As the aerial view of Manila from my window seat dissipates into the clouds, I can't help but think about the many things about home that will keep me rooted to the very ground. Time is a gift but sixteen years is very long and time away from home forces you to forget the amazing realities about the Philippines. As I deplaned at the airport, both overwhelming anxiety and excitement hit me to the core.
There are many that deem a simpler life is the life they would choose if they had a choice but in order to really make that choice, you have to live and immerse yourself in what simple life really is. The Philippines is considered a third world country and it is evident as soon as you land. You will see well-designed mansions next to tinfoil houses. You will see men in fancy cars on a very congested highway and five to ten-year-old children knocking on the windows for loose change. You will see rice fields and healthy farmlands beyond your eyes can even see and you will see rivers made of landfill. You will experience black outs that can happen five hours apart and people are just outside laughing and hanging out. You will see children playing outside with a stone and a slipper and having the time of their life.
As an outsider looking in, I can't help but feel disheartened by these observations, but soon I realized that this is all once the only reality I knew. And right now, this is the only reality they know. All of a sudden, it's like I'm nine again with crooked teeth wearing only house shorts and a T-shirt running to the nearest corner store just to get soda in a plastic bag and a snack of some kind. I was a happy kid playing with stones and slippers too. These observations may be disheartening but also humbling. Although people have very little there, they are still genuinely happy, generous, willing to give what they can and hospitable, willing to treat you as if they've known you for years. The smallest things in life money cannot buy are truly the biggest things.
Having lived in a first world country such as America for so long, I learned that I take more for granted than I ever admit. I realized I've become this privileged person that a simple lack of wifi connection is frustrating. Life has its way of humbling you down to earth and this trip did just that for me. It took a few days to adapt to a daily routine in the Philippines but before I knew it, I was up before the crack of dawn, I was speaking fluent Tagalog, not thinking much about how I dressed and didn't even bother wearing a drop of make-up. Jason and I worked at family businesses and saw first- hand the hustle they do. It's inspiring and makes us want to work harder than before. We were surrounded by family and friends we are blessed to have on a daily basis. If this is the simple life I could have, I would trade everything in the world for it. Until then, I'll be a constant visitor.
As the aerial view of Manila from my window seat dissipates into the clouds, I hope it doesn't take me another sixteen years to come back. The last days were bittersweet but I'll see you again soon, Philippines