Calling it home
One of the many lessons I learned over the pandemic is that it is perfectly valid to feel both love and hate toward a person or a place at the same time. In the same way that mixed feelings of happiness and sadness can coexist. In fact, we have a whole genre for this if we talk about plots: bittersweet. Yet I still struggle with the idea. Does one really feel both happiness and sadness at the same time? Or do you feel one after the other?
I have come to call Los Baños home for almost a decade now. Locals call it LB, eLBi, Elbi, or plain Los Baños. And who would not want to be in Los Baños? Long declared as a Special Science and Nature City, it sits at the foot of Mount Makiling with a mixed urban and rural lifestyle. The slow-paced lifestyle alone is enough to entice one away from the skyscraper jungle that is Metro Manila. Except for the heavy traffic that is now experienced all year round, it is the perfect spot to be—not that far from both the metropolis and the wonders that nature has to offer.
Calling it home was not an overnight process. The rigors of being a university student forced me to embrace the environment I was immersed in. Older ones, not necessarily wiser, had passed on the jargon, the dos and don’ts, and the culture they want the younger ones to preserve. Being at home took years and lots of experiences. A good friend once confided to me that she and her ex had memories in every corner of the campus. It struck me to this day how much we can associate with places—people, music, feelings, and memories. I reflected on my own with people I met across ages, classes, beliefs, and experiences. And I am still here.
The passage of time allows you to take stock of what had been. A quick stroll — the feet aimless and the mind wandering off — can only end in a deep sigh. That does not necessarily mean a bad thing. Rather, a slow realization of the beauty of impermanence. We learn and thrive because things don’t stay the way they are. People come and go as they make good, bland, or bad memories. Songs top the Billboard and go off the charts, but they will forever be memorialized. There are moments of peak happiness, anger, and deep sorrow. We take comfort in knowing they do not last forever.
It’s the same with the place, yet the timeline seems a bit slower. Seasons and landscapes change. What used to feel like home a decade ago might no longer be in the years to come. We laugh off and reminisce because they are what remain when time takes its toll and memory is the only thing we have — not even the people we enjoyed moments with. Most of the time, they were spontaneous. We did not intend to remember them, eventually. It just happens that we do.
The feeling I associate with Los Baños is one of heavy nostalgia. I am still here and will be for quite some time. Hale’s “Kung Wala Ka” plays repeatedly: “Natapos na ang lahat / Nandito pa rin ako.”
For all its beauty and lushness, it is still home. But not for the college freshman me who was naïve and getting ready to be on his own. It is not home for the college junior me who got his first failing mark after vowing to get past the exams. It is not home for the struggling me who was proud to show off his bound manuscript. It is not home for the just-graduated me who intended to leave without the thought of coming back. But definitely, it is home to the current me who finds peace and solace in its slowness on Sundays and its serenity despite the hustle of sundown. The rights and lefts, the turns and the rounds, the sound of chirping birds, and the rowdiness of classrooms are what make this place unique in its ability to nurture and make you rethink your life decisions.
Like any painful lesson, one day, I will learn to leave it to find my other places in the world.
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Edward Joseph H. Maguindayao, 25, teaches and studies at the University of the Philippines.
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