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“it is a tuesday when i love someone
who doesn’t love me. no, it’s not the first time,
but it’s a sad time. oh, it’s always a sad time
but my heart doesn’t listen, doesn’t understand,
soars like a child in a rocket ship,
doesn’t believe in gravity. doesn’t believe
in learning a lesson. wants to give
until there is nothing left but glitter.”

– Yena Sharma Purmasir

 

 

While some of us were working our eight hour office jobs, or in school for examinations, or simply going through what could be a monotony of rituals to go through the day or what could be exciting phases in our lives; the Supreme Court ruled for the LGBT community’s right to same-sex marriage. It was incredibly unbelievable for most people: an incredible victory for some, and an incredible abomination for others.

I was letting my Facebook feed inform me during this weekend and I stayed off the topic, without really thinking about it until a friend asked me if I was against or pro same sex marriage. My answer saddened me because I said “neither” that moment. And I hate apathy. Indifference kills so much of us. It cripples us. But that is a different story altogether. Anyway, it brought me to thinking and reading more articles. For one, I believe in God. And two, I know a lot of people dear to me who are part of the LGBT community.

The more I thought of my answer, the more it scared me. Was I only playing it safe and was my decision being dictated by my notion of what a good “Christian” is? That perhaps I should say I was not for it, but at the same time not against it?

I do not know a lot of things. But I know a lot of people I dearly love who grew up hiding their true selves, putting a lot of walls and inhibitions for fear of not being accepted not just by friends but by their very own families. No one ever deserves that feeling. I know people who have had attractions to the same sex since childhood and it baffles me. It baffles me  because how can a child deliberately “sin” if we’re taking homosexuality in that context? What’s even more sad is that I know a few people who have actually fought their attractions because they are Christians and are still homosexuals and are now facing what I could only hope to understand. I could only see it for myself as being forced to like another girl. I truly am lost wondering. That will be between them and God, or their god.

I do not know a lot of things. But I do know that when that article about the gay people mocking Christ on the cross circulated, people were quick  to point fingers. Let us remember that they are only part of the whole and do not represent each and every member of the LGBT community. In the same way as our personal opinions vary — that mine is not always representative of my family, of my friends, of my work, of my organization.

I do not know a lot of things. And it is a shame that I do not know my Bible extensively, but it is true that it tells us that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God.

In 1 Corinthians 6:9 it says:

“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men.”

It goes on to talk about premarital sex, divorce, and other sins — most of which have become acculturated into our society, institutionalized even. When parents no longer work as a functional foundation for their family, do we force them to stay together so as not to sin? I know this is a limited question warranting a broad — a very broad answer. When people commit premarital sex, do we condone them their entire lives and are we consumed by their whole identity?

And it continues on verse 10:

“nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

When people drink, when people lie, when you and I sin, are we punished forever by society who also do the same? I do not know many things however I only know this: that I am only called to love.

I do not know a lot of things. All I know is that I am called to do my best, live my life the way I deem it right despite trials and most days I am only human. Aren’t we all? 

The Bible says, sinners will not inherit the kingdom of God. Aren’t we all sinners?

It saddens me how Christians can outright say that this is an abomination; haven’t we been abominating Christ ourselves?

I do not know a lot of things, but this I know for sure: I have never been in their shoes. I have never truly, deeply felt what it’s like  to be attracted to the same sex and be condemned for loving. And in the end, I will not be the one to judge, but rather would be at the other end when judgement day comes.

I do not know a lot of things, but at the end of the day, I know I am only called to love. Love always saves the day. Love always wins.

***

Matthew 7:4-5 tells us:

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

I sat on a school orientation today (not mine, unfortunately), and these are my takeaways from the speeches:

1. on respect

…”this is the best group of people you will ever work with — that I have worked with. We truly like each other, we may not always agree but we like each other: so much so that we respect each other in a level that allows us to disagree with each other.”

2. on being professional

…”they may say they’ll welcome you to the club when you graduate. I welcome you now. I see you as professionals, colleagues. Your profession starts here, right now, when you walk into those halls; the cafeteria, even.

3. on learning as a whole

…”the most important thing is who you are; not what you know.”

Time is passing. Pictures range from favorite days to days which stories don’t deserve retelling:

10

of favorites

Palm Springs

Someday

birthday

birthday flowers

Disneyland 2 19 penny arcade 22

102

Some days go better than others; some days plan other days; some days prove previous the extreme opposite; some days are predictable; some days are lenient to us; we let some days be, some days let us be.

Some days are kind, some hopeful, some unforgiving. It’s already the second month of 2015, I’ve read two books, slept through the eve of my birthday since I can remember, been to church more than I used to, and started thinking more of dematerializing (mostly clothes and insincere relationships). If truth just happens as time is passing and memories are our constructs, I want to fill it with genuine people and only the necessary things.

If truth just happens as time is passing then memories are just our constructs. If memories are our constructs, I want to fill it with the warmth of lovely people. Because even in unkind days and days with seemingly endless monotony everything’s bearable with people who love you — even in your unkind days.

“However insistently the blind may deny the existence of the sun, they cannot annihilate it.”

When I still lived in the Philippines, my brother had to move to Saudi Arabia for work. I was younger then and thinking now, I probably fully did not realize how hard it was for him to leave. I remember us praying as a family before his flight and I remember he was wearing his brown polo shirt, and when he hugged my dad, I felt so sad. I felt so sad not because my I’d be away from my brother; I felt sad that I had no idea how it must feel for a parent to see their child go to some far place, sad to see them go yet happy for their success in life. I felt sad because I had no idea why people had to move. Anyway, that was the first time our family was apart.

The saddest day of 2014 was the day we drove my brother back to the airport after his weeklong stay in Manila. It was like 2011 (the year we moved to the US) all over again, only this time, I was the one being left behind. He flew out back to Malaysia three (I’m not sure) days before I had to fly back home to the US, two days before my dad has to fly back home and approximately a month before my mom had to fly back home. I knew the days we had were limited, but I’ve never fully realized how hard it was to be the one left behind. When we brought my dad to the airport, that was when I knew it was real: we were going back to our respective realities — apart. Again.

It must be incredibly sad for my sister to see us come and go. Repeatedly.

The sadness that I feel (felt) though isn’t the empty kind. I don’t have a term for sadness that comes with acceptance. I have come to terms with us being apart. And to be completely honest, when I went back home (Manila), there were days I wanted to be back to the US. It’s push and pull; I have two homes, I am living both lives.

***

manila1

2014 is the year I was able to go back to Manila. Seeing this after my fifteen hour-long flight probably was the most surreal. It was all kinds of nostalgia. I felt so sentimental, it felt like the first time I was seeing Manila.

As soon as I walked out of the plane, there it was: crowded NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport). Dubbed as one of the worst airports in the world. The discomfort of slow to almost no Internet connection, the humidity and the crowd. I have lived here before, but now I carry with me a point of comparison, an alternate home.

I saw my sister for the first time in hundreds of weeks and I saw my niece, the first time since I last held her when she was just six months old. I hug them dearly. We drive for dinner to a mall that is 10 miles away and I wish I was kidding but it took us over an hour to get there. Everything Manila-related was so immaculate in my thinking when I lived in lonely, quiet America. And yet this was the traffic I was romanticizing about.

One random time at the mall while waiting for friends stuck in traffic, I happened to open into Bob Ong’s Bakit Baliktad Magbasa ng Libro ang Mga Pilipino?

manila

“Manila (Metro Manila) is one of the dirtiest cities in the world,” sabi n’ya. Parang musika sa tenga ko ang sinabi n’ya. Muntik ko na nga s’yang ilaglag sa sasakyan. Pero mas malakas ang sipa ng katotohanan. Madumi nga yung lugar na ‘yon.”

I used to hate, abhor, hate Filipinos who talked about Manila that way when I moved here (US) in 2011. When I was asked about being homesick, people were quick to console me with “nothing would happen in Manila anyway,” or somewhere along the lines of having no future in the Philippines, or that there was too much corruption, so on and so forth. I had so much to say: that leaving the country does not grant us a better place in the society we deem non-progressive. Maybe I truly believed that; or maybe I got struck with guilt by my patriotic university upbringing that makes me think I believed that. Or both.

We tend to be territorial about or beliefs or identities or things we like to protect and claim as our own. Probably why when I was new in America, everything that has to do with Filipinos made me swell with pride sometimes for no logical reason. Explaining anything that is associated with Filipino culture to non Filipinos made me beam with pride and enthusiasm. And meeting people of Filipino/Asian descent made me somehow feel connected to them, thinking that their identity is static: only to be disappointed when a Filipino born in America tells me “I’m American.” It is because I come from a homogenous place, where if you differ in color or language you are classified as a foreigner. Either you’re a Filipino or a foreigner. America has taught me to embrace varying ethnicities and ancestries and remove my ideal of associating physical appearance with people’s identity (identity as in where they come from).

These are the two things that I let go of and made me happier as an individual living in what I then viewed as a foreign country (US): exclusive nationalism and association of identity through people’s ancestry. We are all just individual human beings traversing this earth.

***

Back in Manila

Fast forward to the day I had to renew my passport. I had to line up as early as 7 a.m. at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in San Fernando, Pampanga only to be informed at 9 a.m. (when they started speaking to inform people in line about general procedures) that they do not offer expedited services (I had to renew my passport within seven days). I lost two hours of my dad’s and my time. These officials weren’t sorry at all nor were they approachable in any way, shape or form. We weren’t the only ones who lost our time, I was speaking to two other men who can hardly wait to leave the country.

“Yung ate ko, sa Brunei, pagpasok at paglabas niya sa DFA doon, tapos na ang passport same day. Tayo, mag aantay pa, magbabayad ng ganito ganyan.” (My sister who lives in Brunei, their passports are processed the same day. When she walks out of that office, her passport is in her hand. But us, we have to wait and pay all kinds of unnecessary fees here and there.)

Long story short I had to travel to the DFA’s main office in Manila; some two hours away and had to line up all over again. This is when I realize how amazing America’s customer service is. Actually, it is not amazing. It is the status quo, it is the standard. We should not feel privileged receiving that kind of service. But living in Manila, I didn’t know that because I had no point of comparison back then.

“Totoo ang mga kwento ng boss ko. Nakakangilo sa ngipin, pero totoo. At bagama’t nakakapikon s’ya minsan e mabait at mabuti s’yang tao. Sa bayan nila, hinihikayat ang mga tao na umunlad.”

I’m afraid I now share those Filipinos’ sentiments, those Filipinos whose comments I used to hate. I’m afraid that when I’m asked if I still want to live in the Philippines, I now hesitate at my answer. I used to be able to answer within three seconds “yes I would definitely live there.” But these days, hesitation takes more than three seconds. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

I’m afraid that in more days than I’d hope to have said it, I mentioned about how I can no longer live in Manila’s public transportation, the unruly driving standards or the subpar customer service (and not to get started on government corruption, etc) now that I have experienced living in my point of comparison. Now I understand what others then have been talking to me about, not to make themselves sound better than people who still go through these every single day — because no one is truly better than anyone — but just to state facts, actual things.

***

I booked my flight as early as March 2014 to fly to Manila in October 2014. I wanted to go home to:

1 see my family
2 see my friends
3 relive my favorite things to do

Going home (to Manila) is like cleaning your room, and finding that stack of notes full of highlighted lines and some textbooks you’ve used in high school. Flipping its pages brings up vivid images of your classroom, your lunches at the cafetria with your favorite friends and long Math classes that seemed to make that time stop forever. You relive it, your heart warms with (hopefully) fond memories but you just can’t go back to it — those books have been closed and you’re in a new chapter.

Going home I learned:

1 family will always be there for you. period.
2 people (that includes yourself) and people’s priorities change

Time did not allow me to see everyone I wanted to, but I’m glad that I have a better idea of who are willing to stay around. And I’ve experienced the real definition of having no distance between true friendships and sincere relationships. It’s crazy how I have been apart and have not talked on a day-to-day basis with my amazing friends and nothing seemed to change. In the same way that it was crazy to assume that nothing will ever change but some people just have different priorities now. And it takes being away for years and travelling the 7,000 some miles to realize this.

3 your memories are your made by your own preferred perceptions; and
4 ‘home’ is a moving, changing concept

While I might prefer to stay in America, I don’t think I can ever find a place with a stronger sense of community than the Philippines. I don’t think I can ever find the warmth of genuine friendships built not only by time, but just by the inherent culture itself. In the Philippines, if I left my house keys and got locked outside, my neighbor would invite me to dinner while I wait for my parents to unlock the house as soon as they found out. If that were to happen to me here, I think I’d have to make calls myself and just buy take out and forever blame myself for my stupidity. In the Philippines, you meet someone for the first time and you just feel like family. Here in America, ‘busy’ is so glorified and time is always passing, always seems to be passing in between work and chores.

Manila teaches its children the realities of life early on. And the practical implications of your choices. It prepares its children that we are not too good for anything (unless you’re a spoiled brat). Students commute in traffic and rain. Children exist in a harsh but real world. America’s poor is still in better living conditions than the rest of the world.

Yet I have never found a happier place with happier, more genuine and welcoming people than the Philippines.

***

I have lived in America for three and a half years and I realize there’s a reason I’m still living here. I choose it to be. It’s a painful process of dematerializing: not just actual things but your relationships with people back home. And for those who live abroad, this feeling must be universal. The indescribable pain lingers, but we get used to it. Moving emancipates us from a lot of unnecessary beliefs and traditions and it constantly trains us to try to be better people as we deal with individuals who entirely differ from us (language, culture, skin and all).

Would I have made these realizations if I stayed? Maybe.

Would I have been still friends with people I lost touched with had I stayed? Maybe.

Would I have met new ones that could have been incredibly significant in my life now? Maybe.

But all those maybes; I really don’t know. I can’t question what is unknown to me. But I’d like to think that moving is one of my life’s best, hardest choices. It cost me my relationships with important people and beliefs however has rewarded me a better, much better perception of where we all stand in this earth and has rewarded me with knowing what’s genuine: be it people or beliefs I hold dearly. It’s push and pull; I have two homes, I am living both lives.

“I believe that one can never leave home. I believe that one carries the shadows, the dreams, the fears and dragons of home under one’s skin, at the extreme corners of one’s eyes and possibly in the gristle of the earlobe.” – Maya Angelou

This was Maya Angelou’s disagreement with Thomas Wolfe’s “You Can’t Go Back Home.” I seem to agree with Wolfe. I left home three and a half years ago, and I know that coming back will never be the same again.

I separated from my home: I always felt like the concepts ‘home’ and ‘self’ were a whole, but still two separate entities independent of each other. I left what has been the one and only home for me. To this day, it is still a touchy subject. (Or maybe because I am just an emotional creature.)

I had to disengage, be unattached, with all that was familiar – the crow of rooster wakening the entire street in the mornings, my friends, the currency that I used, the almost unwarranted smiles and sighs I share with strangers on lines and on my daily commute home, nilalakong taho sa umaga, and many, many others (most of which I can’t literally nor figuratively translate in English). All these were a part of me, but without me, life goes on. It’s neither sad nor unhappy; it’s just a fact. Life keeps moving on – with or without you, with or without me.

I hate numbers in as much as I hate starting sentences with “I.” But I do it anyway. As a matter of fact, all seven or however many paragraphs this entry has will start with “I.” And that’s how we survive. We think we do not like or can’t possibly come into terms with things until we do them, until we break our own rules ourselves. When I moved, I disagreed with all the idea of it until I’ve finally known – gotten used to – how to add days apart and coexist in a different time zone; always in contrast but still in conjunction with the life back home. Life that I left and life that goes on: again, with or without me.

I have been here almost four years and yet, I somehow still can’t call it home. It is home, but it’s never just a whole concept anymore. I couldn’t recall how many times I felt nearly depressed, and again, I am sure that all stories of immigration weave into the same thread. Leaving and going; leaving and going. It is much more than being physically disengaged with your familiarity to people – you think of your soul mates, friends, family and spirituality that you’ve attached with ‘home’ – you all are one piece: a whole. But truth is, you are different entities. You travel in time, you step on a new land and you no longer move in the same dimension. You are your own, and their life goes on. You move parallel to each other, like two trains that never coalesce. Two trains with different destinations. If you stop, life goes on – with or without you, with or without me.

In three years I moved three times, and now that I think about it, I probably wallowed in sadness because I always thought that I was the one life was leaving behind. When you’re away, you romanticize everything you think you have left behind – you think that the red tail lights during that three hour commute back home is magic, even though you’re only really traveling 20 miles which could have taken 20 minutes. You suddenly want heavy traffic, unbearable heat, the noise from all the impatient drivers, horns and all the pollution that makes you want to not inhale the change of your current home. You suddenly crave for rain and see the droplets on your car shining in dim, yellow lights from traffic all around you.

I probably wallowed in sadness because only now do I realize that despite live moving on without me, I actively chose to have mine going, only in an alternate world. Because that’s how most things are: we choose them to be.

I wasn’t part of the cultural experience with people who grew up here when I moved; I felt empty. I wanted people to know my story, to hear me, to know me. I wanted people around me to feel compelled to my flashbacks of the reality back home — overthinking not knowing how to make people relate to me and find that common point.

I couldn’t agree more with Thomas Wolfe. You just can’t go back home. Moving feels like you’ve been uprooted – no matter how beautiful your new jar is, you’d always have a desire for your old place, the same exact rays of sunshine that glowed in the morning. Moving feels like you’ve been replanted – because the old pot can no longer bear enough water for you and your roots continue to spread. And you just can’t seem to grow, or you refuse to bloom under the same light in a different place.

Moving feels like demystifying that certain glow books have in a shelf when they’re together. Or when a certain piece of furniture or jewelry look so beautiful in store under a certain light all together – but when you take that piece home, the beauty disappears and all of a sudden it does not match your wood, that necklace doesn’t match your dress or you suddenly just don’t feel like reading that book and its pages aren’t as glorious as you thought they would be without it in a shelf. That’s how I felt. I felt like I was a piece of puzzle dismantled and placed in a totally new set of pieces that will never fit together.

Moving brought me indescribable change. Change that was massive beyond my grasp. Change that was immensely massive beyond my grit. When I moved, I found myself feeling like a tourist. Always. No matter how much I honor my car, my job – no matter how much I honor my bills. I still feel like a tourist. It’s a good thing I guess, because being a tourist leaves so much room for wandering, for wondering. Life goes on. My life goes on.

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