Where do I begin? Each time a person asks me, “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” I’m always quick to reply with, “I was born in the Philippines, but I grew up in England.” And I say it with a smile. I smile because of my memories of Cobham, Surrey were probably one of the best years I’ve had growing up. I smile because I have to mask the pain I experienced growing up in the Philippines.
I’ve probably written so many England-Philippine comparisons on this blog. I won’t put you (or myself) through that. Let’s just start with memories of the past, no comparisons. I’ll leave that up to you.
Cobham, Surrey was something out of a fairytale. It had a village not far from the town centre with a stream and a watermill in between them. The stream was clear and cold and sometimes had fish and ducks. The school nearby was an international school. Children from different parts of the world learned under one roof. The differences in culture were normal. The differences in skin colour were negligible. We all knew we were different, but we didn’t care.
Cubao, Metro Manila was something out of a nightmare. The houses were clustered together like shoeboxes. The city centre was far, and to get there you needed to brace yourself with the pollution. There were no streams, only sewers, and canals infested with bacteria germinating from lumps of human faeces and sometimes rat carcass. The school was not an international school. The children were from one single culture, and I had to learn with them. They were all the same: same skin, same eyes, same religion, same mind. They all knew I was different, and that mattered much to them.
That’s just a gist of my past. However, I do want to say that university changed my perception of the Filipino people. I used to detest and loathe them. I hated the culture, every bit of it. University changed that. I respect the Filipino people, and I understand that there are assholes everywhere in the world and not just in the Philippines. If my 9yro-self knew that, he would have turned into a happier person.
There’s a friend of mine who is the anthesis of me. She’s a half-blood (half Japanese), she was offered to stay in Japan, and she loves the Philippines. Culturally and in belief, she is more Filipino than I am. What I don’t understand is why she thinks negatively of me when I’m skeptical about this country (skeptical, not negative, different thing). She thinks I’m pessimistic, but that’s what idealists say. She’s an idealist, not an optimist because she too is a skeptic, but just in a different way.
I’ve told her, in length, my memories. Yet she still doesn’t understand why I can’t find that affective connection to the Philippines. She told me to just accept the Philippines because I am a Filipino. This is the unfair expectation.
Here’s analogy part 1: my parents created me. They created my mind, body, beliefs etc. I am nothing without them. My parents are also Christian. And with my friend’s logic, I should be Christian and discard my belief in Buddhism because I from my parents.
Part 2: The Philippines created me. It created my mind, body, beliefs etc. I am nothing without the Philippines. Does this mean that I should love the Philippines with all my bleeding heart? No, of course not. That’s an unfair expectation. It’s unfair to be expected to love something because it is, literally, in my blood, raised me, or created me.