Wednesday, May 31, 2017

My Heart is Rooted in the Philippines #MyAseanStory

I pretended to be strong the day they left me behind. I bravely put on a smile and hugged each one of them as tight as I could. I fought the tears that were desperately trying to fall.  I knew if I cried it would be harder for everyone. I could tell they were also fighting the same battle. The moment they left, everything in front of me became a blur. The tears came running down. I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I thought my heart was going to explode.

That was the day my parents and my brother left for the States.

I was over 21 when my family’s immigrant VISA came. Due to age restrictions, I was ineligible to go with them. Thus, I stayed and agreed that my parents would petition me later.

The first few days were the most difficult. Our tears would always muffle our voices and prevent us from having a good conversation.  Every special occasion that went by brought an ebb and flow of loneliness.

The days turned to weeks, the weeks to months, and the months to years.

The nagging ache of missing my family persisted. The feeling never ceased but the intensity diminished until it became more bearable.

It has been more than two decades but the void is still there.

I believe that God has a plan for each one of us.  I think I was destined to stay.

I was always eager to hear my family’s stories. I formed a tapestry of thoughts of their lives in the US.  They adjusted well in the foreign land.  I felt happy for them but as time passed, it dawned on me that I couldn’t see myself living in the States.

At the end, I chose to stay rooted in the Philippines. It wasn’t an engineered decision. Everything just fell into place. I didn’t wait for my papers to get finalized before getting married. It was a decision that made my application void.

I think it was meant to be.

I cannot picture myself living outside the Philippines. It’s a very beautiful country and I don’t think I can ever feel at home elsewhere. I've traveled outside the country and it always feels good to come back home. I’ve lived in the Philippines all my life but there are so many places in this country that I still yearn to visit, explore and experience.

Where else can you see the most beautiful beaches?  The Philippines has always been known for its immaculate beaches.  One of my favorite adventures is island hopping at Caramoan Islands, located at the far eastern end of Camarines Sur in Bicol region.  I fell in love with its powdery-white sand beaches, sandbars that constantly appeared and disappeared along with the tides, pristine aquamarine waters, and amazing limestone formations.

Where else can you see a volcano with a perfect cone? I was mesmerized the first time I saw Mt. Mayon in Bicol. I’ve seen many pictures and videos of Mt. Mayon but nothing compares to seeing it with my own eyes. According to local folks, not all tourists are lucky to see Mt. Mayon during their first visit. Legend has it that Mt. Mayon only shows her full regal beauty to those who are pure at hearts. I feel honored that she blessed me and my travel companions with her presence, unmasked by clouds on our first day in Bicol.

Where else can you enjoy the freshest bounty of the sea? Whenever I go to Roxas City Capiz, the Seafood Capital of the Philippines, I always feast on the freshest catch of the day including different kinds of fish, shell fish and crustaceans. I’m particularly fond of the delectable Diwal, also called Angel Wings clam. The Diwal shells resemble angel wings when they are fully opened.

Where else can you swim with whale sharks?  Swimming with the butandings in Sorsogon was an exhilarating experience. I was overwhelmed by the size and awed by the beauty of the whale sharks, fondly referred to as the gentle giants of the sea.

Where else can you see amazing waterfalls? I’ve seen many waterfalls in the Philippines and each one is unique and breathtaking.  The most recent waterfalls I visited was Ditumabo Falls, also called the Mother Falls located in San Luis, Aurora. I remembered traversing a rocky path and being rewarded by the astounding beauty of the falls. The water was refreshingly cold. The sound of the waterfalls was almost deafening as I got closer and closer to it.

Where else can you fall in love with the people? The Filipino people are naturally kind, friendly, generous, and helpful.  Pinoys are resourceful and creative. Best of all, Filipinos have the strongest spirits. They are resilient people. They always find a way to recover from adversities.  Pinoys always overcome the toughest challenges and regain their smiles.

I'm so thankful I stayed.

I still miss my family. I'm always happy to see them when they come home for vacation.

I'm happy where I am. My heart will always be rooted in the Philippines.


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