The OFW Life

Dear Auntie J,

Yes now I understand.

Now I get it, the things you had to go through, which my mother (your sister) thought so little of:

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Image from… the confusion, the feeling of being lost in a sea of strangers …

… the confusion, the feeling of being lost in a sea of strangers …

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… the language barriers, a wall so vast and deep because it is not only about words but more about history, culture and  things left unsaid …

al hajar mountains

… adjusting to a different climate whether too hot or too cold, looking  for your Goldilocks-zone and never quite finding it …

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… having plenty of material stuff but not having enough, because “enough” meant having someone you love share all that plenty-ness with; unfortunately the ones you love are oceans of miles away …

… worrying and wondering about a distant land you left behind and dealing with the constant question “Did I  do the right thing?”  Leaving was a matter of survival, but still you have your doubts …

…. the feeling that your life is on hold. Because you are neither here nor there. You are not a tourist, but you are not a “resident” either.

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I get it now. I get the allure of wanting to acquire citizenship in a foreign country to get a sense of belonging. Because eventually you feel that your own will not welcome you with open arms. Or the open arms are a sham, was only extended to demand something from you.

I get it now. Why you felt I was wasting my life back home. You see: I still think of it as home. I wonder, after all these years, how you think of it.

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I get it now. The balikbayan boxes, the infrequent calls,  the seemingly superficial mails (because it really is hard to put into words this feeling of displacement, of  having betrayed something or having been let down, of not knowing who to talk to or how to talk about the deepest fears of your heart, of crying and feeling stupid because, hey, you have all this money, so why the tears?)

I get it now. And I am wondering whether to feel happy for us. Or sorry.

It is masochism, I know … but loving something frequently is.

And I know I love the land of my birth. Leaving was a pain. The pain was (is) palpable, and mostly felt in the wee silences of the morning or before sleeping when the routines of work are over.

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It effing hurts to have left.

But I know … it would have hurt so much more to have stayed.


Airport Tragedies

In August 21, 1983, a man died in this airport.
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His death sparked a revolution. Jonas considers him as a personal hero. Picture from

… His death sparked a revolution. Jonas considers him as a personal hero.
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He was not so heartless that he wouldn’t accompany her to the airport.

The thing is, she needed a driver — and of course, she could have called a taxi for that. If she had, then she wouldn’t be having this scintillating hour of non-conversation en route to NAIA while braving the most atrocious traffic in EDSA.

“How’s your work, Jonas?”

“Let’s not get into that, Alice.”  She can actually count in one hand the number of times she had heard him speak in that clipped, cold and no-eye-contact manner.

“Kim emailed me,” she persisted. “She said I can stay with her in New York while I’m still trying to look for a place. My classes won’t start for a few more weeks yet.”


“Are you going to punish me forever? Will you never try to understand why I have to do this?”

Alice heard the man beside her  take a deep breath. To prepare for what he was going to say, perhaps?

Still silence.

She tried to put her hand over his.

“I’m driving, Alice. Please don’t do that.”

So she didn’t. And tortured herself looking at his profile while his eyes were fixed on the highway.


Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2.

The queue was short at the Departure Area.

She turned to Jonas who was holding her luggage bags. “Well, here we are. Please say something. I don’t want  to go like this. I don’t want to remember you hating me.”

For the first time that day, he looked at her. And for the first time that day, she recognized the man she loves; not the stranger/driver who brought her to the airport.

“Right now, I’m debating with myself whether to break your legs or take you to the National Penitentiary.  Just so you won’t leave me. But I don’t hate you.”

She laughed. The choking, crying type of giggle that she can only do around him. Just because she was so relieved. “You made a joke!”

Jonas took her hands, kissed them; then he framed her face with his palms so she would look into his eyes.

“Alice, I love you. And it pisses me off like hell that I am not enough for you. No, don’t say anything. It’s true. This is not enough. I am not enough.” He brushed off the tears that had started trickling down, ruining her mascara. “It’s okay. I love you. Nothing will make me happier than to know you are happy. We had 5 years together and they were the happiest of my life.”

That was when he kissed her. Right there, in the middle of Departure Area, in the airport where a man was shot so many years ago.

“Jonas, I’m sorry,” she said, still crying.

“Goodbye, my love.”

And that was it. She had  to go.