By Samantha Wong, Blog Editor

This was the first time I spent my birthday at home in years. Home for me is Manila, Philippines, a populous (read: overcrowded, heavily polluted) country composed of 7,107 islands. It was my 20th birthday. No more teenager-isms, just a straight dive into adulthood. Though I could not have been prepared for the events that transpired.

My birthday started innocently enough. I reported to work at 10 a.m. and assisted with a photo shoot for my internship. This was fine, except that the shoot ran late. I was then tasked to assist carrying bags of Louis Vuitton bags back to the shop. Bags of bags. On top of the leather bags being heavy, the bags of bags were also bulky. I had to be sure not to scratch, scuff or drop the merchandise. The first and last of my weightlifting this summer.

After dropping off the bags, I was free to go home. Unfortunately, my dad informed me he took the car to attend a meeting, going in the opposite direction. The time was 5:30 p.m.

For those that don’t live in Manila, the traffic that occurs during rush hour, especially on a Friday, is particularly horrendous, to put it lightly. It’s bumper to bumper for hours. I ended up getting home three hours later after finding a ride with a friend. To illustrate the difference traffic makes, I can get home in about 25 to 30 minutes when there’s no traffic.

I had organized a birthday party a week earlier and getting home at around 9 p.m. set me back just a couple of hours. I was able to have dinner with my family, but then I had to quickly head back in the same direction that I came from.

Though, as fast as traffic appears in Manila, once 9 p.m. rolls around, it disappears. However, the same trend cannot be said for inside parking lots. This particular lot was chaotic and it took me around 30 minutes to find a parking space. No exaggeration.

While I arrived late, the party could not have gone better. That was, at least, until I had to go home. I left with a couple of friends when we decided that we were hungry. Upon leaving to go back to my car, I realized my bag had been stolen.

I thought I knew what the protocol was for birthdays at home. I thought that, at the most basic level, you’re supposed to have a delicious cake, sing the birthday song, blow out candles and learn a lesson or two. However, on this particular day, I’m pretty sure I learned at least ten, very different lessons. One being, you can never be prepared for what adulthood might throw your way. That being said, despite all that’s happened, there’s no place like home.

Watch the clip below to see even more of the wonderful Philippines: