Born: Quezon City

Migrated: December 2013

It was a morning in November when my mother received a call informing us to leave for the US as soon as possible. My newly-granted visa was conveniently set to expire a day before my birthday. I always found it funny that it came to be that way. I think someone up there had a dark sense of humor, knowing that for me to grow, I had to take a risk and jump into the unknown. For weeks that was how I woke up everyday. Counting down the deadline, moving, running, packing, saying goodbye. It still leaves a tiny knot in my throat, missing the little things back home that made life worth living.

Leaving home is never easy. Even when I arrived in Seattle and marveled at all the wonderful things I saw and never got to experience until then, I still came home lonely, wishing I could feel the sun warming my skin again. Wishing I was in the middle of a crowded room full of friends and working towards a future to something, anything that wasn’t towards the hazy fog in front of me. There was a lot of crying, of course. In-between jet-lagged sleep, over a skype call with a close friend, staring at pictures and letters. If I was already a depressive mess, how do OFW cope with this? I ask this myself all the time. Homesickness is such a heavy feeling, like a craving you know you’ll never satisfy, with a lot of crying and dreaming involved. There was a morning I thought I was waking up to birdsong and blinding sunrise, only to find gloomy skies and a freezing bed. I wasn’t very used to winter back then.

But if I had to be completely honest, I have never regretted taking that time-traveling flight to this side of the world. It’s not a complete secret that life in the Philippines is horrible, there’s a reason it’s called a developing country. And a reason why so many of our kababayans are working very hard everywhere around the world. Working towards a degree, graduating, getting top scores, sacrificing your soul to whatever deity is out there, none of those ever guarantee the ‘good life.’ The lengths that people go through to survive is heartbreaking. How do you find hope in a land where it feels like a miserable purgatory? Where progress is like finding a penny in the deepest crack of a ruined street pavement. But
I’m not saying this to discourage anyone or disparage the country. Chance of survival is enough to drive the most contented person out of the home he loves. Even if I was given a choice, I would choose to move over and over again.

Ironically, here was where I found healing. From everything that was weighing me down back home and all the problems I couldn’t get rid of. Here was where I gained independence, determination, and the mindset to cherish the moments and love more. I never truly understood ‘living in the moment’ until I was looking at my friends’ and family’s faces for the last time. Migrating taught me many things. Most importantly, that there is always a choice between happiness and pain. It’s a second chance start over at my own pace with a blank canvas, in such an immense country full of opportunities and sights I’ve never seen before. There are challenges everywhere, and I’ve stumbled more than I care to count but now it only makes me prouder of how far I have come. Once you start to move, you’ll never care for anything but the taste of the journey again. What else is out there? What part of me have I not discovered yet? How does this make me a better person? And how do I use this to guide myself and others in the future?

I hardly had any guidance despite not being the first to migrate. But to anyone out there reading this allow me to say that migration is the most painful and most exhilarating moment of your life. There is joy to be found in learning and making mistakes, in reaching out and trying new experiences. Nothing ever stumps you like knowing you crossed thousands of miles, an entire ocean, to live and surround yourself with an entirely new culture, to find that time zone differences are wacky and real, to experience four seasons that change in one year. The world is so big we do not have enough days in our lifetime to explore it. To all the women out there, who have migrated and are thinking of migrating. You’re not alone. Our shared experiences and culture connects us. We have so much more we can do not only for our home, but for the bigger picture as well. This is our adventure, our chance to carve our own path so when we come home, we carry our grand tales and impressive advancements. Our roots will always stay where our heart is, there are many things to miss, but also many things to look forward to.