What The World Taught Me

Den at 7As far as I can remember, I always wanted to discover the world. I like to think of myself as the original Dora; instead of hearing the occasional Spanish interjections, you’ll hear the kind of mushed dialect that I have grown up using. My favorite phrase then was – “Dali. Manglaag na ta kay natulog na akong budlat na yaya!” The translation to English does not have the same impact though but just imagine that kid in Pixar’s Up (no, not the fat one) with long, unruly hair and a handy wooden slingshot, calling other kids in the neighborhood to go trekking at 2:30 in the afternoon when it was supposed to be siesta time.

At 5, my mother raised an eyebrow because she caught me gathering my clothes along with Yellow (my favorite stuffed toy who is now residing with my best friend, Robin, in Canada) in a blanket, desperately trying to tie my stuff together and attaching the bundle to a stick, an attempt to copy my favorite cartoon character on TV. A few weeks after that I almost gave my father a heart attack when he couldn’t stop laughing after seeing me stick my head in the refrigerator while I was imagining being in Iceland. At 7, I envied Alice when she fell into a rabbit hole and disappeared into wonderland. As early as 8, I dreamed of running with the silverbacks in Africa after seeing the movie Gorillas in the Mist. While other children in school were busy thinking of what they wanted to be in the future, I was preoccupied with thoughts of Atlantis and Robinson Crusoe. I can remember praying earnestly for a magic carpet of my own that will take me to all the places I have read about. My first love was River Phoenix who played Chris Chambers in Stand By Me and back then, I would lock my parents’ room so I can act out being part of the four friends who embarked on a journey to find the body of a missing boy. I was not a fan of Snow White, of Cinderella, nor of Belle but I wanted to be like Ariel, The Little Mermaid who was always in search of new adventures and of new things to discover (and oh yeah, the things she did for love).

Den at 12

Yes, my thoughts were always about going to non-existent places. Later on, my passion for dancing, writing, boys, and philanthropic work would grow, but my love to see the world will always prove to be greater. My new loves accommodated the urge to never stay put. My dancing stints made discovering new places possible. Those boys in the foreign films I salivated on satisfied my itch to hear the unfamiliar singsong of accents. My little projects in the slums, mountains and farmlands helped me store memories through poetry.

Den at 29 Everything was a big adventure when I travelled. I discovered that although different regions in the Philippines bragged of their own dialects, there was always a common word or phrase shared. I saw with my own eyes how children in the provinces would walk for miles to get to a dilapidated shack that they proudly called their school. I watched in amazement how one can of sardines fed a family of twelve. When I lived in the Middle East, I appreciated the kind of freedom women enjoyed in the Philippines. My overseas jobs kept me grounded every time I thought that I was above everyone else. At that same time, I learned to fight passionately for the things that I believed in (specially when surges of discrimination attempted to manhandle me). I found out that my love for old things did not just stop with trinkets but extended to books, buildings, and people. Some of the places I visited disproved my old beliefs and helped me create opinions that I can genuinely say were mine.

Travelling changed and polished me. It helped me see the president at a different light; made me understand the importance of responsibility and believing in a cause; taught me the consequences of throwing caution to the wind, and acquainted me with people who always had stories worth listening to. I look at the world the way I do now because of all these and I don’t think I will ever give it up.

At 5, I dreamed to travel. At 30, I travelled to continue dreaming.

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