The past 20 months in Oklahoma had been a grueling time for me as I had saturated my share in school—at least for the time after two bachelor degrees and one master degree—and I wanted to go home so badly in Florida. When graduation finally hits, I was beyond excited to leave the tornado capital of America. Although it provided me opportunities, it did not feel like home. I guess I am biased about my Florida (I will miss some things but I will definitely not miss the erratic weather. Thanks for the windshield crack and all the dents on my car, Oklahoma! -_-)
I originally planned to go back to the Philippines for at least a month because I knew that if I did not go back this year, I would not be able to in a while as I might be working already. Summit Media told me that there will be a ‘I-can’t-quite-reveal-what-yet’ (which I missed the first time being half the world away from the Philippines). I thought it’s enough catch to go home. So, what the heck? Sure.
I bought my ticket literally three days before my flight. The tickets skyrocketed already to about three-grand and the bad tickets were seriously—pretty bad. I decided to take a flight that stops over at Narita/Haneda for about a day and after a long delay in Japan (I had a drink before flying so I was just—not there! Haha), I arrived in the Philippines at about 10 at night in NAIA Terminal 2.
First night was A-OK. We ate at Chowking and I got to eat something with fish. I wasn’t really hungry and there was nothing else to eat in the menu so I went for it. Basically we just spent the remaining hours traveling to Olongapo City ( I saw a dead boy in the streets :O) but we otherwise got home just fine. My Lola who had a stroke was stoked at seeing me. I slept in her room that night so I could bond with her—and she didn’t let me sleep as much. There goes my three days with only 1-hour of sleep. Boo.
The next two days in the Philippines, May 21st-22nd, I purposely did not schedule anything with anyone as I wanted to spend some time with my grandparents and my family. We celebrated my grandpa’s birthday—which was refreshing considering the last time I was back, it was my grandma’s birthday during the bagyo and I almost did not make my flight due to the baha. I was dying of heat and was constantly wishing to be back in America already. I needed to adjust after not having a centralized AC in the house. I would usually start to sweat even in the shower and my skin was super sticky with the humidity.
News broke to me that I won’t be able to make it to Pop-Fiction-event-that-I-can’t-reveal-just-yet because they couldn’t find a venue so I moved my flight to an earlier date. I was scheduled to go to my meet-up at Quezon City Memorial Circle and the Pandayan Bookshop Book Signing in Cavite instead. I didn’t know where I was going to be at certain dates, so my plan was just to wing my travel plans. By Friday, May 23rd, my cousin Angel, my Tita, and I traveled to Laguna in my first ever bus and LRT ride in about 10 years. It was super baho but it was weird to sort of miss it? We don’t have all that in America—all the noise, smoke and smell, and maybe that is why Philippines is also home. I also got to ride the jeepney and the tricycle going to Laguna. It gave me a headache afterwards and I spent most of the afternoon sleeping in my Tita’s couch. My sinuses bothered me by the end of the day and I ended up with allergies (my eyes got super watery and I felt sick).
The same night, we just went to the mall because I needed a dress for the meet-up, ate salad at KFC (because that was the only thing available for me), and we went home. I was really exhausted and everyone was joking around with me at how I would be spending hours in the morning blow drying my hair and whatnot. (The transformer didn’t work, so I had an emergency run to the nearby salon the next day).
The meet-up on the 24th was something I did not expect. I am not big on meet-ups because it feels like people put you in a pedestal when the truth is, I am just your everyday college kid. The first meet-up I had at Mall of Asia in 2012 was relatively small, and now that I held another one, it became three-times bigger. Tons of games, pictures, people asking me for autographs, video greetings, more signings of random items, got tons of gifts—lots of things I did not really expect people would do for me. I was super touched! One of my admins, Sharina, pretty much arranged the event and I was super thankful that she did that for me because I just did not have the time and energy to plan the event out. She was on top of it which was really impressive! We ate dinner at Max’s after the meet-up, with my family and some of my readers who stayed behind so I treated them for dinner—which by the way, I wasn’t able to eat anything because they all had meat! HAHA. I got to eat two pieces of sweet potato? I think. People were on my case about giving a 10% tip (PHP500-600 because the total of the meal was PHP6,000+. They said it was too much and they took my money and gave it back to me. I still gave a tip, a small one, and it felt kind of… odd. It felt like I cheated them with tip.)
The exhaustion caught up with me as I went home that night at Tita Irene’s place in Quezon City. I didn’t even realize my foot was blistered! I guess I was having too much fun to notice. The same night, Ehrie messaged me saying that the hang out with Jon Lucas (who I always call Dominic at the time because of G2B), was going to push through the next day at about 4 p.m. It did not really sink in because I was extremely tired. I just knew that I was supposed to meet her to go see Jon at ABS-CBN the next day.
I didn’t know how intimate the meeting was and that was part of the reason why I did not bring any of my cousins. My friend Jam picked me up at home in Quezon City and we rode the cab to get to ABS-CBN. Ehrie wasn’t there yet at the time, and I told Jam that I did not want to go see Jon without Ehrie being there (because really, it’s kind of nakakahiya and what was I supposed to say—HELLO?). Ehrie finally showed up in no time, introduced me to a girl named Marycon with her (who happened to be my fan according to her and somehow has connection to my bestfriend Kim? Small world really), and we went upstairs.
Jon’s famous behind was surrounded by a bunch of people asking him for pictures, autographs, and random things. As soon as we walked in, I noticed that he saw us already (and another guy named Oscar who was manning the table). Ehrie was telling me to go ahead and approach him and that was when I started freaking out. What did she say to him? I asked just that and she said that she told him that she has a friend from the US who wanted to meet him. They were all pushing me to sit next to him—which I did for a little bit—and I started to sweat due to the heat because they kept turning the AC off (or maybe I was just really freaking out). Jon just asked me what was my inspiration when I wrote the book and joked at how he would read it and if it becomes a movie, he would take the role. I kind of did not answer his question because all I said was, “It’s a hobby,” which technically wasn’t an “inspiration” per say.
He had to attend to other fans and I got to hang with the girls. We talked about random things, I met France too (a writer of ABS-CBN), and Jon’s mom “Mamita.” She was extremely sweet that it was just major aww. She joked at how they’ve been out all day and how her son might be too “baho” already and felt bad for fans hugging him all day. She seemed to be really proud of Jon which reminded me of my mom and her never-ending support to my writing. It kind of made me sad a bit because I don’t really get to spend a lot of time with my mom since I’ve been moved out for 7 years. I came to realization that I should go hang with my mom as soon as I get back to Florida. Okay? Okay.
Jon later on hung out with us again for a bit and people started teasing us for pictures (mainly my Spongebob Ehrie) and told us to do a hug photo. I was deliberately feeling at ease after a while as Jon was joking a lot and he was mimicking the way I speak (or mocking? Hmmm haha). He even grabbed ahold of a napkin and started wiping his nose (I did not get this joke right ahead, but it turned out to be nosebleeding from all the English that I’ve been doing. Too funny!). He recorded a video greeting for my mom and it turned out to be hilarious. I didn't expect him to be super nakakatuwa and nakakatawa at the same time because his character in G2B was kind of on the serious note. His dad later on showed up at the place and he had to go. Apparently he hasn't slept at the time so he had to go home. He just mentioned about going out again before leaving, and the rest of us stayed at Mickey Ds.
We went to KTV that night at Music Match. Jasmine showed up late but still rocked some songs. When Ate Ceejay and BFF Vince left, the rest of us girls ate at Shakey’s and spent I-do-not-know-how-long and just did chikahan about random things. Shakey’s lost Jas’ card which was infuriating but what can you do? They gave her a new one which made up for it a little bit, but they just totally lost her card. I signed a few things (which was weird because I was telling them we were all friends already!) and I did a video greeting and some fansigns for people.
On May 26th, I had to travel back to Olongapo City with my cousin Angel and two of my Lolos from my grandma’s side. Apparently, we were to go to my grandma’s probinsiya (in Cabangan Zambales) for a mini family reunion. We got home in Olongapo late at night already, so there was nothing else to do but sleep.
May 27th was when we started our day early. My Kuya and I had to go to the ‘palengke’ and visit some people I have yet to see in years. We only spent about 3 hours with them and we went back to our house. We traveled to Zambales in my uncle’s van. It felt different being there because the last time I visited Zambales was when I was a little girl. There were a lot of little kids I did not recognize and family members that I couldn’t recall names of. We had a fun night singing, the adults drinking, and we all shared a feast (well, at least they did. I ate just fruits because all the food had some type of meat in it -___-). I swear, Philippines was putting me on a diet. We spent the night over and I just passed out early.
Most of May 28th was still with the family in Zambales. I think my cousin Angel and I exhausted the karaoke machine because we just kept on singing. It was extremely hot and I had a lot of mosquito bites on my legs. Some of the guys even joked around with me that I have to do my business in the “dagat” or the “bukid.” It was hilarious. It was the also the same day when we had to go back to Olongapo City and I had to travel back to Manila. I was trying my best not to cry on the bus because I knew for a fact that I wasn’t going back to Olongapo anymore. I hugged my grandpa and my grandma and I said my goodbyes to everyone.
I stayed at Lolo Boy’s place in Sampaloc Manila on the night of the 28th. The next day, Jas picked me up in the evening so we could watch “Maybe This Time” by Sarah and Coco. Before she came to pick me up, I was sitting at this bench near a church where a group of guys kept on making rude comments to me like "Miss pahawak naman!" or things like "Ang ganda mo Miss. Pwede akin ka na lang?". It scared me a bit because I was alone at the time. I was just glad when Jas showed up and nothing bad even happened to me.
We ate first at some Chinese place of something. Jam and Ehrie tagged along and we all took photos with Coco Martin’s life-size cardboard cut-out—and other places at the mall where a security guard was super sungit to even take our photo and got scolded by another guard at Fully Booked after I deliberately tried to take a photo with copies of A Place in Time inside the bookstore. They made an exception, so yay! The night was hilarious because I learned new Filipino expression and meanings of the letters MU (Muling Umibig or maybe Muling Umasa!).
On Friday, two of my tito’s came to Lolo’s house and brought their sons over. I got to hung out with them and caught up with things—what’s been new in 9 years—and things I missed since I’ve been gone. We all ate ice cream at home. My uncles were trying to get me to drink and I had some of that Bailey’s stuff (it did not get me drunk nor buzzed, but I ended up with a headache because I did not sleep enough the night before). When afternoon hit, my Lolo had to take me to the bus terminal in Buendia to meet my cousin Lance to travel back to Laguna this time. It was a rough travel because when we got to Cabuyao, there were no tricycles because they said that there was a “sagala” going on and the roads were blocked. I ended up sitting on the road because my legs were just killing me. My legs were starting to get cuts—mainly because I was violently scratching it because it was itchy from the mosquito bites! I ended up with allergies again from all the smoke and had watery eyes by the end of the night.
In the morning of May 31st, I had to wake up early to fix my hair and my make-up before going to Imus, Cavite for the Pandayan Bookshop Book Signing event. I felt shy in the beginning as people kept staring at me and some even approached me for some pictures. Some were super sweet and kept saying, “Idol kita” or little things like, “Maganda ka!”. The event lasted the whole afternoon until early evening. I got to meet my Summit sisters and James and by the end of the day I had to say goodbye to my family as they were going back to Laguna already and I was gonna’ go back to Manila. There was a guy intern, Alen, who advocated for me and the Summit service said that they were willing to take me home already.
I spent most of the ride talking James’ head off (the illustrator of Pop Fiction). We had a little bonding there and that was the first time I got to hang with him. I was telling him stories, and he was telling me his stories and I thought that it was cool that I felt like I’ve known him for a while. I was teasing him about his illustrations of my book so I could show it to Jon the next day (because the original plan was to meet Jon again and another artista). I also teased him with Kim (and Glim! haha.) When James got off the van, I was left with three guys on the bus. Another guy got off and the intern even walked me home to our house to make sure I was home safe. (How nice of you, thank you!)
The lack of sleep was catching up with me so I slept until late morning, ate, and then I went back to sleep. Jon moved the meeting to Monday instead which was okay with me as I got some rest.
The meeting pushed through the next day so my cousin Aya and I went to the mall to shop and we both ate halo-halo at Mang Inasal as I was craving it. We didn’t really get to talk much as we had a busy day, and we spent most of the afternoon getting ready to meet Jon Lucas and the gang.
Before leaving our place in Quezon City, a rock went inside my doll shoes and it cut the back of my foot. It hurt so bad that by the time we got to Shakey’s in Tomas Morato, we had to hunt for a pharmacy just so I could get a bandage. I had to put it on both feet (the other one wasn’t cut, but I didn’t want to risk it just in case it was really the shoe and not the rock). We were the first two in there and later on, Ehrie and ate Ceejay showed up. They were all planning out the seats setting it up so that Jon would have no choice but to sit right in front of me (how cliché of you guys, how cliché). Jam showed up next, followed by James who looked a little too lost when he got there. I introduced everyone to everybody so that we could all get acquainted. We didn’t order until Jon, ate Salve, and Jon’s cousin Francis showed up. He was still super kulit as I remembered him from the first time. He ate all the garlic bread, teased me about eating salad when there were chicken and other good food around, and even asked to go to KTV later on if everyone was up for it. Bff Vince showed up afterwards. He didn’t eat but I was happy he came!
I don’t even remember how long we stayed at Shakey’s because all we did was take pictures, take videos of Jon doing messages for people, and lots of laughing and kwentuhan.
When the dinner finally ended, it turned out that Jam and James couldn’t come to the KTV as they both had work early the next day. It was sad because it was the last time I would see Jam (James—I had an appointment with the next day so it wasn’t goodbye with him just yet.) Jam gave me a gator (or a hippo?) from Blue Magic with a string/ribbon full of pictures. It was beautiful that I told her I'd hang it in my room in Florida. Sentimental things get me, so I tried my best not to cry on a happy day.
The rest of us who wanted to do KTV squeezed in Jon’s car: Jon driving, Francis and ate Ceejay in the front seat, and five of us at the back: ate Salve, Aya, me, Ehrie and Vince. We were a little too cramped but it was fun nonetheless. We drove a bit, went to one KTV but it was supposedly expensive? We ended up singing at Music Match at Tomas Morato.
The first song that was playing was “Simpleng Tao.” I barely knew the song but I jumped in right ahead and sung it with Jon. I only knew the chorus part because my brother used to play the song a lot. Jon was kind of hilarious during that night because he kept on mimicking Gary V—which was really cool by the way because he sounded just like him! I was amazed too because he could sing.
Aya and the rest also started singing and I would sing every now and then. I sang “Bakit Ngayon Ka Lang” with Vince—a song we deliberately failed the first time we were in KTV together. We did a little better during this time in my opinion. Later on in the night, I had a little bit of a drink and Ehrie was super sweet at looking after me. She’s too biased when taking videos. HAHA! I love you Spongebob!
There were conversations, things happened, and things I went "aww" for during that night that I decide not to blog just to keep some of the privacy and the authenticity of the night as how I remember I spent it with friends. I know and they know what happened and that's more than enough for me :)
We ended really late and I had to say goodbye to Ehrie and bff Vince. I didn’t want to let Ehrie go because I just didn’t want to (but I had to :( ). It was as if my drink earlier dissipated with all the sadness. Jon offered to take me and my cousin home all the way to Sicatuna and so he did (Thanks Jon!). It was almost 3 am when we were back and settled in the room and both Aya and I couldn’t sleep right ahead. I was just online talking to some people and what made me sad even more was when Jon DMed on Twitter. It was a short and sweet message about missing me and how it was nice to meet me.
I was having a little too much fun in the Philippines that I didn’t want to go back to the States just yet. I think I fell asleep at around 5am after talking to Francis (Jon’s cousin).
The next day was my last day in Quezon City so I was talking to James again and asking him what time and where we were meeting. It turned out that we were meeting at SM Megamall so I brought my cousins with me (Nikki and Aya). I was happy that Spongebob Ehrie was able to come and tag along (with her sister Elaicka). James, Bianca, Kim, and Marg were all super late that I only got to spend about an hour with them before I had to say goodbye.
It was a short but super hilarious one hour. Thanks Bianca (*Come here!*). I took selfies with them and I had to do another video greeting for Marg's sister Roxanne.
Another set of goodbyes were laid out for Ehrie and I seriously was considering to bring her back with me to Florida. My cousins and I got home later (which I felt really bad for because my uncle was at the terminal already waiting for me). I had a quick last minute pack and then we were off to the station to meet my uncle. I said my last goodbyes to my Tita and my cousin Nikki—and it was all sinking in that I was leaving the next day.
When we got home at Laguna, I had this long sentimental status on Facebook thanking people. I didn’t want to cry over anything—and I knew the crying for me usually comes at the airport when I am by myself already. It was too painful to leave—always the same feeling whenever I leave the country. I would always feel like I wanted to bring everyone, or that life itself was as carefree as the past two weeks.
My last lunch was with my Tito at the airport. He waited until my take off to Tokyo—and there goes my trip.
I look forward to seeing all of you again! Please wait for me and thanks for making it a fun and eventful two weeks!
Jessica Concha is visiting the Philippines for two weeks from May 20th-June 4th (I bet you already know that, because if you don't, then you must live in a cave!). She will be doing a short trip to the Philippines to visit her family and to meet her supporters. Catch her on these dates and events:
May 24: Quezon City Memorial Circle, 2 p.m. The event page is located here. They are cooking up some fun activities filled with games, book signing, and meet and greet! (We hear she's giving away Harry Potter collectibles too? Hmmm).
May 31: Pandayan Bookshop book signing at Lotus Central Mall, Imus Cavite, 1 p.m. There is no entrance fee, however you have to bring your copy of her book. You can also purchase the book at the venue. The event page is located here.
See you there!
A JS Meetup was held on SM Megamall earlier today hosted by Jessica Concha's Facebook Fanpage admins, Jam Delos Reyes and Lhen Tanael. Despite the absence of the author herself, you can tell that the meetup was loads of fun!
Did you miss the event? Make sure to come to next meetup! Check out more photos on the Official Fanpage.