Life Transitions

There are just those decisions we make that are absolutely transformative, and for me, that would be moving to the Philippines last year to study. It was a move I never anticipated for myself, but I made it nonetheless, because of so many personal reasons of my own, as well as things I needed to figure out for myself.

Growing up as a migrant Filipino child in Hong Kong initially, and then Macau, I never had the real Philippine experience. And by that, I mean that I never really knew first-hand what life was truly like in the Philippines at all. Sure, I got to see a variety of people in melting pot cities in both Special Administrative Regions of China, as well as having seen a few different cultures up close while growing up in an international school, but it left me feeling disconnected with my Filipino heritage.

It is true that in almost all countries there are ample amounts of Filipinos who form communities away from their home country for the sake of still connecting with their Filipino roots, but I only ever experienced that as a child growing up in Hong Kong for the first 8 years of my life, and I didn’t really bother too much about that side of life when I was younger – I was more engrossed with games and having fun with my childhood playmates. After briefly moving to the Philippines for a few months when SARS hit Hong Kong, we moved to Macau. Here we stayed for around a decade and it became my main playground, seeing as it was the place where I became conscious of more things than what a mere child is aware of. In other words, I spent my adolescent years here and was where I was formulated to be the person I am now.

And while we were in Macau, we weren’t exposed to the Filipino community as much as we were in Hong Kong. What happened was more the opposite, and me and my brother grew up in isolation away from Filipino culture. And that’s when we both started to resent being who we were.

On my end, there were times I didn’t exactly like being Filipino, but there were also times I felt indifferent about it. However, I do remember intense episodes of hatred towards being Filipino and I’d try my hardest to hide my Filipino-ness, blending in as much as I could with the locals.

Some may assume that life abroad is easier and much better, but there are also challenges unique to living overseas. I find such an assumption highly erroneous. Loneliness, feelings of inadequacy, and that inner fear that the locals might one day turn on you and force you out – it really builds constant anxiety and paranoia. Maybe that’s just me though.

When the Filipino name is synonymous to being a helper or a maid, which aren’t always looked upon with high regard or respect, the generalization can become very difficult to deal with. Respect can become very hard to find at times, even from within the community.

One specific memory I have when I was still young, and which has never left me, was when my mom was taking me to my kindergarten school. I was still 3 years old at the time, but what was said to her still haunts me to this day.

Alaga mo ba yan?”, another Filipina says to my mom, while indicating towards me. Understand that my mom graduated from university with a degree as a nutritionist dietician and has had over ten years of working experience by then. She’d also worked in Saudi Arabia for many years before giving birth to me. But all my mom did was to confirm the Filipina’s assumption. Years later, when I’d already grown up, she told me how much it actually pained her, as a mother, to be thought as just a maid to me. Since then, she’s done her very best to dress better no matter the circumstance just to avoid being assumed as such to both me and, later, my younger brother. And in a way, I’ve also inherited her way of thinking and added onto it another layer of my own – I just didn’t want to be Filipino.

I know everyone deserves respect and that being a maid or helper doesn’t refute their right to it, but the way those two terms have been used as a word is nearly akin to any derogatory word out there, if not fully used a derogatory term even. It hurts knowing our nation is generalised by quite a number of people as the country for which maids and helpers come from, but it’s the reality and seeing that as I was growing up has probably scarred me into believing very little of myself. I could have focused on the more positive side of things, sure. But then, I tend to be a pessimist, as well as a sensitive one. I’ve grown a thick skin over the years, but I can’t deny that it still hurts sometimes.

And that’s exactly why I could never come to terms with me being Filipino. But if I cannot accept myself for who I really am, where would that get me?

Despite the initial culture shock and personal struggles I’ve faced adjusting, moving to the Philippines helped me see the brighter side of being Filipino. I no longer see the Philippines in such a negative light as before. I always knew Filipinos weren’t just maids or helpers, but fully seeing this extent by actually living in the Philippines for a year, I can safely say I’ve changed my perspective on the matter of my Filipino-ness.

We are a nation more than just maids and helpers. We are a nation filled with intellects and very competent professionals. We are a nation abounding in creativity and talent. We are a nation filled with amazing people. We are a nation that has the ability to offer more than what the world thinks we are capable of. We are a nation that also deserves respect.

Poverty limits us as a nation and corruption ruins our country’s name, but having lived in the Philippines showed me how vibrant it really is – our nation is multifaceted.

“Ang hindi magmahal sa sariling wika ay higit sa hayop at malansang isda.” A stranger told me this once, merely because I could not speak Tagalog fluently and was speaking English to a Chinese friend of mine. And while I felt insulted, it hit me and made me realise how I really didn’t love who I was as a Filipino back then. It challenged me to change my perspective and years after hearing it, I made my decision to reconcile myself with my Filipino heritage.

Moving to the Philippines quite literally changed me and gave me a totally new outlook. It really has been a transformative move. The one concrete thing for me right now is to get that sablay and my Mass Communication degree from UP Cebu. And although I don’t really know where I will be heading in the future, one thing is certain. I truly wish to serve the Filipino people, be it within the nation or abroad.

To close this, here’s another Tagalog quote that now resonates with me:“Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggagalingan ay hindi makararating sa paroroonan.”

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Movie Review: The Choice

First off, I never really ever wanted to ever watch a Nicholas Sparks movie. Ever. I never really truly put too much faith in romantic love, most especially when written as a love story. And even more especially so if written with a happy ending. There’s just too much sadness in the world I’ve encountered over the years that it seemed impossible to ever see those romantic happily ever after stories in movies actually come to life or translated into reality successfully (with the exception of my parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles). I just trust logic so much more than emotions, which can be oh-so explosive at the worst of times.

But when someone tells me to try and watch a romance movie — a Nicholas Sparks one, no less, to which I’m highly averse to — I’d hear them out and then leave the movie on my desktop to gather dust (figuratively). Now, however, I finally have watched a Nicholas Sparks movie. And all out of pure curiosity too.

The first things that come to mind while recalling the movie’s details would be the words “beautiful” and “deep” and “touching”. Absolutely. I may have judged things too quickly through non-rose tinted lenses before, by quickly dismissing this Nicholas Sparks movie, but I guess it very much is worthwhile.

Love is all about taking risks. Or rather, that’s what Alain Badiou seems to imply (review from brainpickings.org). It’s a “tenacious adventure” and has the ability to unite people despite differences, as it forces two individuals to see the perspective of another; from the perspective of two and not just one. It supposedly triumphs over “time, space, and the world”.

The risk factor, the adventure, and the tenacity when dealing with love were distinctly portrayed in the movie. Even though Gaby was still with Ryan, Travis still happened. And apparently, that choice made the greatest difference in both their lives.

It was touching how Travis fought against all odds for Gaby time and time again. From the night they had dinner at her place (to the detriment of her dishware, cutlery, and stacked papers), until the very end, he never let go of her. And Gaby’s Point that he created in honour of his love and loyalty to her was endearingly sweet of him as well. Gaby, in turn, remained loyal to him and they stuck together through both the thick and the thin. How wonderful, no? Wouldn’t it be nice to have that?

I never intended to watch a Nicholas Sparks movie ever, because I don’t put too much faith in romantic love stories with faultlessly happy endings (especially when there’s rampant overuse of unrealistic clichés full of fakery). There’s just too much sadness in the world for these romantic happily ever after stories to ever come to life or be translated into reality successfully (with the exception of my parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles, lucky buggers that they are). Logic is so much more trustworthy than the torrid affair emotions are, which can be oh-so explosive at the worst of times. Maybe I’m just too abnormally pragmatic and pessimistic. Or highly fearful of vulnerability and letting go of the control I’ve tried to maintain in my life.

I do yearn for the fabled love that is the fascination of most people though. And this movie sold love far too well to my despair. “The Choice” is a beautiful movie, a nice little piece of art in the midst of many others like it. On first watching this, it actually convinced me that something similar to what Travis and Gaby have is possible for everyone (and, dare I say it, even me), but on the 5th time watching it, it just seems too idealistic. Is it really possible?

Life is filled with choices and there’s no escape from that. That’s more or less what Travis said in his opening voiceover monologue in the movie. We’re consumed by this act every single day, even if we may not be fully aware of it. And sometimes our choices make or break us and our lives. Because, simply put, the act of choosing is the one thing that makes us all fully aware of our existence. Without being able to do so through free will, we wouldn’t be the humans that we are. But sometimes, doesn’t it just seem like the choices we end up making lead us to our own misery anyway?

The passion Gaby and Travis both had for one another was palpable. It was sudden and unpredictable. But what Gaby had with Ryan was steady and comfortable. She had love from both ends, but both were very different kinds. And from the choice she made, passionate love overruled familiar love. But is this the case in reality as well? Isn’t the familiar as good as passion? They are both still eros though, aren’t they? Maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree right now though…

Anyhow, love in books and movies are just imitations of reality and is just a shadow of what could actually be there. Plato will support me on that, I believe. Encountering love in reality would be better, I suppose, but how will I even know what it is, if I don’t know how to identify it? It could be thrown in my face and, knowing me, I’d still be dumb to what’s obviously there. Where’s the how-to guide to love? Love stories aren’t how-to guides, they’re just, as already said, imitations of reality.

While love can be the amazing thing Gaby and Travis experienced, it’s also scary because of the potential hurt and rejection one can encounter. Just look at Boomerang girl and Ryan. They loved, but to no avail. True, Ryan meets someone else and starts a family with whoever that is, and Boomerang girl also most likely met someone else, but before that could happen, they were met with pain. I guess to simplify things, one can either be a Gaby/Travis or a Boomerang girl/Ryan in life. And this will all depend on the choices one makes.

How, though, did the attraction happen? I tried analysing it through repeatedly watching it, but it still mystifies me. I suppose I’m over-thinking it instead of just enjoying the movie as it is, but I guess I just can’t settle with not over-thinking things. That may include many sleepless nights due to floating thoughts, but I’d rather that than an empty mind. I’ll just go mull some more about all this, to WALK THE MOON’s “Aquaman” and “Avalanche”. At its very core though, love can both be complex and simple at the same time.

”You bother me” – must someone really have to bother someone else for it to be love? Agape seems easier.

 

tl;dr
A beautifully tear-jerking movie that had me watery-eyed and screaming at the idiot characters (who didn’t actually turn out to be too idiotic) most of the first part of the movie, but then thinking deeply for the rest of the movie, because of how dang deep things got.

Gorgeous vista. Truly amazing. I’d love to have been part of the production crew behind this film.

 

This, however, still does not convince me to watch any other Nicholas Sparks movie. I am still allergic to tears and too much heart-warming feelings in one go. Who knows how I became this way.