Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Cousin Mireille

Written in: Poblacion, Town of Sta. Maria, Province of Bulacan, PHILIPPINES.
Composition: Impromptu
Previous Post: Just like when I was New

There are relatives whom you never rub shoulders with unless it were for an event such as a reunion or something.

And even then, conversation usually is limited to "hey how are you? what've you been up to since I last saw you, oh five years ago? you're so big now! finished your schooling? you married yet?"


Forced, typical, and sometimes even obligatory questions - questions you ask because... well you HAVE to, you're relations.

Cousin Mireille would have been just another second cousin of mine.

Well, that is, had it not been for an extended business trip/seminar of hers. She had been in Calgary since July 06 and will not be returning to the Philippines until late December 2006.

My parents, in their infinite niceness and hospitality, made it a point to invite her regularly for Friday night dinner - traditional Filipino lutong bahay cuisine of course!

I grew up around my Father's side's immediate family. As a result, this is the side that I know most. Aside from my Mom's two younger brothers - Tito Boy (Luis Jr.) and Tito Dodo (Domingo) - I never had much chance to really, REALLY, deeply get to know my Mother's side - let alone her first cousins' families'.

Well, that's not to say that I had an immediate rapport with Ate Mireille. In fact, Ate Mireille, if you're reading this, I'm sorry if our first ever true conversation was mostly me whining. I think I may have spiked the coffee with too much catharsis. It's just that I find you so easy to talk to and relate to, for some reason or another. You're so cool.

And in my defence, the situation was this:
There was a Filipino handaan at my Aunts' place where the crowd was mostly Filipino. Because Mireille was the newcomer, everyone regaled her with the stories of their own struggles to migrate to Canada - which things they gave up, what positions they sacrificed, and how hard they worked just to get here.

The bottomline of most stories for migrant couples: Para mabigyan ko ng mas magandang kinabukasan an mga bata. (So I can give my children a better future)

And this is true. I absolutely respect and applaud that the intentions and actions are pure, respectable, and logically sound. Worth noting too is the courage to give up everything and put it all at stake on a foreign land.

But what of the children?

People have a tendency to let loose even their most repressed and latent grievances when experiencing enough distress. I personally have experienced being told that everything was sacrificed for me, for my future, and for my happiness.

Sorry Mom and Dad. It's the past now, I know, but I'm speaking in service to migrants everywhere.

Now that statement alone is true, but released at an inappropriate time it plays tricks on an immature mind - like mine Ten Years Ago.

What it did for me was ruin self expression. I was sad, depressed, lonely, culture shocked, and sometimes... even suicidal.

But noooo... I couldn't express it. I can't even give a hint that I was sad because we weren't gonna talk about it. I was supposed to be happy whether I wanted it or not - because they already sacrificed everything, my dissatisfaction at the situation (not the efforts made to please me - I truly appreciate that) was viewed as an ungrateful act.

"Nagsakripisyo kami para makapunta dito!! Para sa inyo! Pasalamatan nyo naman kami at ipakita nyong naliligayahan kayo dito!"

("We sacrificed everything just to get here!! Just for you! Showing that you're grateful to be here is the only thanks we want!")

So I hid everything.

Anyway, that was then.

This is now.

And now, I think I'm a well adjusted adult. Little by little I pulled myself out of this rut. I can now comfortably talk about these things.

So, somehow, I think all this ties in to this Existential trip. This Soul Search. This quest for Closure.

Being well adjusted means also having a good dose of self honesty. And quite honestly, a part of me was still left behind, that fateful 29th of March, 1997 when we left the Philippines.

I told Ate Mireille over that post kainan brew that my trip somehow is to find that "missing" thing back.

"I'm gonna give you a book. You might like it", she said.

Next Post: The Alchemist


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