I Am A Tourist In My Own Country


How do we determine where home is? If I were to take into consideration my unconditional love for Italian cuisine, then home would be Italy. Or perhaps I could give into my obsession with all things Hollywood and call home Los Angeles, California. On rainy days, I write to minha irma, and I am right by the fire in Portugal. Otherwise, home is where the heart is, isn’t it?

To put it bluntly, my heart has been accustomed to a number of places. It has been privy to the likes of Japan, in so that I can tell the minute differences between Philadelphia and California rolls. It has been among the British and Scottish, with whom I have grown a childish fascination for rugby and folk dances. It has traveled to the North Americas, a culture I have adopted so fluently I might as well be living there. But alas, I do not. I am of Filipino heritage and have lived solely in the Philippines for nineteen years. Yet I am somewhat rusty with my Tagalog–I am at least acclimated to the conversational type–and have trouble immersing myself in traditional culture. Essentially, I am a tourist in my own country.

Having attended an international school for ten years, the choses and hohols of contemporary Filipino youth have evaded my everyday lifestyle — does this mean I am not at home? I certainly don’t believe so. The idea of tourism is, in itself, for pleasure, and being a tourist within my origin of birth makes it all the more fascinating.

I am a five-year-old girl, giddy with excitement traipsing throughout the discount jungle that is Greenhills. I am overcome by a desire for Chickenjoy and fish-balls after a sweat tsunami morning at uni (ang init! — and my apologies, Ronald, but you still have nothing on our fat, stupid, happy bee). I am a monkey on the loose, dashing through sand and sun on the shores of Mactan or Panglao. Every encounter with Filipino tradition is like experiencing it for the first time–I hold my hands out, palms up, ready to catch bits and pieces of my hometown as if it’d been raining diamonds.

I do feel lucky–just as many Filipinos may know all seven thousand Philippine islands like the back of their hand, I reach out with open arms, and every day is a new discovery. Home is where you lose yourself. Find yourself. The way I have fallen apart and rebuilt the fragments of my brokenness. The Philippines is where I have loved and lost. Where a family awaits my return every single time I have left. It is ironic–a Filipino who may not know where the nearest cellphone stall is at a tsangge in Ortigas, and I may as well be a perpetual visitor. But I do belong.