Summer back home opens girl’s eyes

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Summer back home opens girl’s eyes

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The last time I was in the Philippines I was seven.

I remembered the beaches of Zambales with soft grainy sand and clear ocean waters where white pieces of dead coral washed up onto the shore and tiny sea shells laid a path to the ocean, where hermit crabs scurried through the sand leaving trails that pointed to life.

I remembered the days I would walk up to street vendors and buy ice cream cones with money that made me feel older and more responsible. I remembered the hammocks propped up between palm trees and the cousins, the family, I didn’t have in America. I remembered only the prettiest of things and wondered why we would ever choose to leave that ocean paradise.

When we came back that summer, nothing matched my vision.

As soon as we exited the Manila International Airport I was met with overcrowded streets where car lanes were disregarded and a choir of honks and beeps played nonstop. The beaches of Zambales that I remembered fondly were dirty, white sand replaced by bright red dirt brought on by continued copper and nickel mining. The news channel that played in the mornings featured blurred out pictures of dead men and women, supposed drug addicts that were being hunted down by the new president’s iron fist. Children walked around in clothes several sizes too big and tugged at people’s clothing asking for money and even food. I saw families camped out underneath shelters with roofs but no walls and passed by huge squatter neighborhoods in the middle of Manila. Nothing had changed except the things I chose to see.

The Philippines had been a wake up call I didn’t know I needed. My two months there reminded me exactly where I came from and what my parent’s had worked so hard to put me above.

They always told me it was better in the US, but I never believed them because how could that be true when I only remembered a televised beach resort. It always felt like things my parents said to say, not because it was true but because they wanted to hold something over my head. But they were right. I had an opportunity in America, in Houston, and a responsibility to take advantage of that because the Philippines was my parent’s home, and they left it for me.

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