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.”

Fell

Wishing for a second chance
If t’were to speak perchance
A foolhardy decision, some say
But let words speak, if they may

In the same mind frame
One the gent, the other the dame
T’were no arguing
Just constant happy and smiling

It came to pass
A complication, not en masse
A fix needed — just a simple one
But one knew not how tis to be done

Prayers and wishes
For the bye-bye of issues
To seek for peace
That requires not lease

Loved and loving
Wishes for him calling
Feeling sad
But never will be mad

Constantly hoping
As one continuous longing
Despite the words they say
“Move on, you getting together, no way”

To know one is a fool
And acting quite the mule
Ah well
One quite apparently fell

Invisible War

Loved, then lost
But that’s alright
Just like a tournament of joust
You either fall or you stay upright

I’ve tried all I could
I’ve reached out the only way I know
I feel like I have pursued
But I have nothing to show

Calm on the outside
While I rage a battle within
I really don’t like to hide
But I don’t know how to win

A cold war
Between Russia and the West
Strained manoeuvres
Quite heavy in the chest

This current invisible war
It rivals that historic tension
Why should it ever be on par
With what I have just mentioned?

Where goodwill and camaraderie once stood
Now only silence remains
Memories as medals of all that was good
While the strain I feel — severely maimed

I just want to mend the ties
Before all that once was just completely dies

I wave my white flag up in surrender

The Attic Rose

The weather outside emitted gloom, as the fog covered the streets, making it difficult for the commuters to see clearly into the night. The street lights permeated through however, and a small ray shone on a man walking slowly along the pavement.

This very man, neither form nor height could be discernible from just one look at him; he was covered from head to foot in very heavy winter clothes, and a bowler hat lay on top of his head, with scarves wrapping his face. Save for the sound of his deep breathing against the frigid air, he made no other noise. He turned a corner, away from the crowded streets to a quiet neighbourhood. His footsteps echoed as he walked along, and this whole time, he kept his head down.

On that same street the man walked on, a large townhouse stood solemnly over all the other houses. Inside, a family of five had just finished eating dinner, having eaten a simple meal. They soon cleared the table and the family dispersed towards their separate activities.

A loud sharp rap on the door vibrated throughout the house and the father went to the front door and opened it. In came the man from the streets, hurriedly bounding up the stairs. A shrill cry was heard from the attic and the man came pounding back down, immediately running out into the cold night.

Another cry was heard from the floors above and a woman screamed out:

“She’s dead! He killed her!”

Who they meant by “he”, nobody knew, but the “she” they referred to was the nanny of the youngest mistress of the house.

Soon after, the whole house, including the servants, was in an uproar.

In the attic, a pool of blood spread out from a female body, all across the wooden floor. A very pretty young woman lay on the ground, with her face ghastly white and eyes glazed over; multiple stab wounds were inflicted on her body, from the face down. But on her face was a look of pain and disbelief, about to be overcome with horror. Next to her stood a young girl holding a bloodied knife, staring blankly down at the corpse next to her. She remained immobile even when her mother had come in, who had immediately run out soon after, screaming.

When a lone law enforcer, who appeared to be around his early thirties, arrived a while after on the landing of the attic – called forth by the patriarch of the family – he looked at the child calmly, approached her, and carefully removed the knife from her small hands; her grasp on the object was loose, so it was an easy task for him. His assistant approached him and, reaching out with his gloved hand, took the knife from his senior.

Once his assistant had bagged the evidence away, he whispered for him to take the child as well. He did as he was instructed, as he then proceeded to approach the child cautiously, as if the murder was committed by the girl. Once the assistant had the girl by the hand, he led her away, leaving the main officer in the grimy and congealing atmosphere to ponder upon the crime scene.

For a short while, he lingered near the body of the victim. Then he spied something glittering on her index finger. He bent over and examined it closer, hastily taking away what seemed to be a ring from her lifeless hands.

“There it is,” he whispered into the still room. “I overlooked that.”

He surveys the room to make sure everything is in order and leaves calmly. He takes his phone out, presumably to call police backup, but before he puts the call in, he takes one last look at the deceased young woman.

From the angle he stood, it seemed like a huge rose petal had engulfed her body, with her pale skin contrasting tastefully against the deep red that had poured out of the gashes on her delicate form. It was a hauntingly beautiful image, something the officer’s poetic soul couldn’t deny.

“What a pity – such wasted talent.”

And with that, he left the room, unshackled from the presence of the woman once and for all.

My Writer’s Assertion

I write what I feel and I feel what I write. I write to feel my existence. I write to understand myself. I write to be me.

No matter what I do, my mind wants to write. And I will always feel it. What I write is what I feel, despite how much I try to hide what I feel — because of it, I become transparent. No point in denying that.

I am a writer, no matter where I go and what I do. I will always be, in my heart of hearts, a writer.