© 2016 Lindsay Cope

Christmas in Bataan and Surfing and New Years in La Union

Happy Holidays to all my friends an family back home.  Despite the overzealous christmas decorations and pop-music christmas carols, that start in September mind you, it never quite feels like the holidays in the Philippines.

This year, I celebrated Hanukkah with my host family.  I have two menorahs and several dreidels that I have received in care packages from family, so this year I was prepared for Hanukkah festivities.  It was raining so I didn’t make latkes in my outdoor kitchen because I would have become freckled with oil burns.  Instead, I bought donuts and we played dreidel and lit the menorah.  My family enjoyed the story of Hanukkah and loved playing dreidel!  Not many Philippinos know about Judaism, so it is fun to share Jewish traditions and tell them about family back home.


Playing dreidle in Calatagan

For the Christmas holiday I chose to visit my host family from Peace Corps Pre-Service Training in Morong, Bataan.  It had been over a year since I had been there.  I met Zak and Jay, two volunteers from my batch, in Manila and we made our way to the bus station.  The bus station was a sea of bodies and luggage, everyone was trying to get to Olongapo or Baguio.  We purchased our tickets and made our way out of the terminal to get some breakfast.  We had at least four hours to kill before our bus.

Returning to the bus station, it was clear that there was no order. Multiple bus numbers were being called, and passengers swarmed around the bus. As they called off bus numbers, they skipped ours, so we just decided to get on.  It was a long ride to Olongapo because there was so much traffic leaving Manila. Once we finally arrived in Olongapo, it was more disorder trying to catch a jeep to Bataan.  Four jeeps filled before we caught one, each jeep being stormed by the waiting crowed, people shoving to get their seat on board.

Staying in Morong was like visiting home from college. It was comfortable, they cooked my favorite foods, and we just hung out and spent time together.

After Christmas in Morong, Zak and I made our way north to San Juan, La Union where we met up with Alicia.  San Juan is known for their surfing.  We stayed in Barangay Urbitzondo which has three good breaks, two of which are suitable for beginners.  Our first day trying to surf was good, we hired an instructor and all of us managed to get up on our boards.  The next few days however were very challenging, the water was rough and the conditions were not great.  We didn’t worry though, we napped on the beach and enjoyed the yummy restaurants of Urbitzondo, including my new favorite burger place ever. It is called Bad Monkey and it was absolutely delicious. It exceeds any other burger I have had in the Philippines and is a remarkable burger by American standards!  When in Urbitzondo, go to Bad Monkey and get the combo, burger, fries and a beer! But, get there early!  They often sell out! We enjoyed a few dinners in nearby San Fernando too where there is a nightly street market with tons of delicious and cheap eats!


Some BBQ at the night market in San Fernando


Fireworks for sale in San Fernando


“No smoking, No testing” We didn’t know what the sign meant until we walked into the market and realized they only sold FIREWORKS!


My travel companions, Zak and Alicia

New Years Eve was a blast in San Juan.  The local tourism organization put on a beach party with DJ, fire dancer, and fireworks.  It was a small crowd and not at all unruly.  The best part of San Juan is it never feels crowded despite being a compact tourist town.



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