A Photograph


I’m home in Pangasinan after a solid eight months of what I would say is probably the most personal growth-filled period of my late 20s.

About the same time last January, I left Santa Maria in the evening joining a carpool made up of fellow Pangasinenses bound to Manila and Laguna. A few days before that, I just learned the mechanics of cross-provincial traveling—the paperwork and rides—from a friend who has traveled twice during the heavier lockdowns. I took advantage of the opportunity—of less strict travel rules—to get out of Pangasinan and start a new life at Los Baños, Laguna.

Leaving Pangasinan was something I have contemplated for years even before the pandemic. I grew up in Pangasinan and have stayed here for most of my 20s. But deep inside, I knew that I will not be staying here forever. For one, I will not raise a family here. There was just too much history in this place—wounds that are yet to heal, wounds that I will never outgrow as long as I was here. Despite knowing this, some things just kept coming up, which prevented me from building the confidence to start a new life far away from home—a painful breakup from a six-year-long relationship in 2018 and then the insanity-inducing advent of my tinnitus in 2020.

I have played with the idea of leaving this place in my head for so long. The pandemic just made it clear to me last year that it was time. So, no matter how painful it was to leave everything—the view of the Cordillera, the calming green of rice fields, the slow motion of life in the province, the lake I frequented during the lockdowns, Doji, Kako, Chami, my father and mother, I left. And it was the right call. I am in a far better place now—a place more aligned to who I am, not yet perfect but perfectible, a good place to start.

But why did I came back? No matter the shadows we associate with places we grew up from, we cannot change the fact that at one point we stood upon them, and dug our roots, and sucked on the comforts of their soil. For me, it was the dogs that called me back. Doji died about a month ago—a day right after I thought about going home but decided not to because I was still enjoying the transition and didn’t want to destroy my momentum. But my mom and my dad, they too were calling—silently though, they’ve always been silent. In just eight months, they suddenly grew older, caught some health issues, and are now showing clearer signs that they won’t be here forever. My father was boasting his new senior citizen benefits.

The old home in Santa Maria is now abandoned. Don’t know if I’ll go there before I go back to Laguna next weekend. Probably. It’s something I can’t not do while I’m around here.

The photo above was taken in the new house my father has been building for several years now, in Santa Barbara, my mom’s hometown. This was where Doji died last month, and where Kako (in the picture) cried yesterday when she smelled my scent as I sat on one of the wooden benches behind her.

A Thought

Do projects that target several goals at the same time.

You can only work on a finite number of projects at any given time (due to cognitive, physical, and logistical limitations).

Because of these constraints, a very wise approach is to choose projects that target several goals at the same time.

To do this, the following process can be followed:

  1. Define all your goals.
  2. List all the projects you want to do.
  3. Compare projects and see if you can combine two, three, or more in such a way that one project fulfills multiple goals.

An example of a project that targets multiple goals is walking. When I walk, I improve my physical and mental health. I commune with Nature. I could practice photography. Sometimes, I also get to meet people along the way and hear their stories. But most importantly, ideas and insights come to me when my limbs are moving. This is why I also call walking “fieldwork,” because it is what it is—an avenue for fulfilling multiple values and interests.

A Quote

There are hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading in the same direction, so it doesn’t matter which path you take. The only one wasting time is the one who runs around and around the mountain, telling everyone that his or her path is wrong.

— Hindu proverb

A Question

What place is calling you to return? What is your answer?


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