Homecoming

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.

The front of our house, it used to be white, green, and blue and the bricks weren’t weathered. The courtyard was paved, the trees were smaller, and the place used to be alive.

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.

14 comments on “Homecoming

  1. Oh gosh, I’m sorry. 🙁 It’s heartbreaking to see your childhood home completely broken down. It’s just so sad to see what was once loved in the past degrade before you.

    My family’s done so much moving thanks to my dad’s business that I’m not sure I have a childhood home. I think Makati would be the closest to it, as my time there is the dearest to me but… it’s all gone. When my dad passed, we had to make some huge changes, so my mom moved back to our hometown with my sister. After his death, it was like living another life. I visited Makati again a few years later, and I almost didn’t recognize anything. Nothing much has changed, but I felt so disconnected after everything that’s happened. I felt like part of me died. 🙁

    • My feelings exactly: I felt like a part of me died.

      Nothing ever stays completely the same. Which is funny because it really is true that the only constant in life is change. I felt really disconnected too, from the people, the place. I sometimes wonder what it would’ve been like if we never left, if we could hold on to everything as they were. 🙁

  2. This post is great, because I can relate on so many levels, because I had a home long ago that I lost and now have again with my husband and our dog, Marley. It’s beautiful and I don’t want to leave ever. Plus when I go back to the old home that I had, it has changed, but things do change over time and we can’t expect them to stay the same.

  3. Sometimes change still leaves its footprints in our mind, of what it once was to what it is now… the house you grew up in, when I saw the picture, I imagined what it looked like 20 years ago; it would have been very beautiful and cozy, with all the trees and the courtyard as you’ve described. I had to go back through your post to see where this was, and got my answer.

    • It was a really good place to live. I love the memories I have in it. This is only a small part of the house, just the front, but it was a cozy house. The land around it made up for its size. This place will always be in my heart. 🙂 Thank you for reading, Tess.

  4. Your post makes me fear coming home to ours after spending time here in the US. I’m not sure if I mentioned this in my blog, but immediately after I left for the US, Dad [further] cleared my room and turned it into my brothers’ shared room. They removed my bed and bed frame, and moved my brothers’ twin beds. My then-room had a bathroom, so it was more ideal if the two of them share both the bedroom and the bathroom.

    My brother snapped photos and videos of changes they made since I left, and it made me feel like they were trying to erase memories of my existence in that house more than filling the void. When I showed them to Roan, he kind of felt the same. It may never be their intention, but it’s how things came across to me.

    Oftentimes, I wonder if Roan and I will feel the same when we come home for Christmas this year. There are two more rooms for us to call ours while we’re there, but I know it’ll never feel the same. 🙁

    • It just makes me sad even thinking about it, and this is only one side of the house. There’s another part of the house that isn’t pictured because of how bad it is — I didn’t want any memory of it.

      This kind of feeling is, sadly, unavoidable for us — those who leave the Philippines and build a life somewhere else. It will always be home, but change will find it when we’ve left it. But on the bright side, your family is still in the same house and you’ll be able to go back to it intact.

      Our house was somewhat left to rot, but we didn’t intend for it to be that way. We always thought this house would stay within the family, and it would be kept in shape. But everyone on my dad’s side of the family has left La Union, settled somewhere in Manila or abroad. No one looks back on this place. It’s sad and I’d like to talk to my dad about it, see what the status is on the land, if it really is owned by the city now. If it is, I might ask for him to help me get it back.

      • Mom sort of mentioned that she wanted to sell our house in Manila, and “downgrade” to a smaller house because there’s only four of them left. I had to tell her up front not to even think about it because where would Roan and I stay whenever we’re in town? It doesn’t make any sense if we book in a hotel or live somewhere else because we actually have a house to come home to.

        I hope you get it back if it’s indeed already owned by the city now!

        • No! Don’t move! If and ever we’re in Philippines at the same time, it would be so easy to hang out in Las Pinas! haha

  5. Awww that’s too bad. Change is something I’m also not really good at but I’ve learned to adapt despite the surrounding nostalgia. Hugs!

    Ochi | Ochi In The City

    • Thanks for reading, Ochi! Change is both good and bad. It’s an inevitability of life and I’m still learning to cope with it, too!

  6. It’s nice to be able to see your childhood home once again, but when it’s in poor condition, it’s almost heartbreaking. You want to go back to those days of the past, but it’s hard when everything looks so different. I actually understand this post so much because it hits home. <3

    • I’m glad that someone can relate to this. 🙂 It was so tough to see it in the shape it’s in. Part of the reason why it’s gotten so bad is because most, if not all, of my dad’s family has left the province and settled in Manila or abroad. So we all shifted our focus away from it. My brother and I are actually the only grandchildren who ever lived there. I don’t think our family owns the land anymore, and believe it’s been sold to the city. And we all know how the government works in the Philippines. =/ I’d like to get it back one day.

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