I didn’t know how to lead into my posts for this last trip. Maybe this is the only one that’s needed because it sums up how it’s felt these past few weeks being back home. So, I’m going super #senti on this post.
Towards the end of our trip, my mom took me to the house we lived in 20 years ago. It is the same house my dad grew up in; where my grandparents raised their 8 children. I remember having an adventurous childhood on its grounds. I don’t really think I had a choice. It was the 90s, there was no internet, and we were in borderline rural Philippines. When my mom suggested we go visit our old place, see our old neighbors, I was all for it. But I didn’t anticipate what I would see.
This is the way to our old house in San Fernando City, La Union. Out of the many things I saw throughout our trip, this stuck with me the most. I was actually taken aback by it and had to compose myself when I took a video of our walk towards the house. In the unedited version, you’ll hear me sob “Oh my God, mom! It’s all gone!”
So much has changed in our hometown within the last 20 yrs. Back then, the walk to our house was green on both sides. The land was more vast. We had maybe a handful of neighbors spread out. There were trees, a natural greenbelt that guided you home. Although still green all around, the serenity that it comes with is diminishing far too quickly.
Now, this bit of home has become congested, commercialized, crowded. People have claimed lots that were my childhood’s playground. The garden full of orchids I used to play in and had my birthday parties on is completely torn up and built over. Everything as I knew it is gone. The path to our old house is much more narrow, with houses on either side that didn’t exist even 10 years ago.
I hardly recognized our house. I wouldn’t have if I didn’t notice the cement porch and the brick banister, completely weathered from years of exposure. The paint on the house is completely worn, no sign of the green and blue hues it used to be. The windows are shattered from children after me who played around the abandoned house and threw stones to pass time.
How the house looks now pales in comparison to what it looked like 20 yrs ago, definitely what it looked like more than 50 years ago when it was first built. I wanted to look inside to see if I could navigate through it but we were told there might be snakes, which is why I could only take a photo of the smaller front of the house.
If we could have gone, we’d enter the great room, further down the hall to the right would be a common area with two bedrooms on the front and right side. The dining area was back towards the great room, on its left side. It seemed like the biggest dining room ever. I remember having family parties in that room with full course meals that left us with leftovers for days and days after. All that I saw and remembered in my mind, I tried to find while we were on the grounds, but none of it was coming back to life.
I guess it goes without saying, but when you’re away from a place for so long you can’t expect it to stay the same. Nothing and no one waits for you when you leave. Time doesn’t stop and it definitely doesn’t always remember to think about you. I just liked to think that this part of my life was always going to be there waiting for me to come back. It wasn’t, and I’m slowly coming to terms with that.
As we got ready to leave, we crossed the street and I saw two children — a girl and boy. A brother and sister I presume, walking on the same path we once did. There’s a story within them that I feel was once mine — is mine. They’ll spend their lives on the same Earth my family once cultivated, they’ll have similar memories, see the same realities, and could very well come out of the same environment to become something even greater. With that I knew, a part of me will still linger here. I want to know how these stories end, where this place will find itself, how much of it will change but remain the same. I still want to call it home.