Last summer, we visited the Philippines. It was my first homecoming in 16 years. We just stayed for about 8 days. It was short but sweet. I was reunited with my two younger sisters, cousins and old friends. I was a tourist in my own country. People saw me differently. I am older. Everyone called me ate which means big sister. Sixteen years ago, most people called me miss or anak meaning child.
Our time in the Philippines was overloaded with activities and sight seeing tours. We stayed in hotels because our childhood home was under renovation. Our town has changed. When I left, it was primarily rural with ample farmland, no treated water, no phone line, no fast food chain except for Dunkin Donuts which was fairly new then. Now, it is a city. The sad part is the infrastructure has not kept up with the demand. The traffic is horrendous. It used to take us only 15 minutes from our house to the town center. Now, at least an hour.
Despite the traffic, heat, unsafe driving and Manila, we thoroughly enjoyed our homecoming. We went to Taal Volcano, Villa Escudero, Boracay, Mall of Asia and Fort Santiago. My friend compared our trip to the reality show Amazing Race. It was intense with very little down time.
It was strange coming back after living for so long in the US. I noticed the heat more, the pollution more, the humidity, the traffic, the poverty. My heart breaks for homeless people especially the children and street vendors. I cannot say no to people. I gave generous tips. I feel guilty for having such a good life. I did not cry when I left the first time but I cried this time. I promised to return, soon.
Upon return to the States, everything felt more luxurious. The carpet. The wide road with very little traffic. The central air conditioning. But I was hit by depression which lasted for quite a while.
I was ready to move back to the Philippines. I missed my friends and family. I studied this possibility for quite a while. Maybe, Jason can teach. I could teach. Benji must attend Chinese school so he could be ready for the world economy. Despite these grandiose ideas, reality still prevailed. It is not ideal to raise a family in the Philippines for so many reasons. However, my husband and I agreed that maybe in retirement, we'll spend each winter in the Philippines, if we could afford it.
Last week, I told my 4 year old, "Benji, if it is only good in the Philippines, we could go home now." Benji replied "What are you saying mommy? We're already home." Wise words from the mouth of babe.... But part of my heart remains in the Philippines...
Taken in Boracay