Manila [1983-1987]


[I have decided to write a series of picture-filled ‘sweet journey] posts that I hope will share my story, a story of a Third Culture Kid turned Adult. You can find the first in the series here : Paris [1980-1983]]

After spending a few years in the romantic history- and cheese-filled city of Paris, my father took an offer with a job that would have us relocate to the tropics of the Philippines. It was here that I started school, made friends that I still remember to this day and cut my teeth on my favorite breakfast to this day : garlic fried rice, a runny fried egg and longganisa. And it was here that we were introduced to the life of an expat that has all but disappeared since.

067_1983.12 - Grandpop Al, Mary Frances, Alexandra, Granny Mary & Eddie 01

while my father started his position in Manila and began the home search for a suitable place for his family, I spent a few months with my [paternal] grandparents in Philadelphia with my mother and [maternal] grandfather, Pete . here I am with [from l to r] Grandpop Al, Mary Frances [cousin], Granny Mary and Eddie [cousin] in front of the Christmas tree . Philadelphia, PA

068_1983.12 - Alexandra & Eddie 01

bossing Eddie, my oldest cousin, around in front of the Christmas train set . the train set was a long-standing tradition of my Grandpop Al’s and was always a highlight of the Christmas season . Philadelphia, PA

069_1983.12 - [Great] Uncle Mike & Alexandra 01

goofing around at a family meal with my Granny Mary’s brother, my Uncle Michael, who lived around the corner from my grandparents in Philadelphia . their neighborhood was very much reminiscent of the traditional ethnic enclaves you would find in the early years of a city’s development . this one brimming with Lithuanians, Poles, Russians and the like . Philadelphia, PA

070_1983.12 - Alexandra 04

be warned . what they say is true . not long after this habit developed, I was sporting my very first pair of glasses! Philadelphia, PA

071_1983.12 - Alexandra 05

my earliest food memories center around this kitchen table at the back of my grandparents Philadelphia row home . here, I’m making meatballs with my mother and grandmother . clearly after a doughnut breakfast! [until his last days, my Grandpop Al would have a predictable breakfast of a plain cake doughnut or two.] also – check out the Osh Kosh overalls! Philadelphia, PA

072_1983.12 - Alexandra, Claudia & Mary Frances 01

Christmas Eve with my mom, Claudia, and cousin Mary Frances . Philadelphia, PA

073_1984.01 - Claudia & Alexandra 01 [CA]

ready and on our way to join my dad in the Philippines, my mom and Grandpop Pete and I journeyed to San Francisco where we spent a day or two before an extended stay in Hawaii . notice the matching tennis shoes Claudia and I are sporting? that’s a Smurf jacket on me . child of the 80’s!                      San Francisco, CA

074_1984.01 - Alexandra & Pete 04 [HI]

the airline lost our checked luggage so we restocked at the nearest ABC store for stay in Honolulu . hence the oversized tacky Hawaiian shirt on Grandpop Pete and the gigantic running shorts I’m swimming in . Honolulu, HI

076_1984 - 1985 - [ICA] Class 01

soon after finally arriving in Manila I started pre-school and dove head-first into a community where I was, for the first and not the last time in my life, the minority . don’t you love the smocks the boys and girls had to wear? one of the clearest memories I have of my time at the Institute for Child Advancement [ICA] was learning and reciting the Filipino National Anthem . Jeremy can tell you that I only remember the first line or two anymore, but I’ll belt them at the top of my longs at the most inopportune moments regardless . Manila, Philippines

077_1983 - 1987 - [Home] Alexandra 08

my makeshift Fisher and Price kitchen was my most favorite corner of my room . Manila, Philippines

078_1983 - 1987 - [Home] Alexandra 07

with a close second, the outdoor sink where I dragged all my Fisher and Price dishes and cookware for a good scrubbing . Manila, Philippines

079_1983 - 1987 - [Home] Alexandra 10

it was in Manila that Mushka joined our family . she was the runt of a littler of black labrador retrievers and was loved and adored from day one . ‘Mushka’, by the way, is colloquial Russian for ‘little black fly’ . rather suited her . Manila, Philippines

080_1983 - 1987 - [Home] Claudia 01

see? even Mushka got a piece of my birthday cake . Manila, Philippines

081_1983 - 1987 - [Home] Easter Stephen & Alexandra 01

our home, and most homes in Manila I believe, didn’t have central air conditioning . the bedrooms on the second floor did, but the rest of the house was wall-to-wall French doors and windows with plantation shutters to allow the tropical breezes to cool the house down on their own . so even during our annual Easter egg hunt, I stripped as bare as was acceptable and made do with the heat!         Manila, Philippines

082_1983 - 1987 - [Home] Living Room 01

of all the homes I’ve lived in, this one is the one I’d love to revisit . this is a picture of the living room that my father took to send home to us so we could have a preview of our new home before we made the big move . those French doors! the light! sigh…. Manila, Philippines

083_1983 - 1987 - [Home] Master Bedroom 01

the plantation shutters and windows I mentioned earlier . this is the master bedroom . see the spot for a window air conditioning unit? Manila, Philippines

084_1984.07 - Claudia, Alexandra, Noella, Dio, Nita & Pete 01

our family pretty much grew by three during the years we spent in Manila . as I alluded to in the introduction to this post, we were introduced to an expat lifestyle while living in the Philippines . it was common to have housekeeping help, driver[s], gardener[s], etc. here, Noela, Dio and Nita join us at a birthday dinner celebration for my father . Noela was my best friend, looking the other way when I snuck into my parents bedroom to jump on their mattress . I looked up to her and Nita so much so that for years I would answer the “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question with “a maid”. Manila, Philippines

085_1983 - 1987 - Dad & Friend 02

my adventure-seeking father and his colleague-turned-friend, preparing to jump off his friends’ property wall into the backyard pool. Manila, Philippines

1983 - 1987 - Dad & Friend 03

and he made it, a-ok . Manila, Philippines

086_1983 - 1987 - [Home] Pete & Alexandra 01

my best babysitter, Grandpop Pete did much more of the same as he did when we lived in Paris . read books, listened to his records . I love that this photo demonstrates that despite the tropical temperatures [as evidenced by my bare feet and nothing-but-a-sundress wardrobe] he remained in a crisp button-down shirt, pressed trousers and lace-up shoes . Manila, Phillipines

087_1983 - 1987 - [Orphanage] 01

and my mother spent much of her time volunteering at a local orphanage . remember this, as this passion is going to rear its head in a major way 10+ years down the road . Manila, Philippines

088_1984.09 - [Ballet] Jimbo & Alexandra 01

it was in Manila that I first took ballet . here I am posing with my instructor, Jimbo [legs for days!] Manila, Philippines

089_1984.09 - [Ballet] Class 02

I never said I was good . [I’m in the far right in this picture . doing the exact opposite of everyone else!] Manila, Philippines

090_1984.12 - Stephen & Alexandra 02

I love and cherish the memories I have of the scraggly Charlie Brown-esque Christmas trees we had every year . we weren’t so much in the right climate to find 7′ pines or firs . Manila, Philippines

091_1985.01 - Alexandra 02

it was in Manila that, thanks to my Granny Mary back in Philadelphia, that I received my first ever Xavier-signed-butt Cabbage Patch doll . Manila, Philippines 

092_1985.01 - Alexandra 03 and it was in Manila that I celebrated each birthday with a traditional meal of homemade pancit . Manila, Philippines
093_1986.02 - [Baguio] Melanie, Erin & Alexandra 02

I had sleepovers with my best friends Erin and Melanie where we stayed up into the wee hours of the night dreaming up fantastical lives for our favorite My Little Ponies . Manila, Philippines

094_1983 - 1987 - [Country Club] Swimming Lessons 05

I learned how to swim at the Country Club, taught by my parents, and became that kid that never wanted to get out of the water . ever . Manila, Philippines

095_1987.01 - 7th Birthday 02

the same Country Club that was the venue for many a birthday party . my own and those of my friends . I wish I could remember who that brave young boy flying solo at my 7th birthday party is . I’d love to know how he survived such an event! can we also talk about how lovely the dresses we wore back then are? so frilly and frocked and feminine . Manila, Philippines

097*_1983 - 1987 - [Home] Alexandra 04

it was in Manila that I allowed my mom to girl-y me up . never again did I have my hair in French braids or wear sweet smocked dresses with white mary janes and lace ankle socks . Manila, Philippines

098*_1985 - 1986 - [ISM] Kindergarten Class 01

and it was in Manila that I established the trend of being either the only, or one of two, girls tall enough to get a spot in the back row for class pictures . here, with my kindergarten class and teacher Mrs. Narvasa at the International School of Manila [ISM] . Manila, Philippines

099*_1985.11 - [HKG] Alexandra 05

it was also while we lived in Manila that we took a brief trip to Hong Kong [here, posing in Repulse Bay], unaware that we’d be returning for 6 year stint in just a few years . Hong Kong

100*_1985.08 - Taran Family 02

and it was while on a home leave trip over the summer that we reunited with my father’s side of the family to celebrate my Grandpop Al and Granny Mary’s 40 years of wedded bliss . in the back row, left to right, we have Claudia, Stephen, Shari & Michael [dad’s youngest brother and wife], Nadia & Al [dad’s oldest brother and wife] . seated in the front row are my aunt Mary [dad’s younger sister] and uncle Ed with their two children, my grandparents and me! Green Lane, PA



  1. I love this! I also love that you have a picture of “Cousin Eddie” in front of the Christmas tree.

  2. Another wonderful post! Thanks for sharing! ps–we still need to get over to Local Taco if/when they still have lumpia on the menu!

  3. Such an exciting life! Thanks for sharing! Can’t wait to hear about the rest of your adventures!

    PS. My sister lived in the Philippines for a couple months as a missionary.

    • Glad you’re enjoying the ride, so far! Did your sister enjoy her time in the Philippines? I’ve not visited since the mid-90’s and I’d love to go back and see how much has changed and what, if anything, hasn’t! @

  4. Claudia said:

    Memory Lane, wow, what a journey .

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