It's only appropriate that en route to the motherland, Philippines, our layovers were on Guam and Hawai'i. One of the fun facts I regularly use is that I grew up in three archipelagos: Northern Marianas Islands, Philippines, Hawai'i. Of the three, I usually claim having come from all. It always feels deceptive to say that, especially having been so far removed from all three for awhile. What I find myself saying more often is that I'm a first generation Filipino-American, born and raised on the island of Guam, and I grew up in Hawai'i. Following that would be the messy part of explaining how most of my family is still in the Philippines or Guam, while mom, ate (older sister) and I are either separated by an ocean (mom: Hawaii) or a continent (sister: Virginia).
Home has always had a transient existence in my family, even beyond our physical experience of growing up in a shipping container as a house. Mind you, this is before shipping containers took off as an architectural trend. I was reminded of this glamour every time we came home to the 2 coats of periwinkle blue paint that barely covered the huge Matson logo on rusted metal. In my 2009 visit to Guam, also my last, some family and I were packing things up into boxes and old suitcases to finally clean out the home I was raised in. Our property was getting repossessed. I don't think I ever cried about losing that home. I was more sad that our family photos, along with school and art work, were lost in the rubble and rat poop.
Relocating and easily moving on became a pattern, even when I moved to San Francisco for college on my own. Like moving away from Guam, I was never homesick when I left Hawai'i. I missed the people and the food, for sure. But life for us on Hawai'i was nomadic: we lived at a dingy Waikiki motel for a couple months, lived with a local pastor's family for about two years, then finally moved into section 8 housing that some would describe as the ghetto. When my sister and I left the nest, our mom also moved out and found a place to rent with another widow. To this day, whenever I visit mom on Hawai'i, we share the same twin bed in a small room in Makakilo.
The concept of home has been more of an idea than a physical location. I've been longing for a trip to the motherland for awhile now. Like any life event experienced at different ages, perspective and take-aways evolve over elapsed time and increased cultural capital. Yet the common denominator of all my Philippines trips is similar to going back to Guam and Hawai’i. Things feel different, yet familiar. I belong, just as as much feel like I don’t. Which puts me at a sweet spot where learning is optimal and change is constant.
Here’s to being, discovering, and searching for home.
— evelyn, homecoming royalty