Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Digging Deeper:
Why I'm in the Philippines for an extended Vacation after a Decade of being a no-show.

Written in: Poblacion, Town of Sta. Maria, Province of Bulacan, PHILIPPINES
Composition: Impromptu intro, but copy of an old text I wrote about a year ago whilst still in Calgary
Previous Post: Manila and the Philippines

Almost a year ago, I wrote to my cousin and childhood friend, Marco.

This was what I wrote.

(Composed immediately after calling him...and yes, I write to him in English because, even though I can speak Tagalog very fluently in the poetic Bulakenyo lilt, I cannot write it anymore.)
March 2006, Calgary


It was nice finally speaking to you and finally hearing your voice. 9 years! Nine Freakin years! Crazy.

I can't believe I don't call the Philippines often enough. Well, I guess I take to my father and mother; not much of a fan of being 'somewhere else' with my state of mind when we're already here, so to speak. I guess that's something I don't quite get with some of the Pinoys here. They can't let go of the Philippines. Always calling, always asking. Always in constant communication to the extent that their online bookmarks only have Filipino news, their movie collection nothing but Filipino B movies, they have TFC (The Filipino Channel) on Satellite, their long distance friends still Pinoys, and on their room are still the posters of Filipino actors and actresses.

Well, there's nothing to let go for me in that sense I suppose.

I never did follow Pinoy Showbiz. I never did care who was having sex with who, who was not having sex, who just had sex, and who will have sex with which actor/actress and, I guess along with that, what the latest trends and practices were. Hindi naman ako mahilig makiuso. So when I moved, it wasn't like I was leaving an identity entrenched in the Filipino pop-culture.

I like to consider myself as someone who has 'international flair' (yabang ah). A Renaissance man of sorts! I did not want to be constrained to a single kind of culture and arts.

But I did read a lot for someone my age at the time. I thought of myself as someone who did care DEEPLY for the local societal issues (mga isyung panlipunan) Someone who cared for what really mattered to the dear motherland and had a lot of emotion and passion to offer in this aspect. I knew almost all the movers and shakers of society; the leaders, their vagaries, and the issues that really mattered to he Philippines. I didn't care much for that showbiz stuff.

Well, you already know that. We were pretty much the same back then, I guess.
That said, this is where I start addressing what you said:
"Pasisikatin kita Pare" you said.

I have something to tell you about myself. Pare kung medyo mabigat 'to, pasensya kana, kailangan ko lang sabihin iton nasa dibib ko.

I'm sure you're half joking, but I have to tell you that when I went to school to take Broadcasting, being an on air star was NOT my goal. I know I suck with people. I can't relate to anyone. My inability to connect is masked with a cautious distance, or a smug philosophical air. Yes, I wear his facade of sorts to cover up for the fact that I'm not a people person.

Why? Well, there are many reasons. For this purpose I will address one that might pertain to my recent decision to going on an extended trip to the Philippines.

Moving here to Canada did affect me deeply a lot more than I have ever admitted before. I had bouts with depression, and, for the first time in my life do I admit to this: suicidal thoughts. For the longest time I was maladjusted and every human relationship I had I maintained with distance. Never really revealing my full self and never allowing anyone up close.

It didn't help that my parents were unsympathetic to this. "Oh, we moved here for YOU" "We sacrificed everything for YOU" "We left professional jobs in the Philippines for YOU" blabla bla.

You can imagine how this can put a lot of pressure to maintain a mask of happiness and satisfaction. To tell them that you're not all that happy for having moved is a slap in the face. You'd be an ingrate if you reveal you don't really happen to appreciate it all that much. So, I pretended to be happy. I pretended to enjoy every piece of Canadiana to which I was exposed. I pretended to look forward to this "new life" that we were about to start here.

But as you might remember, I so wanted to go back there in the Philippines the first few months here. And now, I'd like to think that I'm ok. I like my parents here and my relatives there to think that I'm this well adjusted person who has a life that's firmly entrenched here and an identity that is now Filipino-Canadian. That is why, for the longest time, I never wrote, never called, and never really spoke to you or anyone there for the longest time. You probably remember it: For the first three years, I wrote constantly. Afterwards, I just sorta stopped. It is only now do I want to speak of this.

I'd like to apologize for that missing period of communication, but I hope you can understand. I thought the best way to be adjusted here was to forget. To forget that in there I left a rich culture and identity, a quirky but loving extended family, and land that we called ours.

During that period when I forced myself to accept Canada, I actually slid further away from forming any true PERSONAL IDENTITY.

But really, cousin, Canada isn't fully me. I may share egalitarian views, socialist principles, and a high degree of tolerance and acceptance to all races, cultures, and religion- but NOT because Canada taught me those things, but because I MYSELF came up with them. Besides, what is Canadian (and in general, North American) Culture anyway? Nothing but a direct product of European Colonialism. Unless you're of the Native Peoples (Indian), you are just another invader of this new world. You can see this isn't a very flattering view of Canada, but only now am I realizing this.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not highlighting this fact as a negative; it just IS. What I'm getting at is the fact that there is NO clear cut Canadian culture except for the best of what we Canadians take from every new culture that comes, and has come, in here through immigration.

Five years ago, people used to ask me: Do you consider yourself Canadian or Filipino?

My reply used to be, "Both. I lived the first fifteen years of my life in the Philippines so that's an indelible part of me. Yet, I know I have to live here (in Canada) now, with nothing to come back to in the motherland, so I have to pretty much be Canadian."

Now, ask me the same question and I actually would reply this: "I'm only Canadian in paper (as in, a citizen of Canada). That's it".

They will then ask: "So you consider yourself Filipino?"

No. Neither.

Largely in part because I don't know anymore.

That phase where I avoided all thoughts of what was once home and the motherland did me some damage.

So about a year from now, I intend to be back there in the Philippines, NOT because I want to lord and wield my being Canadian-ness over to achieve fame or whatever. And some people here joke about me going there for a wife, no, that's NOT what I want.

I only really want one thing.

I just want to reclaim my identity.
Your cousin,
Randy'ng gago.


So there. Remember, this was written right after the very moment I decided I wanted... nay NEEDED an extended stay in the Philippines.

My soul search.
My closure.
My personal journey.

Next Post: The Trigger

Related Post: Discussing Citizenship
                            Of F.O.P.s, F.O.B.s and Filipino Clubs
                            The All-Encompassing Rant about what it was like to be NEW to Canada       


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