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(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2023) Permanent link   All Posts
Joshua Orbe

After a tumultuous semester at the Academy, going home felt surreal. I hadn’t been home since the pandemic broke out in February. Nine months later, my long-awaited homecoming would soon be reality, and I couldn’t wait to see my family again. However, I knew that this year’s homecoming would not be like the last year. I wondered how much my country was changed by the pandemic.

Before leaving, I spent Thanksgiving at my sponsor brother’s house in New Jersey. There, I reacquainted myself with Filipino food. After relaxing for a few days, Tito (uncle) was kind enough to drive me to New York.

Seeing GCT and the Empire State building again made me miss the old days. The wonder of being in the Big Apple never gets old to me. Tito dropped me off at JFK airport and 15 hours and five movies later, I was in Manila. I can’t describe how happy I was to be back home. My dad picked me up at the airport and dropped me off at a hotel for my quarantine while waiting for my COVID test results so I could be cleared for travel.

One difference that I noticed immediately was how seriously the Philippines was taking the pandemic. Everyone wore masks. Everyone wore face shields too. Every mall, store, and restaurant had separate contact tracing sheets that you had to sign in at before being granted entry. Alcohol stations for your hands and the bottoms of your shoes were everywhere. There were people enforcing social distancing. It was reassuring to see that my countrymen seemed to understand the dangers of the virus and had even somewhat adjusted to the new normal.

When I was cleared to go, my dad took me back to our home province of Bataan and I was reunited with my mom and sister. They introduced me to the new family pets, a fish named Edward and a black lab named Rocco. We also bought a couple of houses in my absence. We moved out of our old house in Cavite and transferred our stuff to Manila. My parents showed me the family house being built in Tagaytay, where I will one day live once I graduate from CGA. Besides that, our family went all over. We went Christmas shopping in a nearby province known for its cheap yet quality products. We spent a weekend on a remote island resort, having fun like the world was normal again. Also, I finally bought mom that karaoke machine I promised her. On Christmas day, we wore matching pajamas. For the New Year, we made a feast. All of us were stuffed, even the dog!

My vacation went by so fast. We did so much and I thank God for giving me the chance to go home. Saying goodbye was bittersweet. I am excited for the next time I get to go home but for now, I have a whole new semester and 2/c year to look forward to.