You catch yourself again staring up at your bedroom ceiling in the wee hours of the morning. How many nights has it been since you've had a decent night's sleep? You open your phone once more, rereading the thousand and one farewells to those people who hold a special place in your heart—people whom you know and love that you may not ever see again for God knows how long. Just knowing that fact already breaks your heart. How can you possibly get on with your life without them? Your bags are packed, your passport and itinerary in hand, you brace yourself and take a deep breath. You know it's going to be a long flight out. In this case, an entirely different country literally oceans and time zones away from the land of three stars and a sun you were born and raised in. Moving to a new city or transferring schools is scary enough—but to a completely different country? Now if you're a teen who's been living in the Philippines your whole life, that's the stuff of nightmares. Time to swallow a truth pill, honey. The moment has come to say farewell. Farewell to the past, but not to the present and all the wonderful opportunity and surprises that the future holds.
It's not easy to drop everything and leave. How could you, really? When you've grown up with the familiar noise of jeepneys; or the booming voice of the local taho vendor you've come to associate with mornings of hot pandesal and a quiet discussion with your family about current events; or the festive celebrations of New Year's Eve and Christmas day (where you know it's coming close when shopping malls begin busting out the Christmas decorations during the first week of September). While you secretly ponder over the gifts the future holds, some things just seem impossible to forget—because they're a part of you; and they have molded you into who you are today as a person.
You panic and begin to think you've got to let go of the lifelong friends you've made, let go of the family to be left behind, the language you love, even that one tita who comments "uy, parang tumaba ka" during every single family reunion without fail. If you're from Manila, you could possibly miss complaining about the horrendous traffic during rush hour or the strenuous commute akin to The Hunger Games (let's be honest though, what you'll really miss from the traffic is using it as an excuse for whenever someone asks you where you are and you shamelessly reply "on the way" when you're really still lying in bed).
But who ever said that these are things you'll have to leave behind? Just because you're not physically present, doesn't mean that you'll have to miss out or forget the memories and experiences your country has given in its entirety.
Why do you think that simply because you're leaving it automatically signifies that you have to leave behind everything you've come to know and love as well?
Who said that you can't enjoy pritong tilapia for supper whilst watching snow fall outside your window during winter? Who ever said that you can't have a trusty tabo in your bathroom because a shower and bathtub can make a timba virtually impossible to fit? And of course, who ever said that you'll have to let go of your beloved Pinoy staple that no meal is complete without—kanin (and hear me, try asking any filipino abroad if they've got a rice cooker? They do).
Just because you've left something behind doesn't mean that there is nothing more to discover out there. You just have to keep and open mind and an open heart.
Instead of focusing on what you're leaving behind, all the connections you have that could break, all the memories that were made, all the things that just weren't meant to be, and all the things that make up the place you call home—focus on the things that can and shall be.
Embrace the opportunity you've been blessed with and make the most of it. Don't think about anything else. Since when did worrying mend anything? Don't give yourself an extra mountain’s worth of stress by over thinking the situation.
Accept the truth, but don't leave your values, morals, friendships, and memories behind.
Embrace the opportunity, but don't assume that simply because you're abroad it automatically means that you'll be successful. Like everything in life, success requires skill, patience, effort, and a lot of hard work.
Adapt to the environment, but don't lose your identity. Go ahead, bring rice with you for your baon while they much on tuna sandwiches. Wear tsinelas while you walk around at home. Use vinegar to clean everything. No one really cares.
Allow yourself to miss. Allow yourself to miss lechon, pedicabs, tricycles, isaw, fishballs, unlimited rice in restaurants, the recklessness of jeepney drivers, the palengke, halo-halo, the noise, or saying saying “para pooooo” when you ride a jeepney bereft of that string that makes it stop.
Allow yourself to miss, but don't allow yourself to live in the past and grieve.
Learn to let go, but don't forget. Don't forget the taste of freshly baked pandesal on quiet mornings, or the deafening voices of jeepney barkers that could wake a small village. Don't forget the way you had to squeeze in the MRT like a sardine in an overpacked can. Don't forget the taste of taho or sorbetes or the level of awkwardness during that annual family reunion where you're surrounded by relatives you hardly even know. Don't forget the sanctity of Sunday mass, or the way Christmas, New Year’s, or festivals are celebrated. Don't forget the values of being family-oriented, bayanihan, pakikipagkapwa, and being resilient.
I won't say that you'll be able to maintain your full Filipino identity once you're abroad. Believe me when I say that you WILL get culture shocked and these varying cultures will clash—but that's no reason to turn your back on your identity nor the new adventure you're in.
Embrace this opportunity and see it as a new beginning. You won't ever be prepared for what's to come. But where's the fun in an adventure where you always know what's going to happen next?
This is your story. Make it lit.