she had found one, as she'd told me that she couldn't find any bakeries in Manila that made 'em. However, a few days before my birthday as she was returning home from work, she got stuck in the city's godforsaken traffic. Seriously, she wasn't moving. And it was at that moment that she noticed a little bakery off the side of the road. She thought she'd check it out as she waited for the traffic to disperse. The owner's wife of the bakery, coincidentally, was an old classmate of Sheila's from university. And when Sheila asked if they could ever-so-kindly make her a coconut cream pie, they graciously said that they would. What are the chances, ey?
2.) A birthday card from my mother. My mother secretly sent a card to Sheila’s address, which, of course, Sheila kept from me.
3.) A birthday card from Sheila. Okay, this card might have been the largest card that I’ve ever received. And inside was a collage of pictures in which Sheila cut and pasted. Many of which, were pictures of me and my family that she obtained from my mother. It was very moving.
4.) Hair clippers. It was great to finally be able to shave my own head and face again, after traveling months without one. It doesn’t cost much to go to the barbershop in southeast Asia, but I’m on a frugal budget. And gosh darn it, dollars add up!
5.) Chocolate covered strawberries. What can I say? I love ‘em.
I couldn't have asked for a better birthday. And for the weekend we were going to La Union, a popular surfer beach in the Philippines. I couldn’t wait.
". . .They say it's your birthday,
We're gonna have a good time,
I'm glad it's your birthday,
Happy birthday to you!"
Next Stop: La Union