I was in the US for close to 3 months just recently and since most of it was spent in the city I absolutely adore, New York City, I didn’t really want to go home. Skype took care of keeping in close touch my loved ones.
And in New York, I lived with friends so close to my heart, it felt like I was really and truly home. I missed them so much too, these friends and when they left to carve out a new life for themselves in America, it felt like I had lost a huge chunk of me. So being with them was like finding a piece of myself again and I reveled in coming home to their warm, nurturing presence day after day and dreaded the hour I would need to say goodbye to them again.
Every second I spent in New York was pure happiness. Sure, there were a few run-ins with over-the-top weirdos (this was New York after all) but for the most part, I wanted to stay and stay and stay. And I was enveloped in immense sadness when I went home.
Home meant dirty, tree-less, park-less, library-less, museum-less, tyrannical MetroManila filmfest and space that I shared with Tito Sotto and the Marcoses and Erap and Gloria Arroyo. What I wanted was to get my family out of Manila and bring them to New York. HAH!
But as soon as I got home, in the airport that felt like a bus terminal–no, make that the comfort room of a bus terminal-no, in fact, scratch that and make that the rundown, stinky cesspool of a comfort room of a rundown bus terminal–well, as soon as I stepped inside this embarrassment of an international airport, I felt warm and fuzzy and like I’d stepped into a cocoon.
And it had everything to do with my kababayans–this warm, fuzzy feeling. I write this now, about a month after landing in that airport and I am afraid the warm, fuzzy feeling is leaving me and I need to remember my thoughts and write it down before memory fails.
I love these about being Pinoy.
I love how heavily invested we are in relationships. I love how family is gold to us. How, it is still unthinkable for us to put care of our loved ones in the hands of strangers. How we still think of caring for our aging parents as not just a solemn duty, not just the right thing to do but as a privilege, a gift, a loving gift wrapped in hugs and kisses and hand holding and trips to Starbucks or Milky Way or Aristocrat or the doctor and whispered ‘Remember when?’s. Love how we still think that caring for them is our final loving gift not just to ourselves but most of all to them–these imperfect human beings who birthed us and raised us as best they could.
I love that we lovingly step up in the circle of life and close gently and with much love the lives of those who took care of us when we were helpless and babies and care for them now that they are helpless and babies. Full circle, see?
I love how our children know who’s boss. Love that they talk to us in the right tone. Love that they know they are loved mightily and will always come first to us and that mountains will get climbed for them, rivers will be forged for them, flames gone through for them yet that they must speak to us at a certain tone–the tone reserved for when you speak to someone who resides in Mt. Olympus. Love that that ‘mano po’ or a kiss when we walk in and the asking of our blessing when they walk out the door is sacred and inviolable. You may do like an American and be cooool and 9gag all you want but your mama and papa are sacred. No two ways about it. Capisce? (and the answer is, ‘Capisce, your mama highness.’)
I love how we have not lost sight of how people matter more than stuff. I love that, for the most part, we are not materialistic assholes who measure our worth and other people’s worth by their net worth.
I love that we don’t stress about our retirement nest, our 401Ks, our investment portfolios. I love how we laugh easily, party at the drop of a hat and chill when our day isn’t meeting our expectations. San Miguel beer with friends lang ang katapat ng araw na pinagtakluban ng langit. We invented the KARAOKE machine. KARAOKE, baby! Enough said. Where is that Nobel Peace Prize??
On the bus from Maryland to New York, passengers angrily demanded that the driver make an announcement when the bus wasn’t moving for something like 10 minutes. Veins were a-popping and eyebrows were furrowed. Those 10 minutes wouldn’t have even registered with us. Perfect, we’d say, I can nap. Or think about my telenovela.
The hurricane that cancelled the New York Marathon would have been party time for us. So much clean water to have a giant pool party in! The angry, deathly serious vibe I felt in New York’s subways when Sandy furrowed their collective brows, I never felt when Ondoy came a-visiting. Not even in the relocation sites where food was scarce…and where Black Eyed Peas’ ‘Boom Boom Pow’ blared as children and teens danced while they awaited relief goods.
And I love how we’ve not buried ourselves in serious debt–one that could collectively crash our economy (crash it further is what I mean, of course)–because of mansions we must live in and flashy cars we must drive to validate our existence on earth. Politicians do a great job at it anyway. We, at least, do not contribute in any significant way.
For the most part, debt–specially debt to keep up with the Joneses–is not part of our ethos. We, in fact, are of the mindset still, that that cute Starbucks cup can be reused over and over again. No need to throw a pretty cup away. And our cars still get passed on from one generation to the next. No need to buy a new one for the brat. Let him buy his own car. Feel the satisfaction of flexing his mojo and getting into a car shop on his own and paying it with money he actually earned. For now, he can use the Toyota 1978. He is most welcome to use the jeep and tricyle too. Knock yourself out, son.
I love that we have time to stop and talk awhile. I love that we plan coffee time or brunches with each other. Love that we think nothing of dropping by unannounced to a friend’s house with nothing but our hungry, lonely selves and be fed both physically and soulfully. Love that we hug freely. Love that ‘Kamusta ka na?’ is a real question awaiting a real answer and not just a formal salutation that if supplied with a real answer will be met with raised eyebrows–no matter how short. (‘Hi, how are ya?’ ‘I am sad. My wife left me.’ *cricket cricket cricket*).
I love how we do friendships so well. How time slows down when we are with a friend and how we know to enjoy this exquisite gift called friend-in-front-of-me.
I love that we have lovely, kind, gentle, solicitous souls who serve us well–and whom WE MUST PAY A MILLION TIMES BETTER AND ADVOCATE FOR. How they make the quality of our lives sterling. Our lives have this gentle, magnanimous rhythm to it because they take marvelous care of us. Yes, some of them can be a pain, but after a week of doing the dishes and cleaning your home or doing the laundry and cooking three meals a day for self and family yourselves, I bet that pain in the neck you complain ceaselessly about will seem like an angel straight from God. Which is what they really and truly are. They free us so our time can be spent on better things–like advocating for them and levelling the playing field so they get to live their lives with a lot more dignity and social equity.
I have been ceaseless and ruthless in my assessment of what is wrong with us and I hardly write about what makes us great. That we’ve been screwed over by politicians because we are able to laugh in the face of any disaster,this easy going, indomitable spirit that has been used against us–well, this will be topic for another day.
Today I wrote about why I love you, my kababayans.
I love you the most because of your gentle soul.
***Photo lifted off the net and it is by Gezelle Rivera**