They often say that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. And while this adage is often used to describe the loss of a loved one or a state of being, it could very well pertain to the loss of a place or rather the dispossession – of that sense of place. In my case, it was that place that I’ve always known, the cliched “land of my birth” and the setting for the bulk of my life’s memories. The Philippines.
When I started my work overseas some 6 years ago, I was filled with utmost excitement at the thought of living in a new environment. Given that I was then at the early stages of what is to be a long-lasting stage of wanderlust, few things were more exciting personally than the opportunity to expose myself to a different culture, place and milieu. I thought that it would be like starting a new life.
Contrary to what is unfairly associated with people who leave, I’ve always had a fondness for the Philippines. The fact that I have been living elsewhere for a while now doesn’t change this fact. As a travel blogger, I probably should not be saying this but back then, the thought of traveling for leisure – whether in or out of the country – didn’t appeal that much to me. What is perhaps ironic is that I had not actually started exploring the Philippines extensively until I started living outside the country. In 2008 when I started working in Singapore, I had only been to Metro Manila where I grew up, a few surrounding provinces and Bacolod, because I have relatives there. I had not even been to Cebu.
i had never even been to cebu.. until some 2.5 years ago!
In the six years since, I have returned to the Philippines countless times. It was not so much about improving my pathetic footprint in my own country but more about a personal yearning to see the homeland again after prolonged periods of being away – a semi-state of perpetual homesickness if you will. In the six years since, I managed to see more of the land and found myself flying to Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga, various points in Palawan, Bohol, Camiguin and Ilocos. Many provinces later, I still can by no means claim to be well-traveled in the Philippines. But these frequent visits to the country only serve to reflect how my perspectives about the Philippines has changed after a long time of not living there.
vigan… as fine as any colonial town i’ve seen
One could argue that the sight of paradise islands and breathtaking landscapes, such as those found in Coron, Bohol’s Chocolate Hills or Batanes is enough to dazzle even the most disenchanted. These places are all spectacular in their own way and there is no use arguing about that. But I suppose that what really altered my perspectives lie beyond the visual. For someone like me who didn’t spend much time outside my hometown prior to 2008, seeing all these wonders practically at my backyard only much later is akin to a kid who had been a prisoner since birth and freshly released from captivity. In my case though, I had no one else to blame for my own relative enclosure.
such scenes can probably bring the “enchantment” back to any disenchanted traveler but for me, it lies beyond the visual
I have come to realize how the people here are among the jolliest one will ever get to meet anywhere. It’s funny how someone who’s experienced this for 20-odd years would only come to find this notable now. But a prolonged time of being away really changes the things one is able to observe. I’ve never quite encountered a people who have as much zest for life and positive outlook on things as my own country men. The Philippines is a happy place, thanks to its people and witnessing this particular trait never fails to put a smile on my face each time I come home. This is not to say that things here are perfect – actually far from it – but people are resilient and smile through both good times and bad.
Being a city dweller caught up in the incessant rhythms of a modern and fast-paced life, seeing these made me realize how one can find joy in the simple things. One could feel satisfied just lying in a hammock in an isolated isle, with the view of the azure sea just a few feet away or living in a town where everyone knows each other and where food is bountiful and fresh. Some may argue that I may be over-romanticizing things. That I have these thoughts because I was on leisure trips. That I’d get bored after a few days. That food is not always bountiful. There may be some truth in that. But few can ever deny that staying in the Philippine countryside is a potentially eye-opening and outlook-bending experience.
a resilient people
The Philippines is still home, ultimately. Though I must admit that in the past, I had entertained the thought of living outside the country permanently. Over time, my mindset has taken a total U-turn and now I often find myself pondering about the when, where and how of my impending return. I guess it is only by seeing through different lenses that one gets to discover something for what it really is.
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