If you follow my blog (which I hope you do) you might have noticed that my posts have been irregular for the past month.
That’s because for the past month I have been vacationing in the Philippines!
I was worried when we left. I wondered if I could still get along with people who were essentially strangers after nine years. My doubts grew when I actually landed. Throughout our trip, my family’s Canadian bodies endured extreme heat, poor sleep, irritation from bug bites, and braved chaotic traffic, awkward bathrooms, and long, bumpy car rides.
It sounds kind of terrible, but it was also extremely humbling. The lack of luxuries like a washing machine or air conditioner made me realize how lucky I am to have what I have. How sheltered I actually am.
But the most humbling experience of all was being lost in translation. My parents didn’t teach my and my siblings Tagalog while growing up. As first generation Canadians, they wanted us to learn English first. But in the Philippines, everyone speaks Tagalog. Sure, they know English, but if they hear you speak just English, they know you’re foreign and try to rip you off.
It’s easy to peg me and my siblings as foreign because (1) we speak English, (2) we’re significantly paler than locals, and (3) mosquitos like foreign blood.
We had to rely on our parents for almost everything, and at nearly 20 years old, that’s more than a little disheartening—it’s crippling.
I was illiterate, deaf, and mute for the first time in my life. And I understood how frustrating and difficult it is.
So over the course of the past month, I forced myself to learn words, ask questions, and speak Tag-lish. I can’t hold up a conversation, but it was more Tagalog than I had learned in my life.
My favourite part of the trip, however, was the conversations. I loved hearing stories about life there, about my parents’ childhood, and my older cousin’s childhood.
They would tell me about how things “used to be”, with more fruit trees, simpler houses, and simpler lives. How they would work hard and how they would get into trouble.
I enjoyed hearing these memories and making some of my own. My favourites are going to the market and cleaning fish with my grandmother, celebrating my grandfather’s birthday, and playing with my little cousin. These are memories that seem so mundane though, nothing especially promoting the tropical islands’ beaches or culture. At times I would really immerse in it, other times I just wanted to be home.
But it was really what made the trip for me. It made arriving at the airport to go back to Canada heartbreaking, it made stepping into my own home seem so unfamiliar, too…quiet.
I used to hate when my mother called her house in the Philippines “back home”, as if her family here and her house here weren’t enough to constitute a home. I didn’t understand it, because she was the first one in her family to leave for North America.
I understand now. I do.