SOMETIME in 1995 while on holiday in the Philippines, I was openly criticized for “acting like a foreigner in my own country.” Why? Because when some friends came over to my mom’s house to see me and ask how I was, I said, “Ohhh, covered with allergies. The moment we landed, I noticed rashes on my arms, now they’re all over my body!”
One queries as to what could have happened and I responded that I’m very sensitive to heat and dust, why, my own sweat makes me feel very itchy!
Actually, it could have been possible that I was just so excited with the trip! This, I could not elaborate on further as one of my visitors quickly commented in some mocking way, “Is it not hot in the Dubai? Hotter than here in the Philippines? As if you did not grow up here to be allergic to Philippine weather and pollution! As if this is not really your home!”
I could have defended myself by saying, “Technically, I didn’t really grow up in the Philippines, my father left to work for Air America in Vietnam in 1965, from then onwards, my siblings (except our eldest) and I were always on the move to where our parents would be taken as demanded by my father’s job.”
Then again, I could have just ignored the comment and not ruin the mini reunion that was in front of me. I did just that and retains the friendship I have with those present at the time.
Sometimes, it is difficult for those who stay in the HOME COUNTRY to understand that despite retaining one’s nationality and passport; people who left their native country due to different reasons and purposes like the call of responsibility or economic and cultural challenges; people like businessmen and/or workers – (Overseas Filipino Workers in the case of Filipinos) – and their families could just be AT HOME in their adoptive countries.
In the same manner, Filipino emigrants to other countries, despite having obtained a new passport either by marriage, birth or officially declaring the emigrant status of their host country could and would still call Philippines HOME. Why not? It is a beautiful country after all. People can complain about the traffic, the humidity, the government, the slow this and the slow that… but there are these things that make the Philippines so special that one will always want to come back to it.
There is always something or someone in the Philippines that would make a Filipino take that trip to go back HOME.
Generally “Home” they say, is where one lives permanently; then again to others; it is where the heart is… a place where you feel love, where you can be your own person most comfortably.
Plucked from it, “Home” is where you would long very much to be. Home is… where mama and papa are? Where my doggy comes barking with its tail wagging happily when it sees me… where everyone gathers for that happy occasion, even the sad ones? Where I can put my feet up anytime, sing loudly unabashed?
A character of a novel with the same title by Irish writer James Joyce, Ulysses, puts it as, “Home isn’t where you’re born into… can be a place of mind, a moment where you know who you are, the history of it. And they can be places you breathe life into.”
Wherever it is, HOME is a place, physically or mentally. A place created by our emotions.
There is no other word that can be associated with the word HOME as closely as the word EMOTIONS. Emotions, being a strong feeling deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.
Home is what you make of it, anywhere…
So, whenever I feel and hear the aircraft’s landing gears’ slow and smooth grunts as they are being released, getting ready for the strip that waits below. I always look out of the plane’s window to see and then urgently wake up my kids, “Guys, we’re home!”