Over the holidays, I played host to family and friends who flew in from all over. My relatives just recently flew back home to Toronto and Los Angeles, but I also helped out some friends with their own balikbayan challenges.
This situation isn’t new to me. Plus given the fact that I now stay in Makati– conveniently near the airport, a few minutes away from some of the best malls in the city, and pretty much everything you need just a stone’s throw away– my new place makes for an ideal spot for incoming relatives (and friends) to crash whenever they’re in town.
When playing host to family and friends from faraway lands, it’s usually the case to take them around and check out what Makati, the rest of Metro Manila, (or even the rest of The Philippines, for travel-happy relatives) has to offer.
So expect yourself to put on your best tourist guide hat while your folks are in town.
Things to Consider:
1. Agenda. What sort of activities are your visiting family/friends into? Do they want to check out new spots? Get to know the real, urban, gritty side of Manila? Here to do business? Visit old favorites? Immerse themselves in some history? Go right ahead and ask them what they want to do. No point bringing them to a place like Divisoria, when all they want is to hit up some beaches.
2. Time. How much time do you have? Depending on the itinerary, you might have a day, a week, or maybe several months. Map out your recommended activities around a particular location: if you’re going to Intramuros, you might want to swing by Binondo, then head on over to The Cultural Center of The Philippines, before finally feasting on seafood along Macapagal Avenue in Pasay City.
3. Budget. Sometimes you’ll be paying, other times they’ll be paying. Part of the fun is knowing how to stretch their vacation money somehow, and remember, part of the fun for your balikbayan family and friends is the fact that their cash goes a relatively longer way here in the Philippines.
4. Food. The Philippines has an awesome assortment of food– all kinds of world cuisine can be found here, and then you have all kinds of great stuff in markets and supermarkets everywhere. Are there allergies you need to be aware of? Cultural or religious limitations, or maybe even just personal preferences perhaps? Keep all those in mind when thinking about which restaurant to visit, or what you’ll be cooking for your next meal.
5. Safety and Security. You can never be too careful, really. Brief your guests well on what they could/should/couldn’t/shouldn’t do while in the Philippines. Acquaint them with your neighborhood, equip them with their own mobile phones, and provide them with numbers to contact in the event of an emergency. Furnish notes or index cards for them to carry around if they have to, and teach them to get home (to your place, or to the hotel) just in case.
Bear these in mind, and you can make your balikbayan family and friends enjoy their visit so much more. Organized well enough, you don’t get too stressed, plus you get the distinction of being an awesome host. Heck, if you think you’re really good at these things, putting up your own travel agency/tour operation might actually be a good business venture for the future!