Updated: Aug 27
Hey, you! 🇵🇭
I left Cebu, Philippines in October 2011. That's 12 years ago and this is the first time I came back.
"Was your trip back home like chicken soup for the soul?", a close friend asked me last night.
It was ... and so much more.
I was in a very dark place the months that led to our trip and somehow, this trip has opened my heart and rekindled my spirit. I feel myself making plans and looking forward to the future again. Things that I thought were over seem within reach again and ... I wanna try.
I don't think I realized where I was as I was getting off the plane. I've been so scared of going back home and facing past memories. (click here for more). When I left in 2011, I was feeling unsafe and basically running away. My yayo / childhood nanny wasn't doing well after his stroke and was back home with his family. I was afraid of the maternal side of my family, wondering what plans they had against us. But most of all, I was running away from my mother-in-law who was dying at that time. Life was taking away another important woman in my life and I couldn't cope. I had been given a chance to have a second mom only for her to be taken in similar circumstances. It was too much for me to handle and I could feel myself breaking apart. In regards to my husband, I might come off as selfish - I now realize that I just didn't know how to cope at that time and he also needed to be by his mother's side as she was living her final days. So I left and he stayed behind.
It hurts knowing that the Philippines is my happy place, but also a place of hurt and pain.
Initially, I was travelling with my French passport, but when we talked to an immigration officer at the Cebu airport, she informed me that I had to present both passports because I have dual citizenship. This felt like a gentle reminder telling me that "hey, you're both French and Filipino. You can force yourself not to think about it, you can even try to ignore it, but at some point you have to face it."
But as cruel as life can be, it's also quite good.
Holding tightly the handle of my hand carry suitcase, I took my first steps into this place of fear only to find being warmly embraced by it. I could hear a gentle whisper telling me "welcome back home Elodie".
I'll never forget that first sniff of Cebu. A shock to my system.
The heat coming from the ground. Heavy humid air. The slight breeze of the sea. The faint aroma of street food. The pureness of tropical plants. The unwanted pollution. All of these trapped molecules in the air coming together in a familiar scent.
There was indeed a distinctive smell that tugged the familiarity in my heart. It was the exact smell from when I moved to the Philippines with my parents in 1998. It's amazing how closely connected our memories and sense of smell are. A sniff of that and I was immediately transported to that day.
I realized that nothing had really changed. But I had.
The person who took off from that airport twelve years ago was not the same person who landed back there. My life has shifted so much, in so many ways between those two flights… and I have changed. I have grown older, I have adjusted myself, my personality, and the way I act to my surroundings. Everything was similar to how it was before - except for me. I was definitely not who I was before ... I realized that I had the coping tools I was missing so many years ago. And that's when I knew, at that very moment, that everything would be alright.
But quickly the excitement of that realization and of being back home was taken over by much needed sleep (we arrived at around 2:30am).
Luckily, thanks to my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, we had a warm bed waiting for us in Waterfront Mactan Hotel.
(I felt like ending this post with 'And let the adventure begin', but I feel like it already has??)