While others dread the idea of going home, I am the one who marvels the thought of it. Having lived 20 years in a foreign land, it feels like you are on top of the world…. prosperous, successful and almost invincible!
Beneath the euphoric surface of that good life, something’s wrong with the picture, something was terribly missing. I had searched high and low to find the answers. At first, there was nothing. I was engulfed with a hollow feeling, so awful, so profound, and I never knew why?
Went along with life, marriage, beautiful children, great job… but why such feeling?
A little over a decade ago, I had that fateful trip back HOME, first time ever after I left. I had mixed feelings, I found myself in ecstasy to have seen old family and friends and my hometown BANSALAN. While I had a blast sharing my bounty and meeting friends, I was equally sad of what’s happening around me. It seemed like I was in the midst of a synchronized chaos in a far-flung deprived society. And there was confusion, lots of it! Everywhere I went, people were nonchalantly smiling and very warm. I was confused, I didn’t understand then. Though struggling in their daily lives, people are content and especially happy. I was amazed and somewhat awed by the striking resilience of my people.
Went back to my other home in a foreign land. And all of a sudden, I found myself terribly lonely. I could still hear the seemingly loud laughter of friends, the sumptuous Filipino food, and the warmth around me. I felt very empty, reduced to tears… Now I understand. I have found the answer. This is what’s been missing all along. I realize I will never be the same. That fateful trip was an eye opener. It was like watching colorful flashbacks.
The “simbang gabi”, I missed terribly. The basketball tournaments at ABC Gym, Holy Cross vs. Nazareth was the highlight. It was like David (Nazareth) vs. Goliath (HCCB). Holy Cross flaunted their all-famous band and watched Nazareth humiliated down its spine only to be beaten at the end by the relentless determination of the underdogs. The “amateur singing contest” on Friday and Saturday evenings at the public market terminal.
My sister, Ellen, and I could not contain our best behaviors but escaped the family home for a chance to gallivant the streets of Bansalan only to be pinched real badly by mom on our return home in the middle of the night. Every now and then, me and my sister would
giggly reminisce. And yes, the “tubig-tubig” and the “bulan-bulan”, the all-time favorite past-time on weekends. Of course the “caimito and mansanitas” climbing adventures.
Truckloads of sugarcane would park alongside the highway and we’d try to sneak for a taste of that sweet cane, do you remember that? Ahh… the Bansalan Cinema, of course, with its flea-infested and unpadded chairs that almost bruised your bottom, and a virtual stinky-smelling pool of water at the bottom of the so-called “orchestra”, where we have enjoyed the acts of Fernando Poe and Vilma Santos, and mesmerized by the love story of Sharon Cuneta and Gabby Concepcion. The ever-tasty “chicken barbecue” of “Dayang” in front of it… The “siopao” at Mabuhay Restaurant was the best! And “adidas” was the hit shoe brand. Ahhh…. Memories… I can go on and on…
Old photographs and places I remembered. Behind the chaos of it all… there is happiness… TRUE happiness. Even though I walk in the first world… drive in world-class superhighways, it’s my country’s winding roads and Bansalan’s leading by-ways that make me long for HOME.
(The author, Evelyn Bautista-Laguidao, is a proud true-blue Bansaleño and lives in Virginia USA. She is currently a Project Specialist for East Asia and Pacific Region at the World Bank Group Headquarters in Washington DC. She goes home and visits Bansalan every year with her husband and 2 kids, and reluctantly drags herself to the airport with a heavy heart each time it was time to go back. She is also a resident of Bansalan and Malita respectively).