Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Longing for a Philippines homecoming

Filipinos are one race that possesses good adaptability and flexibility in every situation therein. A trait that enables these people to comprehend and endure complicated and otherwise, convoluted situations. Their adaptability enables them to fit in and blend into other cultures wherever they maybe—and as a result brown races along with ubiquitous smile almost always shines the world.

As of today, the Filipino-American population in the US numbered something like 4 million. They are the 2nd largest Asian-American group in the United States alone according to Wikipedia. Half of the Filipino community population are naturalized or American-born, and the remaining half are Filipino naturals and/or dual citizens.

Most of them can be found in some Metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, New York City, Colorado and some other parts of the world. Virtually there is no place in the map of the world that you can pin point without a Filipino settling, working or merely just visiting there. Wanderer might be a loose term for the traveling Filipino but it is always good to know that they still long to go back home after their days of roam and meander.

The following is an interview with Rebecca Hidalgo, a 40 year old Filipina and a mother of two, whom still longs for homecoming.

Question: How long did you stay out of the country?

Rebecca Hidalgo: I first went to the US in 1993, and then came back for the first time in 1996, and then just recently October this year 2007.

Question: What makes you come back?

Rebecca Hidalgo: I came back for the first time in 1996 just to introduce Nicole my eldest, my first born to my mother and my sister. She was barely a year old then.

Question: Where in the US are you staying?

Rebecca Hidalgo: California, near Los Angeles. I work in a hospital right now, though I know it is totally out of my line, having graduated tourism back in the Philippines.

Question: Why did you decide to leave the country does the decision came solely from you? Or somebody else influenced you?

Rebecca Hidalgo: I was married with my first husband when I first left the country, he was already there in the US and I was so eager to be with him. I was able to get a visa without appearance with the help of my in-laws.

Question: So it’s more of following your husband than a career move?

Rebecca Hidalgo: In a way, yes. I was then working with American express travel agency in Manila. I had a good career there, but I just want our family to be together. Besides I really want to have a baby.

Question: During your first years in the US what are your apprehensions and fears?

Rebecca Hidalgo: My fear back then was because I am a stranger in this country, coping up was so hard for me at first. I was inside the house most of the time as my ex-husband doesn’t like me to work for reasons that are vague and unreasonable.

Question: Did you have a hard time adapting to their culture? What are the adjustments that you make?

Rebecca Hidalgo: Not so much, I know I will be able to adapt well after a while, I grew up having an easy adjustment with other people, and mostly I got to meet only Filipinos here, they very much like to have communities and gatherings here. It is with my ex-husband that I had a hard time coping here. But now everything’s ok.

Question: What were the thoughts you have in mind after you finally decided to go home and make some arrangements?

Rebecca Hidalgo: Go home in 1996? I really made adjustments as I have my first born with me then. I am now married with my second husband, and a lot happier now

I am even financially stable also, as my husband is working now with the tourism attaché in Los Angeles.

Question: What are the preparations you made? Any shopping? Gifts?

Rebecca Hidalgo: Yes I did some shopping since last 1996 is the christening of the first born of my sister; I am the godmother of her son. I bring home also some baby accessories, but basically I went home to the Philippines with lots and lots of food for the baby, my sis and my mother, and also some money of course.

Question: What was your family's reaction when the time they know you're going home?

Rebecca Hidalgo: Actually my daughter was with me, and my husband cannot go with us due to his work, he is just as excited as me, even if I have to stay just for one week then, one week is way too short.

Question: What are the things you missed back home?

Rebecca Hidalgo: I miss my family a lot, that is why when my mom got a US visa already, I was very excited as I know she will be able to go to the US frequently, as compared when I go back there in the Philippines. I really miss my friends, that is why every time I had a chance to come home I always see to it that I got to meet my high school friends, going out with my barkada so to speak, and having a night out together.

Question: What were the things you think didn't change a bit back home?

Rebecca Hidalgo: The traffic there in Metro Manila is terrible, and the pollution, when I was there back then, I remember I have so many pimples on my face, but when I stayed here in the US, my pimples slowly disappeared maybe because the air here is much cleaner as compared there in the Philippines.

Question: If given the chance to turn back the hands of time, lets say from the time you were about to leave the country would you still do it?

Rebecca Hidalgo: The fact that I would very much like to join my first husband there in the US and to have my family intact once again, yes I would very much like to do it again.

Question: What were the most important lessons you gained during those times you were out of the country?

Rebecca Hidalgo: It is lonely out here in another country, being there in our home country is still the best, unless you have your family here with you, and is very much closely knit with each other, I think being with your family matters a lot no matter where you are.

Question: What are the sacrifices you made?

Rebecca Hidalgo: Sacrifices? Lots of sacrifices I made back then. But I didn’t see it as a sacrifice during those times, only later on when I was away from my family, as loneliness seeps through that I feel so hollow and empty.

Question: How did you cope up?

Rebecca Hidalgo: By praying and talking to my mom frequently, my bill on overseas calls went up soaring. I have many relatives here in the US but come to think of it, they just offered little help. I tried to do it on my own, and with much luck, I was able to land a good job in a hospital which at present, I am working with right now, and being promoted after many years of services to them.

Question: Every balikbayan today brings something for their families. Little something to make them happy, in your case what's in a balikbayan box?

Rebecca Hidalgo: What’s in a balikbayan box? Anything that I can think of giving to my family back there, like canned goods, bags, shoes, shirts, toys for my pamangkins, candies, chocolates, vitamins and anything they want me to bring to them.

Question: If you think of retirement, is it US or the Philippines?

Rebecca Hidalgo: It’s still in the Philippines, it is still home sweet home for me, even if there is traffic and pollution, maybe we will just get a house far from the city so that the weather will be much better and pollution is lesser.

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