Hearts and home
Published on Page A13 of the December 9, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
MY friend and I met over tea before she left the country again. The gist of our conversation was that she was making it big in Singapore and she expected me to follow her there very soon.
That got me thinking about the following as I was taking a shower the next day:
One, it takes a heartbreak to leave the Philippines. Our country many not be the most progressive in Asia, but there is no question that it’s the place with the most heart. And this is because of its people.
But when yours is broken, you find it easier to leave. You can free yourself of your attachments in the country because the primary reason you have stayed in the first place -- the nation’s “heart” essentially found in every Filipino -- has ceased to exist for you. It stopped existing the moment it hurt you, exhausted you, deceived you or let you down. After which, you simply give up on it, them, her, him, or the country as a whole, and realize that it isn’t much of a place after all. For wasn’t the traffic and the heat made only bearable when someone special was there with you inside that sweltering FX taxi van? Weren’t hellish days in that modestly compensated job forgotten when you came home to a contented family? Weren’t all the daily sacrifices worthwhile when you trusted a group of people to at least make everyday life a little better?
When a directionless partner, an adulterous husband, a rebellious child, an ungrateful boss, or a deceptive President brings you great disappointment after all your devotion and loyalty, you snap. Then it won’t be long before staying in the country becomes unbearable.
And so, you leave.
Two, it takes a big heart to actually leave the Philippines.
While I said that your heart needs to be broken before you can decide to leave the country, I did not say how big the Filipino’s heart is, so that even when it is broken, it continues to throb.
The “Fear Factor” and “Survivor” joke is an all too familiar one. It has been said that if Filipinos were to join American reality shows such “Fear Factor” or “Survivor,” they would surely win. If you are a Filipino, you are a survivor even when the cameras are not rolling. All of us know Filipinos who manage to survive outside the Philippines: a mother who works in a hospital in the East Coast and lives in a cousin’s tiny apartment in New Jersey; an aunt who tends mansions in California and sleeps on a family friend’s couch; an uncle who does construction work in London, while building his own dream house in Bulacan province; a fresh graduate who makes computerized floor plans in Singapore while making her own meaningful plans for the family back home. Such survival instincts and guts are innate in the Filipino.
And so, you too will survive.
Three, it takes a dead heart to forget the Philippines.
While the Filipino has a huge heart, it can also be killed. And when it is dead, it ceases to feel, of course. A dead heart completely erases all its links with the Philippines and does not allow sympathy or memories to lead it back home.
But while a heart still beats, it will continually remember the Motherland. Because even tourists who have visited our country never forget the experience.
When a Filipino living outside the country tells you that someone is going back to the homeland, you can’t help but feel nostalgic. Thought of a homecoming brings back the sights, sounds and smells of pleasant times in the Philippines. Like a mother, no matter how much you think she has screwed you and embarrassed you, or sent you away, the motherland will always be home.
Karla M. Pundaodaya, 22, is a graduate of the University of Santo Tomas College of Architecture.
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