Student Page

My first time in China: A breathtaking experience

A view of rural Guanqiao.

“Travel opens your heart, broadens your mind and fills your
life with stories to tell.”
—Paula Bendfeldt

I had never been to China in my entire 13 years of existence. I have only ever been to the Philippines since the day I was born. This is why I always wanted to visit China.
My father, who was born in China, would tell us all kinds of stories about it: delectable food, different weather, amazing culture, his old home in Fujian… too many to recall. Listening to these stories made me very excited to see China for myself. I wanted to discover more about my roots and taste the food there.
The time finally came when I went to China to visit my relatives. Visiting my father’s hometown was like a dream, the trip of a lifetime. I, along with my family, explored the beautiful urban city of Xiamen before visiting my father’s hometown – Guanqiao (官橋).

The beautiful roadside landscaping of Xiamen.

My first impression of Xiamen was that it is an astounding place with beautiful trees planted on the sidewalks. I especially found it fascinating that the roads were super clean because they were power-washed every morning. The city had a breathtaking view as well, and the weather was neither too hot nor too cold, just perfect.
After a few days of strolling around in the local malls and lounging in our hotel, we went to Xiamen University. We first passed by several schools and parks on our way to Xiamen University, each one more beautiful than the last.
Xiamen University was extraordinarily huge and amazing. The architecture of the school was so beautiful, and aside from that, the school has a lot of greenery which created a pleasant study environment. In fact, it was so beautiful that I forgot that we were in a campus! Being there made me want to apply for Xiamen University on the spot.
Next stop, Dad’s hometown – Guanqiao.

The author’s family ancestral house in Guanqiao.

We crossed a tunnel that brought us to Guanqiao. The tunnel was actually under a lake! I was so impressed by the level of transportation infrastructure there.
Although the hometown is considered a rural area, it is very modern-looking and the places we went to were wonderful. There were malls, hotels, restaurants, and places you would most likely find in a city.
When we arrived, I was extremely excited to meet my relatives. Even though I do not recognize most of them, they warmly welcomed us to Guanqiao. It was great reconnecting with them because after all, they are family.
At this point, I felt extremely grateful to my parents for teaching me to speak the Hokkien dialect. It was a bit difficult at first because I often mix some Bisaya while speaking Hokkien, something I couldn’t do in Guanqiao because they are not familiar with Bisaya. It proved to be challenging to speak in pure Hokkien, but eventually, I got the hang of it. I even got to expand my Hokkien vocabulary while I was there.
Our relatives brought us to several restaurants that served great-tasting meals. Our meals were all delightful and exquisite, just as my father had described. In fact, after our trip to China, I have decided that my new favorite food is dumplings.

O-ah-jian (oyster cake), a delicious Fujian dish (left); authentic Hokkien-style ngohiong (five-spice dumpling) (right).

Besides having food trips, we went sightseeing and explored the old stone and wooden houses nearby.
It was interesting to see old Fujian-style architecture. The weather was extremely hot when we were out sightseeing. But inside the ancient stone house, it was cool and pleasant. The stone keeps the interior of the house cool during summer and warm during winter, which I think is ingenious.

Intricate and creative stone carvings at Guanqiao.

Besides that, there were beautiful intricately hand-carved designs on each door. The ancient Chinese were creative, resourceful, and detail-oriented.
Looking at the beautiful sculptures and artistic outputs of my ancestors, I felt truly grateful that I was given a chance to explore more about China and most importantly, finally get to see for myself what my father’s stories were all about.
It’s no lie, China is really beautiful. Having an ancestral connection to the place made the trip even more special and unforgettable.
As with all good things, our trip came to an end. My family and I bid goodbye to our relatives and returned to the Philippines.
Though there are still a lot more amazing and interesting things I want to say about China, I will end it here. The beauty of visiting China and exploring our roots cannot be put into words.
I wish to go back to China someday, and to everyone reading this: I hope you can go and experience the beauty of China for yourself as well. Whether or not you have a connection to China, I guarantee that it will be the trip of a lifetime.

By Sheri Mei Ling

The author is 13-year-old student of Sacred Heart School - Hijas de Jesus in Don Jose Avila Street, Cebu City.