I found the Philippines so beautiful and full of wonder. I've been a few times before: twice as a child and once back in 2004. But this trip was longer, full of Australian/Filipino relatives and contained more freedom to explore the city and townships.
My mum lives in Luwigan, Davao Oriental on the island of Mindanao. We spent time in the big city of Davao but more time out in amongst the coconut farms and coral reefs of the provinces.
The people were friendly and generous. The Filipinos are well known for their hospitality and neighbourliness. They are fixated on children and could not understand how we could be married for 5 years and not have children. I learned 'Wala pa' ('Not yet' in Tagalog) very early on in our trip.
I got to spend time with my mum and my grandmother as well as countless cousins and aunties and uncles. My grandfather married twice so we have a very large family.
This year one of my big goals is to learn Tagalog fluently. I feel like I've missed out on a lot of culture and Filipino identity by not learning Tagalog and/or Bisaya as a child but it's never too late.