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Shared spaces

I don’t have a place of my own, but that’s okay because I have a home

Up until I was 15, I lived my whole life in Bulacan. That’s why it was such a huge change for me when I had to move to Los Baños for college. At first, the feeling of being free and independent was exhilirating. It felt great, and I welcomed it with open arms. I could go out whenever I wanted to. And no one was waiting up for me so I could stay out no matter how late it got. I could eat whatever I wanted whether it was breakfast, lunch, or dinner. My dorm room could be messy and no one was there to scold me about it (except whenever my mom came over to visit, but that would only happen about twice a month, so…). It was the first time in my life that I got to spend a long time away from where I grew up—my comfort zone. Back then, I didn’t know anyone in Los Baños and, soon, that great feeling of blissful freedom slowly got diluted by the fact that I was missing home.home

At first, I told myself I had to be strong because this was something I wanted. And if I really were the big girl that I claimed to be, then this was something I had to go through. On my own. But I had to face it—I was homesick. And I wasn’t handling it well. One night, at the receiving area of my dormitory (the only spot where I could get cell signal), I found myself crying on the phone with my mom on the other line, telling her I missed her. This was something I never do on a typical day, so it must have been a shock for her. Instead of going out with my dorm mates at night, I chose to stay behind and spend my evening at the computer shop near the dorm so I could chat with my parents. I did this every night, and counted the days until I could finally go back home for the weekend. Come Mondays, I’d literally drag my butt out of the house with a heavy heart to go back to Laguna.

This kept on for a few more weeks. But it wasn’t too long until I found friends not only from my dorm, but also from the various classes I was taking. I bonded with my blockmates and soon formed a tight group with some of them. On my second year, I joined an organization which I consider a family up until now. Before I realized it, I’d stopped counting the days until Friday. There were even times I didn’t mind staying on weekends instead of going back to my hometown.

I’ve since moved back home in Bulacan. And you’d be surprised, because I’d often catch myself longing for Los Baños and wishing I could go back. I missed the breeze brought about by different species of trees I couldn’t even name. I missed the food—eating isaw and fish balls with friends before rushing off to class or downing bottles of beer even though we had to take an exam the next day. I miss the people and how everyone knew everyone even if they could only recognize each other by face. I was once a stranger in this town, but today, as an alumna, my heart swelled with joy every time I got the chance to visit. Los Baños wasn’t exactly my home, but somehow, it kind of was. It sure felt like it was.

That’s when I realized that one could easily gather a bunch of concrete for walls, put a roof over it, and call it a home. But it’s not exactly “home” until it has witnessed its dwellers share memories and warm up with love and belongingness. Because “home” isn’t necessarily a place, but a feeling. “Home” can’t be built out of concrete, wood, steel, or whatever it is your money can afford. “Home” can only be built by compassion. By love. “Home” is wherever it is that you can be 100 percent yourself, without the fear of being judged. And while a house can only be ruined by physical elements, a home can only be wrecked by lack of love.

When I was a kid, we used to spend every summer at my grandparents’ house in Nueva Ecjia. My cousins and almost every one of my relatives from my father’s side would be vacationing there until the end of summer. It was a simple house. At night, my aunts and uncles would have to sleep on the living room floor because the house was so small and there weren’t enough rooms for us all. During meals, the chairs weren’t enough to sit everyone comfortably, so some would have to eat standing up. The food wasn’t phenomenal but we loved it nonetheless. The floor wasn’t even tiled, and when it rained, the water would go through the holes on the roof. It wasn’t a great house, but it was full of love. And so I called it home.

Soon after my grandfather died, my aunts and uncles sought careers abroad and there was finally enough money to renovate the house. The floor was now tiled, and I wouldn’t have to worry about slipping when it rained. But somehow, it never felt the same. I don’t know if it was because we had grown up, or if there were far more important things (i.e. money) my relatives would rather focus on. We’ve stopped spending our summers there, and our visits have become short and infrequent. We had no more people sleeping on the floor in the living room. At meal times, there’d be a lot of food on the table, and more vacant seats. The house sure is a lot more beautiful now, but it stopped being a home the moment people left it. If you asked me if I prefer the beautiful house or the house with a roof full of holes, I’d choose the latter in a heartbeat. I’d gladly gather pails to catch the water in case it rains.

I’m now living again at my parent’s house in Bulacan. I don’t have a place of my own, yet (I’m 22). And that’s okay. I have multiple places and people I can call home. Maybe I should stop worrying about having my own place for now and focus more on building as much homes as I can instead. Maybe it’s better to have a roof full of holes or a dorm room with no Wi-Fi than to feel like an outsider inside a beautiful mansion. Maybe it’s not important that I get the house of my dreams—yet—as long as I have people to come home to.