You Can Never Come Home
September 30, 2011 2 Comments
There’s a terrifying wisdom to the idea forwarded by the Hero’s Journey that you can never come home. Once you leave the place you are from for a long time, for a journey, or to grow up, there’s no going back. The place you left will change. Your travels will change you. And when you return, both you and that place will be different. While I wouldn’t say that I am on some kind of mythical quest, in my own return I am finding a sadness, confusion, and probably more than anything a feeling of losing a sense of myself, while also gaining some insight and what may become some really good writing material.
This year has been a year of returning. I went back to Baguio after a couple of years, a small step because Baguio was the place that re-energized my writing, twice in fact, when I was more than ready to give up. It was at two different workshops that I found turning points.
Dumaguete will always be a kind of home, having spent the better part of a month there for the workshop and finding people that I would grow up with and always remember fondly. Going back, if only for a couple of days, helped to bring back a sense of promise, helped to remind me of the things I promised I would do, or try to do, when I was young. I remember ranting on and on about what literature was, and how I wanted it to be, and struggling to find my way in things. Spending some time with Ian Casocot, who I will always refer to as my yaya, and seeing how far he had come, and how hard he continues to struggle with writing even with his level of success, helped to remind me to always keep pushing. I wish I could write as much fiction as Ian, or other people around me. But I guess I just have to keep pushing, especially when so much work and other things get in the way.
And now I’m back in LA, my hometown, where I grew up, where my consciousness was formed, where my identity started to be pieced together. And it’s frightening to realize that I know nothing. And I feel no connections, cannot remember the places, I can’t even walk around because I don’t know where to go or I’m worried I might get lost. I get brought to places I went to as a kid, and I can’t remember them at all. It’s frightening to realize that there’s no place to go home to. I guess the adopted home is now the true home.
I had an interesting dinner with cousins the second night I was here. Years ago, when we first met, I was an LA kid and they had grown up in the Philippines. I was supposed to help them get to know the place and how things worked here. When we met last week, they sat me down and asked me what the Philippines was like. It’s funny to think it, that now I’m here asking them how things are in LA.
At the Phil-Am expo some people asked me a question, and when I talked they backed off because they realized they couldn’t sell me something. I asked my bro what it was, and he said it was my accept. He said I spoke with a Filipino accent. I had spent so many years in the Philippines dropping my LA accent that I could no longer get it back. I didn’t sound like I was from here. But in the Philippines I have touches of the American accent and people can tell I’m not from there either. And so, really, my accent tells me that I’m not from anywhere.
If anything this homecoming asks me to explore my identity and the conflicted nature created by the diaspora. I’m exposed to small pockets of the Philippine community here, and sadly I’m also witness to some of the hustling that they do. I fear that if I wrote about some of the things I learned, I would be seen as an ingrate and would be hated by Filipinos here. But at the same time, there are things that are true. This forwards a great moral dilemma. Will I be honest and write what is true? Or do I have to protect the image of Filipinos int he diaspora?
Suffice to say that there’s a lot going on in my head here. I head up to San Francisco tomorrow for the Filbookfest and I’m hoping to see a different kind of community and lifestyle there. But I’ve been hopeful all this time. Hoping that there’s something to hold onto. The only thing that has gone as I expected are the interactions with my brother, who is as cool as ever and who is similarly a victim of the diaspora and struggling too.
I guess this entry is a lot heavier than most of my other ones. But it’s really something I think that has to be written out so that I can work towards understanding.