Every year, most new families arrive in the Summer. We were Winter rotation and sort of showed up incognito, and had to learn alot of the “how to” and “where to” information about Manila on the fly. This was nothing new to us, as prior to the foreign service, every time we changed country we were on our own to figure that stuff out. So, it was sort of a surprise to us that the foreign service has a sponsor system utilizing families with experience of the post to show you around, plus different events to help you acclimatize.
One of these events is held in September to welcome new families with filipino food, vendors, and a little filipino culture.
Organizing it was a real group activity with the ates (cleaners/helpers) doing lots of creative decorating with palm fronds, crepe paper and coconuts. They built a simple nipa hut serving the traditional halo halo desert, a mixed concotion of shaved ice, fruits and evaporated milk. A team of two filipino cooks prepared a filipino menu that included pork asado, chicken adobo and banana turon, all filipino favourites. (We had been shopping for the food a few days earlier). Newcomers are sometimes immersed up to their necks in the challenges of settling into their new home and aren’t always the most appreciative of your efforts, but we had a pretty good turnout and I only heard good things from the crowd.
For me, the highlight of the day was the kids from the local elementary school who came to present a few traditional filipino dances and were just so adorable. They were excited to come to the Embassy and did a really great job of dancing pretty intricate steps in gorgeous costumes. They just lit up the room! It wouldn’t have been the same party without them.