I told all my friends if they wanted to see me that's where they'd have to come as I was bypassing Metro Manila. Even so, transiting from international to domestic airports was a congested torturous nightmare.
In the two years I had not been back, I had relocated to my new home in the old neighborhood of West Hoboken by the Union City reservoir in New Jersey.
It was exhilarating to leave the biting wet chill of an early East Coast winter for the cool equatorial breezes in my coastal town this time of the year.
The change had me contemplate more closely the Spanish and American colonial influences of my past heritage with similar ones in my current community.
The process has been a sweet and sour swirl of revelations and insights.
Filipinos boast about being so Westernized yet capitalism prevails and prosperity is lacking in the boom and buzz of its construction. The country is one of the poorest in the world yet it has three of the world's biggest shopping malls.
My humble American barrio on the other hand teams with immigrant Latinos from all over the world speaking colonial Spanish more often than American English. Perched on its high hill with spectacular views of the New York City skyline across the Hudson River, our homes remain simple and close to the ground. Products and restaurants cater to its working class residents where stores and portions remain exotic, small and personal.
Who's to say which is First World and which isn't? Which is better and which worse off?
Often much is lost in translation as I travel back and forth between the country of my birth and my current homeland. As I tell everyone, when I'm "here" I indulge in local stuff I miss and when I'm "there" I miss my comforts and conveniences.
It was the first time I was back in the Philippines to personally visit and experience Typhoon Haiyan recovery efforts and other environmental sustainability projects as well. It was a welcome salve to counteract the bloody spread of capitalistic chaos.
Luckily I was privy to community collaborations conducted by close friends personally involved in the management and operations of some of these major projects. So very proud of all their tireless efforts!
I was especially encouraged and inspired by recent developments to revive and resurrect indigenous crafts, customs and cultures - educating and training community members and visitors alike to their native value and use.
Maybe a better future and balance can be struck between enterprising and prosperous growth and expansion.
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2015!
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