Home away from home

By: Michael Galvez

Perspectives influence worldviews just as lenses, filters and settings influence the photos you take on a camera. From perspective comes the experience and your worldview is built upon all these experiences. So what is this perspective from which I will write from, to unpack and understand the past few weeks here in Guimaras?

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Hidden coves and islets

As a Filipino: We are the same, but so different and diverse just by the very real experience of the different spoken tongues that drew a temporary division with my tongue of Tagalog and their Ilonggo from the moment we arrived. Hints of similarities and phonetically similar sounds closed this distance very quickly, aided further by our rich cultures and of the values of sharing, of family and of the ‘Bayanihan’ spirit that make me proud to be a Filipino. I have enjoyed the traditions as a refresher course of my knowledge on these traditions: of eating with my hands, of celebrating first year death anniversaries. I have also experienced new ones, seen and tasted new things, new dishes, new sights, a whole new part of this country from its vast plains to its stunning shores, how proud I would be to call it home.

As a Filipino born and raised in Hong Kong: I have told friends here that just by stepping off the plane, no matter if in Manila or in any rural Philippine airport, I seem to always catch the whiff of burning hay lingering in the dense humid air that to me captures the feeling of home. However, many stepped off the plane onto foreign land, an exotic place yet to be explored and excite their curious minds. As familiar as burning hay is, unfamiliarity always haunts the thought of how I identify myself. Born, raised and living in Hong Kong, I have always struggled to define where I am from and have struggled to explain this to people. Perhaps it is much more understood here in the Philippines, where millions of OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) seek for better paying jobs and opportunities abroad every year, to which many, like my mum and dad both did, sacrifice a lot to do. This national phenomenon had no exceptions for Guimaras, where my homestay neighbors and business client both shared their family stories of a relative, a daughter, son leaving home to work abroad, to work on a ship and be away for months at a time, sometimes even years for some who are domestic workers. From this perhaps it is difficult sometimes to have two homes, to be away from home to a foreign place to which you are forced to call home.

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Soap-cycling for children at the nearby elementary school and day care centers

As a politics major on a business consulting internship: It is the application of knowledge through experience to which I felt I have been able to understand and consult the businesses here. Just as politics and business intersect on many fronts, so does the work done here with the experiences I’ve had and the knowledge I’ve acquired up to this point. Even though I don’t play with numbers and mathematical equations and calculated formulae that crunches numbers, even though the lexicon of profits, margin, losses etc. do not feature much in my life and studies, I have taken what I know, of the geography of the region, of where competition originates in the Philippines (in this case, processed foods containing mangoes) and have been able to apply this to the consultations. I hope to continue to draw from the now fresh and new experiences after these past three weeks on this island to be able to better understand how I really feel, see and live home away from home.

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All smiles

Its hard to summarize what these last few weeks have been for me in words, they have been an eye-opening insight into my own heritage and culture, the wonders of diving off cliffs and rocks exhilarating and the same natural wonders of the rains and the wildlife humbling in the respect they are given because of their integral part to life on the farmlands and the tropics. The people that have been with me through these weeks have added colour and have been a constant source of smiles, laughter and inspiration. The skies have stayed blue most of the time but the rains always a cooling touch to the scorching heat, to which the flashes of lightning that have graced the skies have been mesmerizing at times. Thank you Guimaras, for a home away from home.

The wave we watched, the dunes we shaped,                                                                                         The grains of sand that slipped                                                                                                                         Through our fingers –                                                                                                                                           What could I give?                                                                                                                                                 As long as we shun regret, and time remember                                                                                           Then my life is blessed.

– My Brother, My Executioner, Francisco Sionil José

 

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