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Where I would rather be

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How easily can someone get attached to a place?

More than a year ago, after living in my dormitory for six years for college, I had to pack all of my belongings to move into a place far away from my quiet life in Los Baños, to pursue my master’s degree. Picking my things piece by piece, I remember too well the stories of how I gained each of them. The lamp I bought from a sweatshop while the rain was pouring hard. The long sleeve-shirt I got from a rummage. The heart-shaped note that a friend gave me as part of her project in a course. The shirts I got from my college organization’s events. The sheets of yellow paper containing scribbles that I now find too hard to read.

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Early on, I had hoped that the pandemic would die a natural death and slowly fade into existence. Or so I thought. That was what we thought. Weeks turned into months, months turned to quarters, quarters turned into a whole year — we have gone full circle, back to square one, back in the quagmire people in power put us in.

Lest I pay my nonexistence in a place that was left exactly how it was a year ago, I had to pack again. I had to move out of our shared space in Metro Manila. I once again picked pieces of what was a short stay. A modified PET bottle I turned into a swear jar. Plastic containers I converted into piggy banks containing my coins, which I use when I am commuting. Laundry slips compiled over the weeks that the energetic lady in charge keeps giving me while ranting about almost anything. Unused planners and notebooks whose pages never saw the light of day. The brochures and leaflets I have collected from seminars and symposia.

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Moving out of a place can feel heavy. For someone who gets attached too easily to a place, even if it is just for a short stay, I have learned to find inner peace wherever I go. Whether it is the calmness of the ocean, the fine sands of the shoreline, the stillness of an unkempt room, the cacophony of a concert crowd, or the cold bus ride during the rush hour, I have learned to associate people and memories with the place in which they happened.

I have always associated Tagaytay City with my father’s side of the family. Once during my cousin’s birthday and back when traffic was not yet that much of a headache, we would go to Tagaytay via Lemery and pass by Fantasy World, where we were told dragons live, and witch and wizards dwell to conjure magic. I have associated a once-popular beach resort in a nearby town with our family’s maternal side. It was an annual tradition to go to the beach for a quick dip to cool down from the summer heat. I have associated SM Mall of Asia with my old PSP, remembering the day when we bought it and how I was amazed at how large the mall is.

These days, to quell the boredom of a lazy afternoon, I drive around town to see places where my high school friends and I would hang out. The famous fast-food chain in front of the church is still there, although they removed the patio, seeing that it resembles a park where people would meet ordering nothing from the menu. I passed by the once-bustling street food corner where students would flock after classes, eating siomai, fishball and kikiam. Driving farther, I revisited the site where our old home used to stand beside the rising waters of Batangas Bay. Then I would visit my aunts and uncles and remember every gathering — joyous occasions such as fiestas, anniversaries and birthdays when us cousins were still kids. I would drive by the roads, remembering how they changed over time and how poorly they were maintained. Each dent and bump, each right or left turn doubled as a cue, reminding me of the many childhood trips I spent with my father, when he does mundane errands.

The pandemic may drag a little bit longer given how the officialdom manages it. And so, it may take a while — even with the vaccines available, or the lack of it — for us to go back to a better normal. Places we used to go to will not look the same. Some have been closed for good. Others have been transformed into something else. Office spaces might come alive again, but probably not like before. Some cubicles might be exactly as they were the moment the lockdown was implemented, providing a snapshot of time and space when we thought it would all only last for a few weeks.

We are too busy running and chasing our dreams, aiming high, and rooting for ourselves and what we believe in, that we often forget how quickly we pass in this world we call home. Our own existence is both significant for ourselves and the people we love, while it is nothing but a blink in the eyes of our Creator, and a mere tick in the geologic time scale. The places where we come and go to also change, much like us. Slowly, they morph into a shadow of what they were, and new structures and memories are made by others. At times, what we are left with are photographs dusting in our drawers and on our bedside tables. Even continents in our modern maps change over the course of millions of years.

Whenever I am stressed, I would imagine myself beside the calm seashore, reminiscing old and happy days, on a Sunday dusk, watching the orange sunset, and listening to Cesar Manalili’s “Faithful Love.” Home is where we find our peace and where we find ourselves coming back to. It is not a place, nor a feeling, but a state of being.

May we always find our way back home — the places we go to and the people we love and care for.

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Edward Joseph H. Maguindayao from San Pascual, Batangas is a graduate student at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. Eggy to his family and friends, he reads, writes, and believes in “the power of words to liberate.”

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TAGS: Batangas, home, lockdowns, Los Baños, Tagaytay City
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