by: Jason Chan
My homestay here in Laktawan, Nueva Valencia was more than what I could have asked for. The family my roommate and I stayed with was the Gedalanga family. The family consists of my host dad and host mom, Mr. and Mrs. Gedalanga, their two sons, Lawrence and Miko, and their daughter, Mae Ann. When it comes to being a family, I will never doubt that “Home is Where the Heart is”. However, must the blood that fuels these hearts be connected to be considered a family? In other words, is being a family more than just blood lines? In this blog post, I will aim to answer this question based on my family stay experience here and what I have learnt from them.
An interesting fact about the family is that there are 2 different religions living under the same roof. Everyone in the family is Catholic except for Miko and Mae Ann where they are Mormon. I did ask my host mother how can such thing happened and she said “I let them have the freedom to choose as they grew older and I respect their choice”. Never have I seen a family live together in such harmony despite having different religions. If you take my roommate and I into consideration, that makes 4 different religions under a roof and after 27 days, I can proudly say, we live together in peace and harmony. I was casually invited to attend Mormon gatherings and Sunday Church. However, the family was completely alright and respected my decision of declining the invitations after attending the first session.
Despite living in a relatively small house given the family size, including my room mate and I, we were both able to live comfortably. However, it came at the expense of my host mother and father sleeping in the hall for most nights. I initially felt bad because they are elderlies and I even I would not want to see my parents sleeping on the floor because of me. I immediately suggested we swap places but they insisted it is alright because they did say “we do treat you like our children”. I was very touched because I was not expecting such a sacrifice from them and to be treated as their children. For the following days, the time we spent was no different than a family; we share meals, laughter, the good days, and the bad days, all together. From laughing over my roommate during lunch and dinner, to helping Miko with his homework, and to bringing the kids to Iloilo for shopping. For a moment, I did actually feel like I belong here and that Laktawan is actually my second home. Even the house dog, Puchit, treats me as a part of the family as every time I come back in the evening from work, she would jump all over me in joy and happiness. When I got back from a 3 days stay trip to Negros Island, Puchit went on her berserk happy mode and even rolled on the floor. That was when I know, I am a part of this family, even after I leave, and wherever I go.
My host dad is a caretaker at the Laktawan cemetery whereas my host mom is a housewife who does an amazing job looking after the family and the house. Despite my host dad being the sole bread winner of the family, they are still able to support their children’s tertiary education through private university. This is something that impressed me because I was told that the fees for their private education was not cheap. My host dad worked hard for the money needed but he also had planned it way ahead of time. They do hope that their kids can do much better than them and make a change for themselves. This made me relate back to my family and the sacrifices they made just to push me through my tertiary education. Seeing my host dad working hard everyday reminds me of how my parents work hard to raise me and ensure I have a better life than them. It is unconditional love, it needs not to be said or spoken about, it can only be felt.
From my family stay experience, at least to me, it is a fact that being a family is more than just blood lines, religion, and race. It is about experiencing the sacrifice, hard work, respect, and unconditional love of a guardian that makes a family and holds it together. After this experience, a part of me will always be a Gedalanga and most importantly, a part of the family. I feel proud and excited to share my most vivid memories of the family when I return home. It is difficult to believe that we only met for less than a month and yet here I am, being a part of an awesome family in Laktawan. Although I will be going back very soon, this is what makes it a beautiful goodbye.