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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Final piece of a puzzle

I find these article from Philippine Daily Inquirer and yes, the article reflects the reality for some Filipinos who were born abroad (ie. not in the Philippines) to have their identity crisis and Filipinos working abroad, feeling the longing to return to their home country. I am one of those who long to return to my home country but opportunities to earn a decent living and safety for my family in Philippines remains the main concern that I still feel that staying put to where we (I and my family) are living now is still the best place. Hopefully, the time to return home would be in the near future.

Final piece of a puzzle
by Krisanne Alcantara
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:57:00 02/09/2008

The great Filipino Diaspora has resulted in countless Filipinos settling down all over the world, in countries such as the United States , Canada and Australia . These Filipinos are admired for uprooting completely and attaining the coveted Western dream, all-inclusive of the dollar-earning corporate job, Mercedes-Benz, shiny Gap-clothed offspring and glittering palatial homes in the suburbs.
But let me tell you, all that glitters is not gold.  
 
I know, because I am one of those Filipino-Australian /American offspring, part of an entire generation of young Filipino adults who have lived and been raised "abroad," a generation who, despite being born into the Great American Dream of their progenitors, cannot help but suffer from some form of identity crisis.
I am the perfect case study. Born in Manila , shipped to Australia for 10 years, only to be relocated in America , then back in Australia during my adolescence, I had completely given up finding a place to call home. Consequently, for years I insisted on calling myself a "citizen of the world." By the ripe old age of 21, I was jaded and slightly defiant, if not a little confused.  
 
That was until a week ago, when I found myself standing in the middle of a traffic-congested road with no distinct lanes, poorly attempting to "para" [halt] a jeepney in the thick of the Manila heat, knowing a total of 12 words in Tagalog and not knowing the difference between a P5 and a P10 coin -- and feeling right at home.
Coming back to the Philippines in my adulthood is akin to the satisfaction of finding that final piece of the puzzle and placing it snugly where it belongs. It is like filling an empty space that you never knew existed. "Where have you been all these years?" I wondered, as sweat poured down my brow and I was almost killed by a reckless taxi driver.  
 
Ironically, I have lived the "dream life" abroad like so many Filipinos constantly tell me they are desperate for. Whenever I mention that I currently reside in Australia , this revelation is always immediately followed by something along the lines of "Ay, Australia , gusto ko 'dyan!" [" Australia , I want to be there!"]
And with good reason. Me too, I like it in Australia . It's practically impossible not to like the country. It is so clean and so green, there is hardly any traffic and the weather obeys the seasons: winter means "cold" and summer means "hot."
Yet, now, after years of desperately trying to find this elusive place called home and instead being offered breathtakingly beautiful substitutes, I find myself loving a country where winter means "hot," and summer means "heat so excruciating you may as well be living inside a furnace." It's a country where people stare at me like an alien when I attempt to speak Tagalog (and oh, I try so hard), and a country where the skyline is defiled by billboards of heavily airbrushed superstars advertising anything, from hair products to coffee creamer.  
 
What many people don't know about we "lucky" Filipinos who have lived abroad our entire lives is that there is a tug-of-war that happens beneath the surface for many of us. There is an entire generation of Filipino young adults who have been brought up in another country, who experience a constant, underlying struggle between the culture that runs in their blood, and the culture that they live and breathe on a daily basis.
We are the young people who have been forced by our parents to adopt English as our first language and eat Weetbix and Cornflakes for breakfast. We nonchalantly take our SATs or HSCs, knowing that getting into universities is no drama, and neither is finding some form of employment if we fail.
Yet there is some kind of inexplicable emptiness that is hard to fill, or even admit, that is common among many of us Fil-Oz and Fil-Am youngsters.
I know this, having Filipino cousins and friends in both America and Australia . Within many of us lies the similar, disjointed feeling of being neither here nor there, being neither wholly American/Australian nor wholly Filipino.  
 
Please don't misunderstand me. I love Australia . It has been very kind to me, and I would not be sitting here had it not generously awarded me a free education at one of its most prestigious universities and then sent me to work here, expenses paid. And I know it sounds shallow, but boy, is Australia beautiful.
But the Philippines possesses a different kind of beauty that does not have to do with immaculate greenery, flawless stretches of golden desert and glittering turquoise ocean. In my opinion, the Philippines is beautiful because of its irony and its endearing imperfection.
A Third World country with gargantuan shopping malls to rival the world's best. A country with the most shopping malls, and also the most slum areas and poverty. A country so devoutly Roman Catholic yet also one of the most destitute and plagued with the most problematic of governments. And a country whose citizens are labelled "the happiest people in the world," according to the Chinese Asiaweek.
I have witnessed firsthand the breathtaking opulence of MalacaƱan Palace during vin d'honneur, and I have visited slums where shanties are packed so tightly together that the tiny doors can only open inwards and children run around barefoot and naked. I have witnessed both Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo' s presidential address beneath a glittering crystal chandelier and the heartbreaking sight of a sweating man standing in between two lanes of traffic, balancing a stand of peanuts on one arm and his toddler in the other..  
 
The Philippines is such a charming, enchanting, endearing mess of a country. Nothing really seems to fit, yet it all does.
And it reminds me a bit of myself. Perhaps that's why I feel like I fit right in. Perhaps that's why after all these years I can say I have finally, thankfully, found my home.
So, for all you fellow Filipinos here in the Philippines who dream of a life abroad, I am not telling you to stop dreaming. Explore your horizons.. Go to college, apply for scholarships, and work abroad. Just know where you came from, and feel blessed to have what you have. And never forget to come back to help your fellowmen, your people.
And to the lost souls, the confused "citizens of the world" like me who may be reading this: Don't lose hope. As the famous saying goes, "Life is a voyage that's homeward bound." In other words, no matter where or how far you wander, don't fret -- you will one day end up where you belong. Take it from me.

Krisanne Al cantara, 21, is a journalism student at the University of Sydney . She won the Myer and AKF journalism scholarship and is currently an intern at the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

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