A decade in retrospect

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A few weeks back it crossed my mind that it’s been a decade since we moved to Canada. Personally, it didn’t feel that it was that long. If you are preoccupied with a lot of things such as settling down, going to school, having a job, and basically surviving, you wouldn’t feel that there is a lot of time. For an immigrant family, there is never enough time.

In 2003, my family has decided to move to a different country. I was 17. Armed with the hope that I am able to finish my education in UP, I left. I remember not crying. I was sad, for sure, but I felt that there was no reason to be sad. However, I felt no joy nor excitement of what awaits me in that new country.

To say that a lot of things happened is an understatement. I did not go back to UP. I went back to high school instead, with the consolation that things will be better when I get to post-secondary school. My family and I took the time and effort to learn how life works in this country. I got frustrated and whined a lot. For the first three years I yearned to go back where I came from, the place I called ‘home’. During these three years I did not have a lot of friends and mostly kept to myself, writing blogs as a weekly solace. I broke up with my then-boyfriend, and got myself in another relationship which mercilessly destroyed me from within. I was a wreck by the end of these years.

Yet I did not give up.

I continued with my education. In 2006, after deciding that I can handle studying and working, I went out and got a job at a local pharmacy. In the same year, I met a bunch of good-natured Filipino friends, who then helped me establish a Filipino student organization in the university. My intent was to create a peer group that can provide social support to Filipino students (especially immigrants and newcomers) like me. I went out. I volunteered. I read more books. Got in a bit of a ruckus relationship-wise, but learned from them as I went along.

I kept myself busy. I started taking photos in 2004 and posted them on my blog. In 2007 I bought a decent camera and formally picked up photography as a hobby. The photos help me remember a lot of those little events and emotions as the days fly by so fast. It allowed me to appreciate what I had that time, and what I can gain in the future.

Then there is my family. For the first 18 years of my life I hardly saw my family together because of my father’s work overseas during the first part of my life. But there is no need to be away from each other now. My parents saw me become an adult, and my father had a chance to raise my sister, who is 9 years younger. They attended my sister’s teacher-parent meetings and band performances – something that they were unable to do when I was a child. We are definitely more like a family now.

In 2008, I went to the Philippines for a 2-month holiday. It was great to see old faces—friends, acquaintances, teachers, and relatives. Unfortunately, being away for 5 years was too much. I felt that I did not belong. That is when I slowly came to the realization that the Philippines not my home anymore. My home is my family: Wherever they are, that place would be my home. My family is in Canada. My home is in Canada.

When people ask “Is it better for you now that you are in Canada?” I will definitely say yes. I was in denial at first, but I realized that the positive things that happened outweigh the sadness that I experienced. If I am the type of person whose family is in the Philippines, or someone who values gimiks with friends, then for sure, life in Canada would be tough—boring even. But I have my family with me, and I have witnessed how we have adapted to the life here. If we did not move to Canada, my father’s serious illness will go undetected. Or my sister will be unable to finish school. I will be unable to work with such wonderful and hardworking colleagues. Considering the lack of social welfare and health care in the Philippines, I doubt that we would have survived the last decade if we did not move elsewhere.

To be honest, I am worried that a lot of people, particularly friends and acquaintances back from the Philippines, can misconstrue what I have said about this whole experience. I may be too “Canadian” to them. Some may even say nagbago ka na and of course, change will be implied as something negative. But change is a normal occurrence in this path that I took with my family. It also took me a while to finally accept that because of these changes, there are former classmates and friends that I have to severe my ties with because we have nothing in common anymore. In this time of speedy internet connection and social media, it is probably blasphemous for me to delete them off my Facebook contacts. But I have to grow up. I have to meet more people and build meaningful friendships.

There are a lot of things to ponder about and even more things to be thankful for. I have learned (albeit really slowly) that the past is great, but the present and what lies in the future are even greater. I can only go forward and do well. After all, that was the main reason why my parents decided to risk whatever they have in order for me and my sister to have a better life. I better make the risk they took up worth it.

There is so much more to say about this experience. But if there is one thing that I can say to cap off this decade, it would be this:

It was a great move.