(For those who don't know Tagalog: "Balikbayan" means "someone who is returning home.")

My arrival to the Philippines started with a text message from my mom telling me to stay put, watch my luggage, and that they'd be there in less than 30 minutes. They arrived nearly two hours of crawling traffic later and started feeding me dried mangoes; on the way to the market (in order to get more food) we were stopped by some policemen looking for bribes (which we didn't give) and then accosted by beggars tapping on the car windows (also didn't give; even the cute little kids often belong to begging/crime syndicates).

Yep. I'm home. (Well... sort of home. One of my kinds of homes. More my family's home than mine - but still kind of a home for me.)

Got to the market, where two of my mom's sisters (#1 and #7) and some of my cousins (Barby and Bea, the two daughters of Mom's Sister #1) helped us tuck into a feast of boneless bangus (a fish with lots of bones that consequently usually gets manually deboned before it's cooked, in order to preserve the sanity of the eater), sizzling sisig (finely chopped pig head, pan-fried), banana blossoms, buko (young coconut - chop off the top, drink the juice, scoop out the meat and eat it), and more...

Things have changed in the two years since I last came. My grandmother's house has wifi, and it is of sufficient speed to watch videos online. This rocks my world - I've always had to struggle to find connectivity here before. My cousins are in college, and they're geeks! Organic chemistry, mechanical engineering, product design... we're all sort of artsy nerds now in some sense and it is AWESOME to be able to geek out with them. After a quick stop at my aunt's factory (you can hardly tell Typhoon Ondoy came through, except for water/oil marks up by the ceiling where the floodwaters reached) Barby and I went to a construction expo (she's the design student - this was a homework assignment) and gawked at trucks and roofing materials and had frozen yogurt and asked each other what we were up to.

She told me about all our cousins (on my mom's side) in the Philippines and how they've grown up and I told her about our cousins in the US and what they were like (the last time Barby saw Audrey, she wasn't talking yet; now she's in 1st grade; the last time I saw Agnes she was in high school, now she's in the middle of her engineering studies and likes robotics!!!) and we really need to get on a mailing list so we can actually talk about things and not have 2-year lags between our conversations. Barby filled me in on her design studies, I explained what I'm doing now, which necessitated an explanation of open source (and now I have to teach her Inkscape and she wants to check out the Fedora Design team so hopefully we'll get a chance to sit down and do that before I leave) and then I got back to the house and there was MORE FOOD! and... happy. (Oh, and Barby drives now - so I might actually be able to leave the house! I must admit my family's paranoia is well-founded in this country... taking a taxi is a bad idea here if you don't like getting kidnapped.)

I even plea-bargained my way into wearing pants for Willison's wedding today. If I were to wear a dress, I pointed out, we'd either need to buy or borrow one. Buying one is sayang (there's no direct translation to English, but one might say "such a waste") because I will never wear that dress again. Borrowing one is nigh impossible because I'm very tall (the average woman in the Philippines is less than 5 feet tall; I'm 5'8") and broad-shouldered (which, in American clothing sizes, means I'm more of a Women's Medium than a Small) - by American metrics I'm not big, but by Filipino standards I'm a friggin' giant. However, we've conveniently brought pants and a shirt from the States, so... wouldn't it be easier for everybody if...?

Deal: I wear pants, but I also wear jewelry and allow them to put on some makeup. (Which is coming off ASAP, believe me. Ergh.) I also do the first reading at the wedding mass today. I can live with this. It's better than the puffy frilly yellow dress I had to wear for my uncle's wedding. My parents get it worse because they're one of the ninang/ninong (godmother/godfather) pairs for the wedding (there are 6 pairs, which is a lot) so they have to do the Official Wedding Wear thing and walk in the procession and all that. They can pull it off a lot better than I'd be able to, though.

Breakfast today: persimmons, misua (noodles), taho (soft beancurd with syrup and tapioca) - I stopped short of the rolls filled with shredded vegetables, though I may go back for second breakfast in a bit. My free time ends shortly because the hairdresser is about to come. The remainder of the weekend will be filled with family and feasting. And then when everyone else goes to bed (because I don't sleep anyway) I'll pop online and work on Fedora and catch up with Sugar Labs; I've got quite a backlog after POSSE in Singapore last week.

But right now I'm going to be home.