I often find myself homesick for the Philippines.
Many will find this strange. After all, I was born in America. My father was born in America. My passport is issued by the United States. Some might think that America has more of a claim to me than the Philippines.
Yet some of my happiest childhood memories were made in Manila. I grew up speaking Tagalog and English, sometimes not knowing which words belonged to which language. I ate American foods like roast beef with a side of rice. I am very much a child born and bred in two countries and two cultures.
There is something about the Philippines that sinks into every part of you and makes you a part of it and refuses to let go. Perhaps it is the hot, sticky air of the city or the cool breezes of the mountains. Maybe it is the scent of the sampaguita that lures us in or the sweetness of a fresh mango. But the Philippines is a country that is impossible not to love, a country that is heartbreaking to leave.
And so I find myself homesick, longing to hear a chorus of Filipino birds (which are more melodic than American birds) waking me up in the morning. I long for the sound of traffic (more frenzied than even the busiest street in New York City). I even long for the heat and the humidity (which has no rival in the state of Michigan).
America is often a lonely place.
Even with Filipino friends and Filipino family around me, I am very much aware that I am part of the Filipino diaspora. We are scattered. We are misplaced. We are separated from the Philippines, and that is a part of us that will always be missing from our hearts.
Perhaps it would be different if other Americans made us feel at home. But every time I look at the news, I see reports of ethnic minorities being mistreated and abused. Every time I turn on the television, I see shows and movies where people who look like me are rarely present.
How can I not be lonely in a country that seems not to want me?
Yet, as much as I may long for the Philippines, America is my home. And so I will strive to make it a more welcome place. I strive to make it a place where future generations will not feel so out of place, where they will feel truly accepted.