Be careful what you wish for
Like most of my childhood playmates, I daydreamed of a future in America. I vividly remember my 9-year-old fairy-tale version of a snowman and dreaming of Disneyland and meeting Aaron Carter.
Yes, this happens when you and your playmates compete for the loftiest make-believe story. My account included Captain America, the “Hey Joes,” the exciting roller-coaster rides, the overflowing pizza and fries, and just the mere thought of — pause before I say it — America.
Today, I dream about being home in Aklan. After months of savoring America, intensified by the wildfire in Southern California, the kid in me screamed for that all-expensive round-trip ticket I can’t afford.
I never thought I would still be vulnerable, fragile and shaky after 12 years of staying in Iloilo City and having that agency to go home once in a while.
I even think that my longing for home has been triggered by the lullabies of the winter wind of Riverside. Now, my thoughts are filled with the taste of pancit, biko and lumpia, the 12 fruits on the table, the September-to-January Christmas feels, and the nostalgia for caroling and parol.
I miss the conversations around the table, the New Year’s resolutions half-jokingly written, the makeshift torotot and the kaldero-and-kutsara dance, and the serene impression of a “Yolanda”-tested home under a sky aglow with fireworks.
Don’t get me wrong. I fought for this dream as hard as the other applicants in our country did. As the coveted slot was a rare but fulfilling opportunity, I equipped myself for the arduous paperwork and the intense interview, and that moment when I was told that I had gotten in.
I endured all that because when I was a kid, my parents taught me the value of dreaming big, of hard work, of sacrifice, and of being a person for others. What my parents lacked financially, they compensated for with diligence, perseverance and positivity.
What our family lacked in material resources, my parents provided through industry and resourcefulness. And, thus, clinching a spot that would bring me to America was Bathala’s best gift for me, and to whom I am most grateful.
One would then grasp that even if you come from humble beginnings, you always have the best fighting chance to fulfill what were once wishes in the wind.
And in the unwrapping of that gift from the universe, you will find yourself in places you have never been. Picturesque moments that you might have just seen in your textbooks or remembered seeing on television. Prized paintings, architectural wonders, panoramic views — name it. And it doesn’t end there.
A ribbon having been cut, your whispered prayer allows you to meet diverse and competitive people. That is the instant when you realize why English has been pushed into our system since kindergarten. And why the twang of the county or state you will be in is something that you should be in a rush to adapt.
Furthermore, what your aspiration will give you is the opportunity to showcase your skills, talents, or passions for your own honor, or that of your family, your school, and even your country.
When you pronounce yourself a Filipino, or you say how proud you are of the Philippines, to the point of giving them an on-the-spot tour of the gastronomic experience they might encounter in our country or the most enchanting spots to explore — that is the break you have waited for.
Truth be told, wishes come with a price even if you once thought they’re free. And as if the journey toward getting a “yes” weren’t enough, the insights after you get to be immersed in your strike one for a home run take you to an ice-bucket challenge.
As you shiver in your little regrets, you murmur that if you could turn back time to that very moment when you made that wish … Because when you witness the grandeur of the place you have been, you then know there is no one to share your joy with, especially when your Nanay doesn’t know how to communicate via social media or when your home is in the middle of a forest where Wi-Fi is never a necessity.
In the middle of you fitting in with your new crowd, you find yourself laughing alone, eating alone, cooking for yourself, and pushing yourself to do the things that would help you survive. There’s no karinderya to help you save by buying a slice of pritong isda. There’s no chichirya just enough for your snack. There’s no best friend you can call immediately for a meet-up.
From there, you begin to question your confidence in the language and silently hope that someone would speak your crisp vernacular and remind you of your town’s peculiar accent.
Oh, how upset you feel in meeting a few Fil-Ams no longer proud of their origin, or already forgetting how important chitchats, hugs, karaoke sessions and salu-salo are for the both of you.
You catch yourself not buying anything at all because the peso-dollar conversion rate turns you into stone, or you wonder whether your family is eating the same thing you do.
And the worst part: that moment when you unleashed your best and you ended up with an audience not connecting with you or shrugging your thing off, or simply because you are brown.
Wishes are our silent soliloquies done with our eyes closed, the time when we expand our mind to the endless possibilities offered by the world. And when those fanciful thoughts haunt you, being mindful wouldn’t hurt.
Foreseeing the tradeoff of your precious dreams and aspirations in life would help you and the people around you to position yourselves as you step up to the plate, hold your bat, and prepare to swing for that one final strike in an expected home run.
Truly, a wish should never be rushed. And it never happens without your share of sacrifice. But never be deterred. Take a grip of your burning desire to help your family and hold on to your motivations, because those will bring you far.
Back then, it was as if I was chasing my wishes and dreams all my life. Now, despite the challenges of being away from home, I am letting my dreams chase me. I let my thoughts keep me awake. We should never let the kid in us give up hope. Make a wish; this is a promising 2018.
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Jemuel Jr. B. Garcia, 29, is on study leave as an instructor at West Visayas State University in Iloilo City. He is a 2016-2017 Fulbright fellow and a first year PhD student in critical dance studies with emphasis on Southeast Asian studies at the University of California, Riverside.
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