Facing my past

Coming back to the Philippines has been an emotional ride I knew was coming, but not to this level. I’ve been away for almost a decade, and to say it could be eye-opening again even during the first 48 hours is an absolute understatement.

Walking down the streets, I felt like a little kid again, only this time a bit taller than the rest, and maybe with a couple more encounters of mothers try to introduce me to their daughters.


Filipinos are known for their resilience, maybe sometimes a bit too much. Just my second night back, I found myself bawling in tears (not something I do often).

I couldn’t go to sleep over a story my friend told me about how she only ever saw her mother as a child, as her father was too busy at work, and the one memory that stuck with her was her mother crying; my friend regretted that she couldn’t do anything more as a child, and it made me think about the extent to which our family goes to see us happy.

I’ve seen TikToks where children wish their parents didn’t work as hard so they could focus on their own passions, and in turn, have a better relationship with their children, but truthfully, parents here usually have no choice but to do so.

Mental health resources are far from many here, but not necessarily from lack of funding. It’s simply a matter of what’s needed in life. Because needs are more physiological here, people are more worried about their needs to live, no matter what it takes.


Our family has helpers, one of them being in the 8th grade. Their life looks a little like this. Living in a torn down home made of crumbling stone and a tarp, and having to share that with the whole extended family. Having to go to school by waking up at 6AM, then coming back at 4PM, only just to end up helping at a household. Life isn’t fair, and although they complain, they get through it and find happiness in their situation.

And through the time I’ve spent talking, eating dinner, sharing stories with their family, they truly only feel like extended family. No matter whether if you’re actually related or not, who you consider your family will always have your back, and will always feel like home, regardless of where you’re at (whether that be in life or physically). It wasn’t the beaches or not having school that brought me happiness here, but interacting and helping the people that you appreciate it.


Just recently, I started looking into ikigai (生き甲斐).

In Western terminology, it looks something like this:

ikigai diagram

This was just another direction in my quest of self-improvement. But this version of ikigai only applies to the Western world, as the Japanese envelop themselves in it compared to the orderliness the Western world bounds it to, and supposedly live a longer lifestyle because of it. Ikigai, in simpler terms, is finding life’s calling, and blending everything together without extra baggage.

Being able to live below my means does not mean I torture myself and live poorly. It means being able to afford the things that make my quality of life better, but not necessarily spend it on lavish things I’ll never use. Better to buy a nice thing once and continue to get its money’s worth than buy a poor thing many times and be frustrated by its result.


Comparing the people in the streets to the junior high kids in Martinez just makes my blood boil. People in the Philippines find beauty in simiplicity, and it ties back to the previous lessons I’ve mentioned earlier. Every deed comes as an act of respect, a privilege, not a right.

I recently bumped into another term called mottainai (notice a trend here?). It’s more popular among environmentalists, but reminds me of a phrase my mom used to say in Tagalog (sayang!). Obviously, there is a time when holding onto baggage becomes waste, but I think it’s a principle that can be applied to everywhere in life. If you have the opportunity and it benefits you, seize it. Others may not have that privilege, and if you skip out on it simply because you’re lazy, or shy, it’s your fault for missing out. More often than not, regrets come from not doing things rather than doing things and it going wrong.


Looking back, it’s a reminder as to my purpose, my outlook on life, and how big of an influence my mother has played in my life.

This was a much-needed wake up call before going back to tackle Berkeley. I had fears of imposter syndrome, difficulty, but this only makes it clear nothing in life comes for free. I can complain all I want, but there’s no pity party for me; the only way I can get results is through hard AND dilligent work.

And to get it out of the way, since it’s something that pops up on TikTok all the time…

Aren't you invalidating your own hardships because other people are going through it as well?

> Yes...but no, my struggles compared to theirs are miniscule at most; problems will always exist in life, but don't let learned helplessness be the one guiding you. By even being able to go to college, I'm entitled enough where mistakes are something I'm privileged to learn from rather than suffer by it.

I don't think my stance on this is ever going to change. My mom lives as frugally as possible, the same she's lived ever since she was back home. Buy the things that make her happy in life and find joy in the simple things in life.

It’s hard to believe when you don’t see it. And it’s not like cute Canva Instagram posts can change things. Rags to riches is possible, but our system makes it very hard to do so; in other words, the rich get richer and the poor go down a larger rabbit hole. In fact, our very own consumerism is built on the livelihood of others, but that’s a subject for another day.

I definitely need to go back; not just for family, but to reexplore a version of myself that gets lost when caught up in life.

Just a short little rant, nothing of substance.