at the last minute this morning, i stepped out of my jeans and sneakers and into a skirt and blouse because i remembered i had a lunch date and had to look presentable. my dad and my cousin, lindy, were coming to meet me.
lindy lives in bicol, the province where my mom grew up, a place with shoddy electricity, tin roofs, mosquitoes and black sand beaches. when i was 10, ricky and uncle carlito played a cruel joke on me, pretending that my parents sent me to the philippines not for a vacation but because they wanted me to stay there to study. at first i didn’t believe it — i didn’t want to believe it — but they were so convincing that i had no choice. i broke down in tears.
it isn’t that bicol is so bad. it just isn’t here.
the kids there think i live in a scene from baywatch with people who dress like the girls in clueless. to them, The Big City is manila and california is a dream. some of them never leave.
but lindy escaped. she always has been the adventurous one. the one most likely to succeed, most likely to leave the country, most likely to stay up with my brothers and me drinking beer and telling funny stories until the early morning hours. seeing her, although briefly, sent a rush of pride through me.
i thought of my mother, who wanted to study architecture in america but wasn’t allowed by her parents.
i thought of my grandmother, who didn’t get married until she was 25.
i thought of my great-grandmother, whom i only know from stories.
i thought of the woman i’ve become and the daughter i’ll someday have and the marvelous turn of luck we’ll both have been given. the chance to see the world and create a history all our own. the chance to truly live.