Uprooting from your own home, whether it’s the first time or the 100th time, is never easy. It requires risk and sacrifice but also a lot of determination.
As many Filipino millennials like myself have heard time and time again whilst we were growing up, our parents have had to do just that – make the conscious decision to migrate from Philippines to the UK. Now, it was our turn to fly from the nest. From a safe and secure home and family that I have depended on since I was born, to an unfamiliar place – far from home, full of aspiring students and adults in the same boat. A year and a half onwards, I have grown to love the place I now call my home, and with central London a train ride away, I’ve discovered several places in London that feels like home is a lot closer than you think!
Sky Garden, Fenchurch Street
Moving is an exciting milestone – for anybody. But it’s also important to acknowledge that at times, there will also be revelations of doubt and worry about whether moving was the best decision. Sky Gardens is essentially a public ‘garden in the skies’ with observation decks leading to a stunning view that overlooks London in its entirety. The majority of people visit Sky Garden for the view, and rightly so. I remember how the view from the deck cast away any doubts I had about making the risky decision to move. The view was a photographic reminder of why I had wanted to move in the capital city, that I wanted to make a name for myself in this cosmopolitan city. Though the majority of people visiting Sky Garden may not feel this emotional from seeing London from the top, it is definitely worth a visit just before sunset or sunrise to see what London has to offer.
Kew Gardens, Richmond
Since I was born in Baguio city, the Panagbenga (flower) festival is something I’ve become accustomed to. One of my vivid memories as a child in the Philippines were the vibrant parades, showcasing floats cladded in every flower under the sun and dancers in costumes adorned in flowers. It was an experience that definitely influenced my obsessions with flowers for years to come. You’re spoilt for choice in Kew Gardens as it’s home to a whole host of breath-taking greenery, as well as a botanical garden that exhibits exotic plants. Whilst there won’t be people dressed in flowers on flower-studded floats, it’s one of my most favourite places to visit during Spring, and certainly a cheaper alternative than a plane ticket to Baguio for the Panagbenga festival!
Chiswick House & Gardens, Chiswick
Coming from a quiet town in Wales, I was not prepared for how truly busy and heavily populated London could be. Since then, I’ve found Chiswick a quiet but equally charming area of solace to wind down at the end of a busy day out in London. Chiswick House and Gardens boasts a classic scenery that you could only find in the happy endings of Filipino romance movies. It’s also a particularly great area that plays host to the Magical Lantern festival that takes place annually from November to January. The festival showcases impressive vivid sculptures and lanterns that illuminate Chiswick gardens on dark chilly nights. It’s a rewarding experience that somewhat reminds me of the extravagant Christmas lights that cover every inch of every building and house in the Philippines.
Earl’s court is known as the ‘hub’ of the Filipino community in London. It’s one of my favourite spots in London, and it’s not just because they have Filipino supermarkets! When I’m not stocking up on some Pancit canton (student life), I like to visit nearby restaurants whenever I feel homesick and I miss my parents cooking. They offer Filipino cuisine and a ‘one of a kind’ experience as if you were back in the Philippines. From the moment you walk in these restaurants, it smells like home, or at the very least, a Filipino BBQ party. Friendly kuya’s and ate’s closely resemble the hospitable attitudes of aunties and uncles that serve classic dishes and desserts at the heart of Filipino cuisine.
Romulo Café, Kensington
Romulo Café was the first Filipino restaurant I encountered since I moved. Since then, it has become my go-to restaurant to bring my friends and family – and for a very good reason. For my first visit, I was away from family and friends that I had spent the last 17 years of my birthday celebrating with. But the staff made it one of the most endearing birthday experiences to date. The food was akin to that of fine dining Filipino cuisine and definitely did not disappoint. Dishes that I always ate growing up, such as adobo, was refined with an elegant but equally appetizing twist. The customer service was also an added bonus. Throughout my birthday meal, they were attentive and chatty, and I was treated with a hearty birthday sing along from staff and even other customers. Looking back at the experience, it definitely made me think that no matter where Filipinos may reside in the world, they have an innate attitude of being one of the most hospitable and joyous people I have been blessed to encounter along the way of this crazy journey called life.