I was born in the United States.
I love it here. I love it for the opportunities it provides, for the rich diversity of culture, for the wide access to resources which much of the world lacks. I love the bustling cities and the large sprawls of countryside, the vast landscape of contrasting geography. The land itself is a reflection of the culture; travelling through America you will find mountains and plateaus, canyons and valleys, deserts and glorious beaches. There is something here for everyone, and it is a wonderful thing.
Yet it is not enough. The beauty of the cultural and geographical array of America can in no way replace the Philippines in my heart. There are times I wish I could carve out a small piece of this country and build a little Manila for myself.
In this little patch of earth it would be hot and humid, a sublimely rich heat that sinks into your soul and follows you wherever you go. There would be street vendors peddling everything from barbecue to musical instruments. The air would be thick with an array of aromas, and everywhere you go people would smile and say hello. Hop in a jeepney and head in any direction and soon you would find yourself on a beach.
My imaginary paradise is not perfect. In the background, where people try to ignore them, are children begging for food. There are desperate mothers and hardworking fathers who do anything and everything to support their families. There are myopic politicians and corrupt businessmen. But these things are present in all countries, and in my little retreat I would try with everything I had to cure my world’s ills.
Yet this is the real world. There is America and there is the Philippines, and though the two countries I owe my heart to overlap in some ways, they are different and distinct. That does not mean, however, that I cannot lessen this gap. I want to provide those hungry children on the streets of Manila with an education. I want to bring the taste of “sinigang” to the states. I want to combine the best of both countries.
And I can. We can. We can be advocates of the Philippines and ambassadors of America. We can use our unique heritage to help both lands continue to flourish. We can settle in this country and utilize its panoply of resources, become truly American, yet still hold the Philippines in our hearts and use our advantages to help our homeland.
We can have a piece of America in the Philippines and a piece of the Philippines in America.