home (july 2008)

Posted: July 21, 2010 in Uncategorized

what is home? is it a feeling? a place? a feeling you get from a certain belongingness or oneness to a place?

where is home? is one’s birthplace validation enough for it to be home? like being born in a place gives it some kind of ownership to you; one that you can’t ever bargain with, trade-in for, or break out off.

i used to have a very strong conviction of what and where home is. i took pride in my assertions, arrogant in a way that i shut off everything and everyone that had other perspectives clashing with mine. i used to drift in a one-way street where other roads were mere blind spots.

stubborn as i was, the reality of other realms never left my ever-wandering soul. rather, my soul never stayed put along with my mind. still, my foolish body chose to remain deep-rooted to the mother land. as i’ve read once in ancient philosophy, mind and body cannot be separated for long, and it was only a matter of time when mind and soul finally caught up with my body.
i finally woke up.

so i left. hauled ass to join my family who has long since migrated to the much-coveted greener pastures of the so-called “land of the free.” what i’ve learned so far about making drastic, life-changing decisions is that though you know that once you give your word, there’s no turning back, the reality of it all doesn’t sink in right away. at least not for me. it was, in fact, easier for other people to digest – the constant invites to go out and spend time, the endless gonna-miss-you’s, premature goodbyes, sentimentality overload. made me want to scream everytime that “hey, i’m still here!” i just didn’t want it to sink in yet even if my better judgment’s telling me to just let it.

i doubt if majority of the Filipinos who chose to leave and have left for good can relate. everyone just wants out nowadays especially. anywhere but here has been, for the past years, has been the prevailing mantra. but not me. i wasn’t one of those who can’t bear to stay another third world day. i didn’t have much but i was happy. i had a life that i loved. i was in no hurry to have more than what i already had. i’m young. i had all the time in the world. and at the heart of it all, i had no need to be desperate. the privilege of having a green card and the luxury that comes along with it deprived me of the need of it. i always had the “pangkabuhayan showcase” that almost everyone would kill for to have. what’s with the fuss? it’s just a freakin’ green card. the ungrateful, ignorant brat that i was.

still i decided to leave despite of myself. precisely to find out what all the fuss really is about, and if the grass really is greener on the other side. i had to know. it’s the only way i can fully appreciate what i’ve been blessed with.

back to the reality of leaving slowly sinking in. for me, it slowly started to creep in on the last four weeks, my last month before departure. every waking moment during those last weeks has been a purple haze. like i’m living someone else’s dream and my own nightmare at the same time, it was surreal but not in a good kind. it was when my every smile was a guise of me screaming “i don’t wanna leave!” when everything i loved about the Philippines came rushing intensely, so much so to a point that even the ones i hated about it only justified more the love i have of it.

i didn’t pack until a few hours before going to the airport. couldn’t bring myself to do it sooner. it just made it more real. i don’t know how much i’ve cried during those last few weeks. even the surprise despedida my boyfriend planned for me, sweet as it was, didn’t make things any easier. in fact, it made me worse. sentimentality overload caught up on me so fast, so intense, that on the day of my departure, at the very last minute, i changed my mind. i wasn’t ready to leave. it just didn’t feel right. not yet.

i was already in the airport with all my baggages, ready to check-in, when suddenly i had the strongest urge to get off the line, go to the Korean Airlines office in the 4th floor of NAIA, and beg for the KA reps to change my flight on a later date. i didn’t care if it’s the next day, a week away, just not on that day. i said i didn’t feel like flying on that day – it’s raining so hard; i think there’s a major typhoon, yadayada… all the excuses i could think of just so they’d reschedule me. to make the story shorter, i ended up staying a whole month more! i convinced myself that that was more than enough. so on the 13th of September 2007 – one of the most indescribably painful and unforgettable days of my life, i boarded the plane to the US and left the Philippines for good.

for months i worked odd jobs in Jersey all the way to “the City”. i played the newbie immigrant role to perfection – getting lost in the subway countless times, getting lost in NYC, missing the bus, trusting too much on fellow Pinoys only to get stepped on again and again, being dragged to clubs and house parties with people i absolutely don’t have anything in common with, been stabbed in the back for doing good in my job and slapped face-on for mistakes that others made. getting a job in corporate America is a corporate nightmare. not because of the workload and especially not ’cause of the pay – it’s the level of competition and the competitiveness among Pinoys that drives me fuckin’ nuts. i was disillusioned to the extreme. i was warned about the way Filipinos are in the States, but i always believed that the situation’s not that bad. sadly, IT IS.

i comforted myself with the thought of going back home for vacation. i daydreamed of it, made plans, anticipated it to the maximum – I’M GOING HOME. that was my mantra.

don’t get me wrong, though. i did have some great moments in the States. met some pretty amazing people – Pinoys and foreigners alike. mastered the intricate workings of the subway. conquered the “Big Apple” so to speak. “if i can make it there, i’ll make it anywhere…” discovered essential aspects of myself i never knew existed. i proved to myself how adaptable and versatile i can really be. and in spite of all the tears, the unpleasant, traumatic events i encountered, i reaffirmed my strength and independence instead of losing it. this girl just won’t break.

that’s probably one of the things i love about the States – the strong air of independence that you get to breathe in and live out. the uber fast-paced lifestyle taught me that the world really doesn’t revolve around me. no one cares about your issues, so better deal with it and move forward. no day but today. no place but here. no time but now.

back to the question of home. i’ve been back here in the Philippines for a month now, and it’s been… fine. okay, it’s not what i expected to feel after all that anticipation. for some reason, this place has ceased to give me that feeling of home. not in the way it used to make me feel. or the way i imagined it to feel when i was away. is this your classic balikbayan syndrome, if there’s such a thing?

i changed. it’s neither the place nor the people. a change so big i myself can’t contain it. i’m lost in it.

i no longer feel at home here. it’s weird. in a conversation i had last night with TJ, i told him that if i didn’t have the alternative that i have, for sure i’d be one of the millions of Pinoys who’d be striving to get outta here. the ME i know 7 months ago would’ve never said that or even in the lines of that. just goes to show how different i am now. thinking my thoughts, saying what i’m saying, i hardly recognize myself. surely didn’t see this coming. should’ve been wise enough to realize that in my choice to leave, i can never get myself back to where i’ve left of. nothing’s ever gonna be the same again. not me, not this place, not the people in it – nothing.

i feel like dorothy or alice in wonderland. only i don’t have ruby slippers or a neurotic rabbit to guide me back home. wherever it is.


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