Growing up in a province is both a blessing and a burden. It is only a matter of time before one realizes that beyond the outskirts of their suburban safe place is a world smaller than one had thought.
For the first 21 years of my life, I only knew one place to call my own. Along the foot of Mt. Banahaw lies a small town of fog and raindrops. Lucban, Quezon, known to many as the home of the Pahiyas Festival, is a town whose march with progress I have witnessed. While it can be at par with many other tourist destinations in the country, I always saw it as a simple place I could call home.
I grew up seeing my parents settle into their professional lives in our humble municipality. They sent me, as well as my younger siblings, to both private and public schools in town. We also took our undergraduate degrees in a state university based in the town. For 21 years, I grew up enjoying the life of a kid in a community whose members considered one another as family.
But there comes a point when the kid who never saw the outside world begins to crave for more. After working for one year in the provincial government of Quezon, I made good on my promise to my parents to pursue law, and heeded their advice to try my luck in the metro.
Before this, I had never fully grasped why some of my friends and colleagues who stayed in the city would always want to go home. I found it funny that one could be that homesick. Never did I know that the same would happen to me when I went to Manila for my studies.
Everyone told me it wasn’t going to be easy, but no one told me it was going to be arduous. Weeks into my first year as a law student, I felt I was being torn apart, like warm bread for breakfast. I did not know what hit me. I cried myself to sleep on the first two weeks and dragged myself out of bed on the next two. Every day, I would tell myself that if only my father were with me, he’d know how to teach me things I could not understand. If only my mother were here, she’d know how to calm me down. And if only my siblings were here, they could motivate me and push me forward. For me, home was a source of strength and of comfort—and I was far away from it.
In time, I could no longer keep track of how many times I thought of quitting and giving up. I toyed with the idea of just going home and living an easy life back in the province.
But I persevered in my journey, and continue to do so. My father reminded me that growth was never meant to be achieved in a place where one had found refuge and easy comfort. The struggle of being far from home was part of the process that would eventually make me a better person. The itch to go back should only make me strive harder, he said; distance from comfort is a condition preceding success.
I took all these things to heart, especially the idea that being away was only temporary. These struggles and burdens will eventually pass, and all my hard work will bear fruit.
These days, while I am not able to go back to my hometown as often, I relish every hour of the day when I am there. The home-cooked meals and local delicacies of my childhood seem to taste better. My old blanket feels more cozy and warm. The videoke nights with friends have become merrier. The time spent with family is even more memorable and precious.
Some say it is probinsyano culture when one endures or suffers a four-hour commute just to get home for the weekend, and another four-hour ride to go back to the city. Some say it is probinsyano culture when one seeks to join his or her family every time the opportunity presents itself, to the exclusion of nearly everything else. Some say it is probinsyano culture when one prefers to spend holidays at home rather than in the multitude of events urban culture has to offer. Some say it is probinsyano culture to always end up comparing his or her hometown to all the other places in the country.
Call it what you will, but for as long as we have a small town or a province to go back to, we will always say this—and mean every word: “There is no place like home.”
Archiebald F. Capila, 25, is a law student and a proud son of Lucban, Quezon.
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