“Where we love is home, home that our feet may leave but not our hearts”- Oliver Wendell Holmes
Today I set out on my journey to begin a new chapter of my life studying and living in France.
As I leave the Philippines for now, while there may be tears, I’m not going with a heart full of sadness. I count myself fortunate that I am not leaving my country to search for a better life abroad. Rather, I have the privilege of taking myself on an adventure, with the love and support of my husband, to explore a bigger world in France and Europe, to gain more life experience, and to challenge myself—a challenge indeed for someone who has lived nowhere else but in the Philippines for the first three decades of my life. It will be a time of great personal growth, for me to be able to immerse myself in study and travel, and to fully discover the distinct culture and life in the cherished nation of my husband.
When Arnaud told me that he was sad that he’s leaving the Philippines, his adopted country, where he has found a second home for the last three years as well as the love of his life (naks!), I simply told him “Bawal tayong maging sad.” We cannot be sad to leave the Philippines because being sad presupposes that we’re not coming back. We will never, ever leave the Philippines for good. The Philippines is HOME. Wherever in the world Arnaud and I may choose to work or reside now or in the coming years, we will make our home in each other, but we will always come back and come home here. How can you ever truly leave your home, your family? You can’t.
I will set sail and expand my horizons, but Manila, Samar, the Philippines, and most of all, my family, will always be my safe harbor. I leave today with the hope that when I return, I will have a greater appreciation and even deeper love for my homeland, warts and all.
I am not turning my back on my beloved Philippines to choose France. Rather, I’m lucky to be getting a second country, a second home, and a bigger family. I am not giving up my career as a lawyer. Rather, I’m taking this time and opportunity to become a better version of myself. In moving to France, I am not uprooting myself. Rather, I’m growing as a person and branching out, but my roots are, and will forever be, Filipino (and Waray! Always and forever a Waray, much to Arnaud’s dismay????!). Just like you never really leave your true home, you also never really leave nor forget the most essential, defining parts of who you are.
So, dear family and friends, no goodbyes, no paalam. But in leaving, perhaps it will be better said in the language of my soon-to-be adopted country: “Au revoir” (which in French literally means “Until we see each other again”). Or maybe wish me “bon courage” (the most common phrase to wish encouragement in French). But even better yet, I hope you send me off and wish me well with our favorite expression in Pagsanghan in Samar when someone is going off on an extended journey. Just simply and joyfully: “Happy trip!”