Friday, February 19, 2010

Waking From A Dream

I had a relationship with an Irish-American for 7 years. Now I'm back home here in the Philippines. No, the breakup was not the reason why I went home. And no, I did not go home to find myself a woman. So why am I saying these things, you say? I'm not sure really. But I guess it has something to do with relationships and trying to fit-in (whether in a relationship or in general).

One word enters my mind--- culture. Yes, culture. Culture is a tricky thing. For one, its influence goes deeper than we can fathom (I think). While we normally view culture as being a way of life, the way we say our pleasantries (i.e. manners), or even the way we are able to function as a group of people and understand each other (i.e. social fabric), culture to me is much more than that. Some people even go to the extent to state that one cannot live outside of culture; or, that the individual (self) has no meaning outside of what his society gives him. The definition is something much like how a fish cannot survive above water. I have learned what culture means on a more intimate, personal way.

About two decades earlier, I left the waters and lived on land; the so-called land where milk and honey flows unceasingly. So I have experienced living outside of a culture that is not my own. I wish you would ask, "So how was it?" And I wish I can tell you that it was great.

Well, at least I can say that it is possible. One can implant oneself in another land. But it is not a story of glory or of an exciting adventure of some sort. I wish I can say that. The life I lived was different--- it is a life of internal struggle: first, of experiencing culture shock; then, of trying to fit-in; then, of slowly questioning whether I am already transformed from being a Filipino to a Filipino-American; and until finally, of coming to terms with what life is there for people like me. At the end of the day the question is, "Did I survive?" Well, my soul ended up weary and my heart got numb, but I guess I still survived right? (hehe, okay, now I am exaggerating).

Another one of my personal reflection about culture is with the seven-year relationship. As to why did it not work-out, well, there definitely was a series of mistakes on my part. But on another level, there was also the fact that we both come from different cultures, with different ways of "communicating to each other's soul." There are times when I look at her and wish I knew what she was thinking about even without saying, or that I can react to her in ways that she is familiar with. Of course, the wish is vice-versa. But the manners of conveying meanings is intricately woven into one's culture and so we ended up frustrated and not fully engaged.

Both my life migration and the "inter-racial" relationship were results of living in a different culture. Could I have adjusted? I would like to think so but I think that it is something that takes some time, especially if the heart is less inclined to change its ways from where it started from.

So why am I writing this entry again? I guess I want to express how much culture is not easy to reckon with and that going outside of one's country "is really no-joke, man." Now, with these experiences I have a more humbling reverence to the power of culture. Maybe it is true what they say: culture's ability to harmonize a people can also serve as an obstacle in understanding others outside of it.

...Earlier today, I was sipping coffee on a porch, while going on a tangent of listing down what I missed about the Philippines now that I am here enjoying it. Suddenly, something hit me. For a few seconds there, I felt like I just woke up from a long dream of living in another land. Was it all just a dream? If it was, I am not complaining now that I am awake. Hehehe.