After a shuttle bus, two flights interrupted by a six-hour layover and a double espresso, a tricycle ride, a non-airconditioned bus, and another tricycle ride, and thanks to co-conspirators – my mom, Tita Cheryl, and Ate Rose, I arrived in my Lolo and Lola’s hometown in Cuartero, Capiz (Panay Island, Visayas) in the Philippines on Tuesday afternoon and surprised my grandparents with my unexpected visit at their front door! (They thought I was in Japan and had no clue that I’d be there – my Lolo took a bit of time figuring out it was me!)
Passing through the provincial highway from the city, evidence of Typhoon Yolanda’s destruction back in November is very much apparent. The floods have long subsided but there remains downed power lines, fallen trees, rubble dotting the side of the road, homes made of bamboo and wood that have gone through various degrees of devastation. Reconstruction is under way. Amidst all this – smiles and laughter, compassion and generosity, strength and a resolve to keep going, resilience of the human spirit.
And still, I can honestly say that I don’t remember seeing my land this green and this beautiful when I left it last. I’ve been to 40 countries the past 5 years, but it was a truly unique and special feeling stepping onto the tarmac in Manila’s airport, and later in Roxas, after almost 5 years of absence. This is the land that brought up my family, gave me so much of my culture and my traditions, so much of what I value and cherish. And although no place in the world is perfect and I appreciate being able to see life from different perspectives having grown up in Canada and travelling so much, there will always be this special feeling coming back here that can’t be replicated by setting foot in another country.
Today, I celebrate my Lolo’s 84th birthday with lots of good food and even better company. He’s so much of the reason I have so much love and respect for my homeland. If I live long enough to be his age, I can only hope to have half of his virtue…