By Czaerra Ucol, FINDink Contributor
Adapted from a finsta post after I arrived back in the U.S. after a vacation in the Philippines. I went this past winter break, but before that, the last time I went was in 2006 for my 8th birthday.
where is home?
is home Chicago? i often tell people at school that the taste of deep dish pizza is very personal to me. whether you consider it real pizza or not, it has deep connotations with my childhood for me. this windy city - where barely any of my friends live anymore - now feels empty. those that i would take the bus home with after school are now thousands of miles away. my bedroom that i painstakingly painted my favorite shade of bright yellow when i was a child, with my father, is now merely a guest room. my childhood home was often the first stop for some family members that first immigrated to the US, but now at night i no longer hear loud conversations in Ilocano from the dining room. i walk the streets of my neighborhood late at night and no longer have anywhere to visit, no one’s house to stop by. certain sidewalk cracks remind me of a former partner, or perhaps a quintessential part of my adolescence. but that is all they are to me - memories of a past life. i am an adult ghost in my childhood fantasies.
is home the Philippines? they say distance makes the heart grow fonder, but after 12 years, its hard for these faces to not be reduced to merely a yearly notification of a “happy birthday” facebook message. it’s hard being close when you have an entire ocean between you. i remember my grandparents’ home in Bacarra - my brother, my 7 cousins, and i would all sleep together in one room, staying up all night and exchanging stories about America and the Philippines. the night before my 8th birthday was so exciting. now we are all older, our family has grown - 3 more cousins have been born since then - but we are all just as similar as before. i’ve never had a family reunion before, and yet this past winter, i visited a town where literally everyone had the same middle name as me. this inexplicable connection drew us together, and it was almost like i had never left. my mom often speaks about how we all inherited our great-grandfather’s wisdom, and i see that now. we visited his grave. i hope we are making him proud.
a week after i left the Philippines this past January, my grandparents’ home in Bacarra - empty and abandoned - was bulldozed. we visited it before we left - it had been looted. there were scattered photographs of my mother’s childhood tossed carelessly on the floor. we scavenged everything we could. i wonder what remains in the rubble now - or what it will look like the next time i see it. hopefully, it will not be another 12 years.
is home New York City? my biggest fear of moving to this city and going to such an esteemed school did not seem very scary to me when i was an ambitious 18-year-old - i was ready to take on a new challenge. but now, i am 19 (soon to be 20, about a week from writing this). college humbles everyone - at least, i hope it does. i often speak about how as someone raised in a large city, i am used to my life now. and while i am used to taking the subway or uncomfortably ignoring people selling me their mixtape, i was unprepared for the loneliness of the concrete jungle. however, i have forged a new family - one comprised of my friends, my partner, my filipino club members, my roommate - everyone that i’ve met along the way and has stayed has been nothing but supportive of me.
while i am grateful, i can’t help but continue looking for home. my dorm has housed many, many people before me. but this is not the place my mother offered to make me arroz caldo when i was sick, nor is it the place where i encountered an old notebook filled with old love poems written by my grandmother when she still had her eyesight.
i have almost been on this planet, existing, feeling, living for what i hope to be 1/5th of my life. perhaps the search will become easier along the way. maybe one day, i’ll be the diasporic individual able to reconcile the birthplace of my parents with the city i was nurtured and cared for in and the city where i’ve come into my own.
but for now, i will share these slightly ramble-y thoughts with you all.
Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.