When I was a child, I never thought much about traveling. My family would go to the beach once in a while, to our family farm, to nearby provinces to visit relatives, or if my parents had money, we would fly to Bohol or Cebu. That was it. I was always amazed whenever I would go back to school from the summer and all my friends would write in our mandatory back to school writing assignment "What I did this summer" that they went to Disneyland, or somewhere in Europe, or Hong Kong. I was not jealous because I was pretty used to the idea that my family would never have the means for us to go overseas, since to go somewhere, we would have to buy 7 airplane tickets. I would anticipate my Lola's Balikbayan box from Chicago once every couple of years, and dance for joy when I receive a Little Mermaid Band Aid box and a bag of M&Ms.
I never knew what it was like to stay in a fancy hotel, to dine in a gourmet restaurant or to engage in the adventures the world has to offer. I was always happy with what I had experienced, and it never really changed even when I was in my 20s. I don't know if I was just not interested, or I was just too absorbed about my own country and the problems I wanted to help solve. I knew that I would never have the means to leave, so there was no point for me to dream about traveling or learn about other parts of the world. What a dreadful mindset, when you are young and full of potential.
When I was 20 years old, I left the country for the first time. I was sent to Canada to be a delegate for the World Youth Day and generous people sponsored my trip. What an eye opener. I met a lot of young people from different countries, and I learned so much about my faith, myself and the world. What struck me the most was how proud I was about being Filipino wherever I went. My host family and I talked about the Philippines for hours and hours every night, and I felt such a sense of pride and love for my country.
In 2002, I was given another opportunity to go overseas. I joined Bukas Palad for a series of concerts in the US and my boss allowed me to take a leave of absence despite my heavy responsibilities at work. There, I met a lot of Overseas Filipino workers who left the country to give a better life for their children. There, I realized that parents do whatever they can to provide countless opportunities for their family to succeed. There, I had the chance to sing about God's love and comfort, to kababayans who missed hearing Filipino music. What an honor.
Fast forward to 2014, I am now married, with 2 children, have moved to 3 cities, and now moving back to Manila for a year. Tim and I bought a used mini van today that we're shipping to Manila. I drove it back to Tim's Dad's house where we are staying at for home leave, for almost 2 hours and found myself thinking - how did I get here? How am I driving a mini van in Gainseville, Florida? How did we pack all our stuff from Winnipeg to Manila? How did we handle all the logistics? From closing our services - phone, electricity, gas, water, cable, internet, rent, credit cards, subscriptions, to applying in schools for the kids in DC and Manila? How could we let our children go through this? How could we let ourselves go through this every couple of years? How could we make friends, then leave them behind?
Then it hit me. I am giving my children what I've never even imagined having as a child - the chance to experience the world. People may judge us for living this lifestyle - that the children will never have stability or a sense of home, but I know for sure that this beats not wanting to have anything to do with the world and keeping to yourself, not having dreams and being content in your little corner of the world. That idea may not be bad either and I am not at all saying that you need to leave the country to expand your knowledge, but wow, all the things I have learned about myself, about my environment, about the world around me the past 8 years have been priceless. Oh, the possibilities are endless, and I would never have discovered it, if I haven't left. I highly encourage the youth of today, if you can't travel because you don't have the means, then at least dream about becoming more, elevate yourselves and do not be confined in your own space, and use the power of the internet to know more about the world around you.
I never thought I could share my gifts with other people, and make a mark in people's lives, even if I am not in my own country. How I wish our children could grow up with the passion to serve other people, and to use their experiences for the benefit of others.
Now, I am coming home. I cannot wait to share my culture and my country to my children. I cannot wait to give back, once again, and help out in any way I can.
Life really is surprising sometimes, and in all of these, God is always faithful.
First time we arrived in Winnipeg
Our suitcases when we first moved
After 3 years, everything is packed up again.
And shipped to our next destination...