It was Pacquiao’s much-anticipated fight with Mayweather then so the otherwise busy Manila streets were all ours. Save a few cars here and there, we had the roads to ourselves and had the luxury to cruise at 120mph while intently straining our ears for the blow-by-blow account of the commentator on the supposed fight of the century. I winced every time our Manny got a hard one, felt riotous when they announced Floyd as the winner, but I knew that the awful feeling which was gnawing at my insides was largely due to the fact that I was getting scared the more distance we covered away from those familiar mountains back home.
I was due to fly with my husband that day. There was of course excitement. I’ve never been one to say no to any prospect of exploring a new place. But we both knew this was different. The moment I bade goodbye to my family, the reality I’ve been trying to ignore months prior was hitting me full on, and harshly at that. I could still feel my sister’s tight grip as she was trying hard to put up a brave front, always the stouthearted one that she is. Mama’s sobs still resonated clearly as for the first time, I had to be the stronger one between the two of us, reassuring her that I’d be back the soonest I can. That was the first time I’ve seen her let down her defenses as she unabashedly cried for her youngest daughter’s departure. My dogs’ fluffy tails still seemingly tickle my nostrils as I try to shake off their questioning doe-eyes from my mind. It was not a pretty scene.
I’ve said tons of farewells to my family before but nothing as sentimental because we always knew I would be back, maybe the next weekend, the next month, or even the next year. No matter how long I’d be gone, what I’d do, and where I’d go, there was comfort in those goodbyes as they knew I’ll come back soon enough and still be solely theirs. But this time was undeniably different. A man, my husband, was whisking me off to start a new life with him. And it was not just to the other side of the mountain.
It was a myriad of emotions. Excitement, dread, anticipation, despondency, happiness–all for their respective reasons. For the first time in a lot of years, I felt like a little girl, my mother’s little girl. But that constant squeeze of my hands made me a bit brave. That reassuring smile from the man beside me made me feel that everything will be okay.
After two glasses of wine, two unfinished movies, and disturbed dreamless half-naps, my husband excitedly woke me up for my first view of Canada. I feigned pleasure. But the bigger part of my being was wanting to board the next plane back to the Philippines. I felt defiant and only comforted myself with the thought that I was here on a two-week vacation. That was how much in a state of denial I was.
I had the warmest of welcome from my in-laws, friends and relatives when I got here. That helped a lot. But as the days dragged on and I fell into an obsessive routine of scouring job sites and ads so the soonest I could find something to occupy my days with, there was that unavoidable void. Days were longer (and they literally were) as I pined for the familiar comforts of home. I grew spiteful towards my husband (which was totally unreasonable given that I should have braced myself for this big leap) as I felt like I threw a huge chunk of who I was and what I do for something so uncertain. But I knew I was being utterly irrational. I was simply homesick.
He was very patient throughout the ordeal. He showed more understanding than I deserved. And he did his best to introduce me to the mountains here. He knew what to do.
We started out with simple walks in parks and reservoirs. Then that escalated to hikes and reaching several summits. I began appreciating what was here on his other end of the world. And I concede, the views here are fascinating. What used to be just postcard images or wallpaper screens can now be actually seen with the naked eye. There’s an added magic to that. Every moment I get myself engulfed in the magic of greenery and foliage, I was transported back home. I loved every trek and hike that I always looked forward to the next. Gradually, I succumbed. More than the physical pleasure of getting mesmerized by picturesque scenes, each trip meant reconnecting to that part of home.
Without realizing it, a full year has passed. I’ve experienced the full cycle of the seasons. One year gone means one year closer to being back home.
It’s been a struggle making a new place my second home. It will still be for the next few years or so. The homesickness will not be snuffed out lest I make that first trip back to Sagada. The mountains there will always beckon me but for now, I have to view horizons from other peaks.