Moving around isn’t new to me. Ever since I can remember, moving has been a vital part of my life. Moving houses, cities, states, countries…I loved it. I adapted pretty well and I would somehow oddly feel a surge of satisfaction with each move. Sure, I’d feel sad leaving friends behind. But I looked forward to the change like I looked forward to shopping for new school supplies at the beginning of the school year. That said, I never really established a home base. I don’t have a place I could wholeheartedly represent. I never had an attachment to a place strong enough to consider home.
Growing up in the States, I was always proud of being a Filipino. I would beg my mom to cook Filipino food (my step dad is American so most meals were Mexican and American), I would hang out with my Filipino friends, and I would proudly talk about my heritage if anyone asks. I would get defensive if anyone would backlash my birth country. I talked about the Philippines like it was the best place in the world. But I was too young. I didn’t really know much. I’ve seen too little to actually back that up.
I had nothing but excitement when I flew back here. I was going to be absolutely on my own for the first time and I was ready to give it my all. Years passed by and I’ve gotten to know the country a lot more than I ever did. I’ve seen the good, and sadly I still continue to see all the bad. No longer in a state of oblivion, the reality of this country came to me by surprise like a hard slap in the face. This country, the place I talked so highly about, is dreadful as fuck.
Actually, let me get that right. The country is beautiful. The nation needs work.
Filipinos are good people. We truly are hospitable. Although it took me years to finally see that, it brought a little bit of my pride back when I finally did. If you know where to look, people are incredibly kind. However, Philippines, as a nation, is a different story. I don’t want to generalize Filipinos since I am one in the first place, but it’s that big portion that sometimes makes me feel a little bit embarrassed of being one. The government being corrupt is one thing, but the entire nation electing celebrities with no political experience to make decisions about the country? Unbelievable.
The truth is, I don’t feel Filipino. No matter how tinged I am with Chinese and Spanish blood, my Filipino physical traits stands out. My skin screams Filipino. I cook and eat the food, I speak the language, I know its culture and history– but that’s it. I cannot connect with the culture. I’m not religious at all and that’s basically 1/4 of what comprises the culture here. I hate the term Filipino time (a stereotype term to rationalize why one is late — because they’re running on “Filipino time”). I despise the fact that bureaucracy runs the entire country, and it’s not an organized one. Imagine having to go through ten different steps and windows just to do something minor, like renewing your passport. I think the sense of humor here is straight up bullying. For instance, making fun of someone’s weight or English vocabulary is considered funny. I think the pride is hypocritically outrageous, like, how offended the nation gets with negative, but mind you, honest, remarks –yet we’re so quick to throw out criticism (let’s not even bring up the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight). And worst of all, I cannot stand the idea of “utang na loob“. There is no English word for it, but it basically means that if someone did you a favor, you are expected to return the favor to them when they are in need. Okay, I understand the concept alright, I would love to return the favor of anyone who got my back, but this is pretty much implied as an expectation. It’s basically advocating keeping tabs. What’s even more alarming is that I actually learned this from a religion class I took.
The irony of all that, is that despite it all, I still continue to fall in love with the country. It’s not a bad place to be in. Though I feel safer anywhere else than the streets of Manila, the wonderful places tucked away from the city that I’m slowly discovering are surreal. Places so magical they’re nothing like I’ve ever seen. These, and a few more perks, are what makes me feel damn fortunate to be able to be here.
Coming to this country with a westernized state of mind still continues to be a challenge to me. The way I don’t understand many things here is probably an embarrassment to this country, but I’m okay with that. I will never completely feel that I belong here, but it will always be my first land. I cannot wholeheartedly call this place home, just like I can’t claim America to be the one. I’m not searching, because home to me is when I’m moving. Being at home means being in the unknown. Home is wherever I want it to be.