“At the end of the day, it isn’t where I came from. Maybe home is somewhere I’m going and never have been before.”
― Warsan Shire
Balikbayan. It’s the word that lives in every Filipino’s heart regardless of who they are, where they are from, or the circumstances they are in. It’s the word that lives and breathes in our actions, in our goals, in our thoughts, and in our words. It calls to us every single day. Our hearts beat to the mindless chaos of the city streets of Manila, to every nook and cranny of our overcrowded urban landscapes and to our luscious beaches, mountains, and forests, to the tireless efforts of our kapwa at home and overseas, and to our continued resilience and optimism. Home is what brought us through our darkest days of our history, our daily hardships, and our voyages overseas. It is home we look for and at one point in time, everyone is called to back home. But sometimes we forget…we forget about our homes and preoccupy ourselves with materialism, beauty, competition, and wealth. Our forgetfulness has led us to the destruction of our forests and our wildlife. Our forgetfulness has led us to the corruption of our mindsets. Our forgetfulness has led us to silence the voices of the poor and has led us to glorify the rich. Our forgetfulness has led us to mask the beautiful colour of our brown skins with white. Our forgetfulness has led us to heed to the needs of the foreigners and not to the needs of our people. Our forgetfulness has led us to occupation of international businesses and ventures in the name of globalization. And it is in our forgetfulness that we let the beauties of home become further deduced to a mirror image of America—an image slowly destroying the fruits and wonders of our nation.
But it is in the binhi of change that Diyan, Mumbaki Lagitan, Mia, Hollie, Victoria Marie, and the folks at Kapisanan planted in my heart that have awaken my Filipino pride, my Filipino resilience, and my pamati. Before our lands, our minds, and our ways of life were colonized, we had a plethora of resources, traditions, cultures, and stories. And though our lives and our lands have been drastically altered, the voices of our ancestors continue to thrive in our kapwa dedicated to reviving our colourful past and using it as a shield from the destruction of our culture. Though I know we cannot dream of the past that once was, we can use it to move forward. We need to heed to the call of our people and work together to change our futures. A future that our ancestors would have been proud of and a future that our great-great-grandchildren will be able to see without living in fear and in disgust of violence, poverty, and social justices that dictate our world today.
We are at a stale mate with religion and politics. Our conflicts over beliefs have blinded us and have left us to forget who we are and why we are here. But in order to move forward, we must learn how to truly listen without saying a word, love without limitations, and give without looking for anything in return. We need to find peace in our hearts and not in others. It’s not going to be easy and I know it hasn’t been any easier journey for me. There are times when I contradict myself, when I feel like giving up, because I feel like it’s already too late. Sometimes, I feel at a loss for words and angry. But those are the first stages of grief—astonishment, anger—and it is in these emotions where we find healing and power. We have lost a lot of our culture, but in a clever way, our people have become resilient to change through our traditions, our superstitions, our love for music and dance, our food, and our happiness.
Nostalgia is a romantic word for looking back at a past and yearning to be a part of it. The problem with nostalgia is that we become so invested in the past, reviving things from our past, but we forget that we are living in the now. And in our current state of events, issues, are still alive and we cannot look to our television and movie reboots to help us reconcile our differences. Because you see, when we talk of the past, we ultimately recognize how those things made us feel. Subconsciously, I feel like everybody is looking for a way to feel like a child again—a time that was simpler, where we felt free. And it’s this childlike yearning of freedom that we are searching for—when we didn’t have to worry, when we trusted and loved everyone, when we saw the world through the eyes of imagination and wonder, and when social stratification did not blind us. But with age comes power and responsibility and we must stand up for what we believe in and use it to preserve what is still left of our past for our futures.
Ginto is the word I chose for my blog series, because it was a word that I couldn’t translate and that I should have known about. Ginto seeds is also the name of Diyan’s website. It was a word that was always around, but I never knew what it meant. Translated into English, it means “gold”—probably the most powerful of the precious metals—one that causes wars, poverty, competition, and greed. But in the end, despite its beauty, its lustre, and its appeal, gold does not belong to us. As humans, we’ve created a systematic way of putting value on everything we see, but if we put the worth on ourselves things would be different. Our self-worth is determined by how we act towards ourselves, others, and towards nature. If we value ourselves by our actions and by our interactions, value would be worth something different. The ginto we are looking for has been inside us the whole time—our talents, our passions, and our agency—is the gold that we must bring to others and to change the world for the better. And we must help others find the ginto that lives within. And that’s why, my dear reader, my kapwa, I encourage you to look inside of you—open your ears, your hearts, your minds to the call of our ancestors and maybe, just maybe—we will find the ginto that lives within us and so that, together, we will all find our way home.