This is written on the couch of our AirBnB accommodations in Baguio City, on the last night before we travel back to Edmonton. There’s a catch in my throat, which I would like to attribute more to my realizations about the trip, as opposed to a possible cough coming. Perhaps, despite living in a cold city all these years, I still should not have left my bedroom window open last night.
This visit fulfills a promise which I made in 2013, which was during my first visit after immigrating. I said we would try to visit about every five years or so. This was more compact and much more eventful. We wanted to participate in the typical Christmas season activities with both sides of my family, and a cousin scheduled her wedding as well.
My bet is that through all my other types of artistic expression, community involvement, and living my day-to-day live outside of the Philippines, that themes and lessons will emerge and impact me for the rest of my life.
This trip has a theme of accepting things as they are, from the people, the natural environment, and the institutions. Half a decade is a long time, long enough to make comparisons between how things have been and how they are now. It is enough time to see that in some ways, things had stayed the same from the perspective of a current resident, and it’s just that I was the one who was not used to seeing things that way. From getting my bags inspected every single time we enter a mall, to employees addressing us as Ma’am and Sir, to the relationship dynamics between my relatives. I had to remember that as a tropical country, bugs are around on a regular basis, and the warmth feels muggier by comparison, including places like Benguet.
Such a passage of time is enough to display physically as well. We were introduced to babies and kids we didn’t meet last time. Grandparents, uncles, cousins, and pets have shown marks of aging in their looks and actions. My former homes showed marks of decay, subtle crumbling, and peeling paint. We also squeezed in time to visit at least three cemeteries, to honour those who passed away between our visits.
This trip has a theme of mindfulness. The burden of guilt has not plagued me during this trip as badly, due to feeling more in tune with my needs, personality and reactions. I embraced taking half-day breaks in an already short vacation after an exhausting activity with relatives. This is important since my spouse and I are both introverts and need our quiet time. Without being too aggressive about it, my significant other and I tried to support each other as we do allergy checks for all the food items we come across. As a bridesmaid in a Filipino-Catholic wedding, I had to explain to my Canadian spouse what was happening both before and during the wedding to ensure that he is aware, including the times I’m not sitting beside him amongst the crowd.
The two themes and lessons above do not have to be in contrast to criticizing or changing the problematic individual behaviours or social issues. I realize that the Philippines’ culture will make it take a longer time to have certain things legalized, but I feel optimistic that even subtle actions such as discussing the topic in a straightforward manner (instead of immediately reacting with disgust), can alleviate stigma about the topic. As a more tangible example, I realize that it’s difficult to drastically change the environmental impacts of garbage during a single Philippines visit but moving forward, I will use the reusable metal straw that my lovely cousin gave to me as a Christmas gift. There are still unhealthy attitudes that are attributed to the Philippine culture, but personally not engaging in those behaviours can perhaps slowly make these fade away, one person at a time.
Next time I visit, I will be in my 30’s, oh my! How will things change from then, including my perspective on how I interpret things? There’s only one way to find out.