I have no hometown
I don’t think I have a hometown. Or at least, I don’t consider the places I’ve lived in as my hometown. You see, I grew up in multiple locations, miles and cultures apart, so it doesn’t strike me as if I need to associate myself with a particular city.
I’ve been a tenant of many impermanent addresses through the years as I grew to adulthood. I’ve resided in Imus, Cavite, where I spent my early childhood years; I’ve lived in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, where I finished elementary and high school; and I’ve stayed, for a while, in Manila dormitories for my university days. What is there to call my hometown when I’m always traveling aimlessly?
Constantly relocating has made me realize that I would never settle down. It feels as if I’m a nomad, always looking for a new spot to conquer, never one to remain still. Thus, I’ve learned to detach myself from the places I’ve inhabited.
I’ve accepted the fact that I’m not from Abu Dhabi anymore. Neither am I from Manila nor Imus. For all I know, unexpected circumstances might happen and I could be once again sleeping under a different roof.
Take the coronavirus pandemic, for instance. I had been living in a tiny apartment in Makati for two years during my working life when the first lockdown was imposed and working from home became the norm. At present, I’m residing in Cavite, and have been lounging here at my parents’ house after being forced to relocate.
Packing up was easy, I recall, as my apartment was soulless: no decorations or possessions whatsoever save for some basic necessities, a week’s worth of clothes, and a pile of unread books. Not even a bed frame, desk, or chair to put in the trunk of the car, because I knew this would be another place I would leave sooner or later.
Nearly two years into remote working, I still haven’t set up my work station because of the possibility that by next year, I could be living in Metro Manila again as things are going back to the way they were, and I could be occupying yet another bedspace somewhere near my office.
This is why, as a wayfarer, I don’t believe in the concept of hometown. Or at least, not the one as defined in dictionaries. A hometown, for me, isn’t the place where one was born or raised, or which they regard as their fixed residence, but rather a place that exists in memories only. It is but the past.
When I think of my hometown, I think of the memories I’ve made with family and friends, and not of actual places.
I think of my playmates when we would go caroling in our barangay, blindingly bright with colored lights, during Christmas season.
I think of my high school classmates when we would eat authentic Arabic shawarma as we explored every corner of the malls in Abu Dhabi that we used to frequent.
I remember my choir mates, with whom I spent daily rehearsals and endless nights flipping through musical pieces page by page, as we sang our hearts out in the hallways of our college building.
And, of course, I think of my family when we would discuss the mundanities of everyday life at the dinner table in our temporary shelters.
In my hometown, these people are the residents. And they make me feel like I’m home.
It’s nice to look back sometimes, although I don’t really like to dwell on it too much. But I know that everywhere I go, I will bring with me my hometown. It is the past that, even though I no longer yearn for, exists in my mind as a house full of vivid memories that I can visit anytime.
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Jeremiah Raro, 24, is a journalism graduate from the University of Santo Tomas.
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