It takes me days, weeks, or often months to shrink my longing for other places into the type of discomfort that you sort of just live with every day, and even forget that you have. On those days, I can imagine myself settling in this city and somehow being happy with it--and that thought makes me happy, also.
But it doesn't take much more than a photo, the sound of a distinct accent on TV, a news report, or a 30-minute drive in the countryside for whatever emotional dams I've built to crumble and the mild ache to froth like acid, eating away at me from inside.
Last weekend, I went with my cousins to Cavite, where the rain and the garbage made the beach depressing and the swimming pool taste strangely of rust. I was asleep on the way over, but on the way back, the sight of rice paddies, lonely little towns, and even lonelier little houses, and the sense that the sea was just over that ridge there, reminded me of how things looked and felt on drives home from a Sarangani beach with my own family.
In Martin's house on Monday afternoon, I alternated between the news and food channels, where updates from Socsargen and shows in Malaysia and Singapore and the voices of the locals made me wish alternately that I was there, or there, instead of here.
In another week, my parents will be in town, and I'll be taking another trip to the countryside. Two triggers in one weekend, while I'm still patching up from the last one. This doesn't bode well for my state of mind to start the second half of the year.
Martin and I had a conversation once about the differences between our country and the one I wanted. He said that for all the difficulties he's had to deal with here due to some absent or inefficient system, including the difficulties that likely led to his and his family's current misfortunes, he still felt loyal to our country--and to this city especially--because it was his home.
I find it hard to feel that kind of loyalty because, for one thing, my home in South Cotabato feels like it's not part of the same country as this city. For another, the loyalty sounds to me like the kind of loyalty a battered wife would have to an unrepentant scoundrel of a husband.
I do actually believe, however, that the Philippines has it in itself to become like these other countries I envy. If all these executives I've interviewed really walk their talk, if people get in line behind the real good guys in our government instead of waiting for terms to end so they can go back to their good ol' days of self-service, then maybe not just my kids but also all future Filipino kids will enjoy decent public transportation, good public education, affordable healthcare, affordable housing, proper sanitation and waste management, and, yeah, clean air, billboard-free skies, trees to climb, constellations to learn, etc., etc., etc.
It's just that some days, I wish I didn't have to wait that long.