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How travelling to my birth place allowed me to trace back my Filipino roots

Contiki travellers in the Philippines

A real benefit to travelling is being able to discover the many cultures of the world – including your own. We know of countless Contiki travellers – Americans heading to Ireland, Aussies in Italy, British travellers in India – who aren’t just connecting with a distant land, they’re connecting with their heritage.

Take Christian Toy, who was born in the Philippines but raised in Australia by his adoptive parents. Christian was part of a group of past Contiki travellers who had an exclusive look at our new Philippines Island Hopping trip, and he got to participate in local and cultural activities such as riding a Jeepney, making unique jewellery, traipsing across the many braces, and enjoying local meals. A few weeks later, we caught up with Christian to get his thoughts on the trip and what it was like to explore and discover his roots.

Hey Christian, can you tell us what part of the Philippines you’re originally from?

“Yeah, so, I was born in the Philippines on an island called Zamboanga, which is one of the south islands. I was later moved into an orphanage in Manila for two and a half years until my parents found their way to me and brought me home. I’ve lived in Australia ever since.”

Contiki travellers in the Philippines

Image source:Contiki

Have you ever been back to the Philippines before? How does it feel to return?

“Before this trip I went back in 2016 with my family. We stayed for two weeks in Manila, but we didn’t really get to go around any of the islands, so going on this trip is a whole brand new experience for me as well.”

“Seeing the real side of the Philippines, you know the green scenery, the blue waters and the blue lagoons and everything. It’s really special to see it all and it’s really special for me to be able to go back to my home and explore and discover my heritage.”

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What were you expecting from your trip? 

“I like to go into things without any expectations and keep an open mind, but I had heard a lot about the culture in the Philippines being so friendly, warm, and welcoming. I wasn’t wrong. As soon as we stepped off the boat to the island we got that tenfold. It was great to be able to visit a country and go up and interact with the locals without hesitating.”

Contiki travellers in the Philippines

Image source:Contiki

Did being with the Contiki group and other travellers help you feel more confident in meeting new people – travellers and locals?

“Absolutely. I like to think I’m pretty confident individually, but being with the group as well just really brought it out in a really positive way. I was travelling with a friendly group and everyone was amazing, so it just made me feel even more confident and comfortable to step out there and just talk to everyone and anyone.”

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Do you feel you made any connections with some of the locals you met on the trip?

“100%. We had a Fiesta one night, and as we were travelling back from dinner we found a basketball court with people singing and dancing. We walked over there and we got greeted by all the locals and I just started having chats with lots of them. Eventually, we joined in on the dancing as well and it honestly felt like we’d been life-long friends.”

“The lunch with Nanay Elena was really lovely. It was great to be able to listen to her story and hear where she comes from, her roots. It really touched a part of me to be a part of that. We also played a game on the beach against some of the locals, and we all became really friendly with them. One of them even offered to show me around and do a little bit of tour guiding for me, which was really nice, you know, just from a friendly game to offering this hospitality and kindness.” 

“That brief moment, no matter where you’re from, to be able to go into these places and immediately feel like you’re being welcomed home – it’s incredible.”

Contiki travellers in the Philippines

Image source:Contiki

Do you see yourself coming back to the Philippines?

“Absolutely. I’ve actually already got another trip booked. I want to explore more islands, I’m all about the food so I’ll 100% have to come back for that as well (the pork is amazing!). I can see myself coming back a few times over the years.”

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What do you feel you’ve taken away from those people, or from returning to the Philippines in general?

“The roots of the locals are really strong – the ties to their family and even the ties to the land. I think that’s really something to take away, you know, being proud of where you’re from – they’re all so proud and happy living in the Philippines, being born Filipino. There’s a lot of pride there and I’m so glad that I got to share in that pride as well.”

Contiki travellers in the Philippines

Image source:Contiki

Would you recommend that other people travel to retrace their heritage and cultural roots?

“Definitely. It’s important to know where you come from and important to know how you got to where you are in your life now. Roots are important, and even if you don’t know too much about your heritage there’s always time to learn. Just dive in! People will welcome you with open arms and tell you their stories, and you can share your own.”

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