Friday, August 24, 2012


psychoI am unraveling and feel as if I am losing my self -- or rather, understanding myself? My resoluteness to progress with a modern life in the United States and embrace all the trappings that come with it is slowly but surely deteriorating. Or by the recent rate, should I say rapidly? I've relinquished my plans for graduate studies a couple of days ago, and now I am not sure how much longer I will be able to tolerate my day job -- or, this culture. That is not to say that there is something wrong with the United States. Quite the contrary, the U.S. is a great country; rather, I believe it is me who has issues. Sometimes I wonder if I might have some kind of psychological complex, or if this is just my true form trying to come out after prolonged suppression.

I was so fed up today with this complexity, that I went outside and paraded around the neighborhood with one of my chickens, a bamboo stick, flip-flops, old Filipino bystander shorts, and a simple shirt with "Subic Bay, Philippines" (my hometown) printed on it -- as if to say, THIS IS WHO I AM.

childhoodBirds of a Feather Flock Together

In the eyes of most Americans, this would have been an odd sight. Some guy walking with a chicken tied to a bamboo stick carried on his shoulder, in suburban United States. Yet, the simple fact that I look different is odd in itself to most Americans in Southern United States, which is predominantly White, followed by Blacks, and then finally, everybody else. In such an environment, race (or distinct physical characteristics) is usually enough for one to be treated differently.

I have taken care of chickens of different breeds, and I have validated the observation that birds of a feather certainly do tend to flock together. Though they can coalesce in one community, they do prefer to congregate with their own breed. Slight variations, such as in hybrids, are sometimes tolerable to an extent by both breeds, by only one of the breeds, or by neither (in which case the hybrids would flock together as a separate breed). Personally, my skin's tint and my hair are darker than most White Americans, and my facial features are definitely discriminating; yet, my dark hair makes me look close enough to Filipinos and my lighter skin is something Filipinos appreciate.

childhoodBack to breeds flocking together -- sometimes, the exception is if they have spent early childhood with another; in that case, breed may not matter, because they tend to see themselves as the other's kind. As an example of such a case, many pure Filipinos (or any race, for that matter) who have lived since an early age and have grown up in the United States become Americanized and tend to see themselves as Americans; they have become inculturated and hence view the American culture as theirs.


Thus, though appearance may alienate one to an extent, they tend not to view themselves as alienated or do not alienate themselves if they view themselves as having the same ethnicity (sharing the same culture). Culture is a major if not the primary factor that binds a community together, where such elements as language, customs, traditions, preferences, attitudes, and behavior are largely shared.

People don't change. Colors can fluctuate over time, but the fabric of the threads that make up our foundational fiber doesn't change. Settings may change, but the root of who you are does not. Along the same lines, there is the common saying that though you can take the monkey out of the jungle, you cannot take the jungle out of the monkey.

Childhood Formative Years

Besides the fact that my appearance blends in better and is more appreciated by Filipinos, I grew up in the Philippines and have been instilled with Philippine cultural values that were never lost, and which is perhaps manifested by my ability to retain the Filipino/Tagalog language even after leaving the country at the age of only 8 years old (and of course for my lasting appreciation for the culture and country).

childhoodYet, others who have left there at such a young age, and even some who have left later, have been able to adapt just fine to the United States, if not completely become Americanized. Why was I not one of them?

I think the main reason is because the experiences I had during my childhood formative years there left such an indelible impact on me. Out of all my memories, my childhood ones in the Philippines were perhaps some of the most powerful, and I believe those experiences have largely molded who I am. And I think, like the significance of a salmon fish's birthplace is to itself, I have been trying to get back to that time, or trying to recreate it, ever since.

childhoodThe Prince

Turn back the clock to the late 1980s and early 1990s; these were my childhood years in the Philippines. Recollections of playing with my cousins, roaming in the countryside, walking to the store with my grandmother, learning and activities with my classmates, enjoying the vibe and company of friends at birthday parties, singing and dancing to the music of that time, seeing my parents happy coming home after a night out on base (like during New Year's), growing up with my sister, eating Filipino foods, ... the list goes on.

childhoodThere is nothing extraordinary about the aforementioned experiences, they are beloved memories about normal occasions. But they came at a very important time of my life. During these childhood formative years, the slate that was largely blank, had been inscribed and remained ineffaceable.

Yet, what made it unique, was that I was special. I was appreciated by my peers. As an adult, I feel the same welcome and appreciation by society whenever I am in the Philippines. Thus, it is really no wonder I have such an affinity for the Philippines, where I am embraced by the people.


Where as I feel I am special and appreciated in the Philippines, in the United States I feel that I am subpar, deficient, and quite powerless. Tell me, why would I prefer a place where I am a pawn, when there is a place where I am King?

Growing up in the United States, I worked hard to be better, stronger, and more successful. Perhaps it was my nature, perhaps it was my way of filling a void, or perhaps it was my way of coping with issues. I don't know, but I ended up quite accomplished for my age right around entering my first year of college, when I burned out from my unsustainable lifestyle and "faltered" -- culminating in me dropping out of a top-tier university and leaving a bright future in the United States in exchange for my haven, the Philippines.

childhoodDropped the Ball

I never did fully recover from what some would describe as my major "stumble."  Though I would return to the United States to finish up my degree and work, I can see now that this way of life really was not meant to be for me. Recently, I was accepted to Johns Hopkins University for graduate studies and I was already enrolled for classes. Then, suddenly, a few days ago when an accumulation of stresses piled up beyond my tolerance threshold, I lost motivation to pursue.

But I believe it was the correct decision, because my reason for graduate studies was wrong to begin with. I was pursuing it for superiority (the label, the degree, the promotion), rather than out of the passion for my field of computer science, which I do not have. In fact, if I could do it over, I would have rather studied nutrition, or something else that I am interested in and that is applicable to natural life.

Plus, with no need-based grants, I realized that I could not afford graduate education with Johns Hopkins anyway. Not to mention that the master's degree would have been useless to me anyway by the time I would graduate because I do not see myself working long enough in the corporate world of the United States to take advantage of it and to offset its costs.


Another reason why the pace could not be maintained during the times that led to my responses of flight was because I never was able to achieve a balanced life in the United States. We all have a hierarchy of needs in order to sustain and be content. Aside from the bare necessities, if obtained, then higher needs are sought.

I work full-time as a software engineer with a U.S. corporation. Out of 24 hours in a day: apart from the time spent on eating, sleeping, and miscellaneous daily activities, 1.5 hours will be spent driving and 9 hours will be spent sitting at a desk hunched over a keyboard in front of a computer screen. That situation right there has issues -- like the prolonged periods of inactivity, eye strain, lack of sunlight, and poor body position. Beyond that, there is the mental stress of my nature of work, combined with the fact that I have no passion for it (I am a professional engineer, but not a passionate one).

Combine that with another fact that for much of my working years, I was also going to school. But, that fact aside, I lacked a social life. There was nothing to counterbalance the drudgery. Part of the reason was my inability to assimilate, my inability to relate, and my differences with Southern United States culture. Aloofness with co-workers and peers in general; no friends and no social activities; my life was literally about work, school, and repeat. Bluntly put, it is not a sustainable lifestyle, and it spurs "craziness" -- as some have described my actions.

childhoodOut of the Cage

Naturally, under such circumstances, my longing for the Philippines kept coming back. And I did go back, and probably will again in the near future.

And when I did return to the Philippines, you could liken me to an animal loose from his cage after prolonged confinement. The release from deprivation drove me to run wild and sometimes do things to extremes. I was instinctively on a mission to make up for lost time and seek/create experiences that I had missed and longed for.

Only One Life

Over time, I have come to realize some things. No one cares about my accomplishments, like I do not really care about others' accomplishments either. Labels, titles, trophies, they don't mean anything when we're gone. In fact, in hindsight, they aren't even very significant during life either. If I could do it over, I would have enjoyed, savored, and experienced more.

childhoodAs much as I would like to have an afterlife, and as much as I would like to believe in it, logic and science tells otherwise. It certainly seems that we only have one life and one life only. After that, the light probably just turns off. If you think about it, there is probably a good reason why by nature, we have an instinct to fear death.

There's always a trade-off, like quality and quantity. Money is important, because nowadays we need it to survive, but moderation and a balance must be sought so that life does not pass you by while you immerse yourself into the rat race. Some moments are fleeting, and some only occur during a certain time and period of one's life, never to return. Youth and certain experiences only come around once in a lifetime, and even the wealthy are not immune to that fact of life.

I am getting older; we all are. And we can't predict what will happen tomorrow. My golden chicken was thriving -- vibrant, vigorous, and in his prime -- until one day, he became sick. As you can see from one of the pictures below, the illness left him weak and blind in one eye (his left eye), and he was never the same.

Enjoy life while you can.


Phres said...

Do what your heart tells you David. In the end, no one will decide for you but yourself. It is good that you are aware that there is conflict within you because it will guide you what to do.

rayzorsharpe said...

Talk about chicken on a stick! haha being facetious aside, yeah it sucks working in front of a computer all day. I used to do labor jobs when I was much younger, I actually enjoyed what I did though I got paid a lot less. Try California even for half a year! It's a compromise between the US and Philippines. I bet you'll find it more at home here - Ray

anna lissa almazan said...

enjoyed life to the fullest...because we only live once....

boi skater said...

Your situation reminds me of animals in zoos. Some of them
pace back and forth as if they are going insane because they are not in their natural
environment. Hopefully you’ll be able to
find your way back to the Philippines and find a decent way to make a living

el toro bumingo said...

I first fell in love with someone who lives in Subic. It was a long-distance relationship. I was working at Bacoor, Cavite back then. For 5 years, I went to Subic more than 17 times just to be with the person that I love.

We're no longer lovers but we stayed good friends. For some odd reasons, I continue to go back to Subic. It gives me a feeling of extreme happiness whenever I'm there. I guess it's similar to what you're feeling David. Perhaps your happiest moments are in the Philippines that is why your instinct is telling you to go back.

Anonymous said...

David. Follow your heart and try to smile. We will see you around.

henry said...

Hello David, i enjoyed reading this blog and watching you walk in the neighborhood with that chicken...ha...ha...indeed you look so interesting....but i agree with you, why live in a place where you are treated like a pawn when you can live in another where you are treated like a king...i live in new jersey and i experienced that feeling my spare time i just devote my time to write my books...i have more time to develop insights and reflections that i write on my small notebook and whenever i have time and transfer these ideas into my book - The Spectrum of Love....and the other The Secrets of the Black Opal....that i why I encourage you to write a book about your reflections, insights and have such great ideas and i can sense that the longer you spend time in this writing your ideas into book(s) the more you can put these ideas into eternity and who knows, these might inspire people in the, you are no longer a pawn as you said but you will be a celebrity, a famous author and respected probably speaker that can infuence people to succeed...this is henry libo-on (nonette lib on are a great human being...

Anon said...

You also need a change of scenery while in the U.S. Get out of the South and move to another state. One of the reasons that I left Texas was because of the close-minded attitudes, lack of cultural diversity and the good 'ol boy network. Sad to say, but I think that Alabama is worse. You made the right choice not to go to Grad school (at least for now). Grad school debt would be a yoke that would crowd out money used for more important things - especially if you don't really enjoy Comp Science. (Nothing wrong with not liking it - especially since you realized it early.) Intelligent people like you, with better critical thinking skills, are
more in tuned with their surroundings and are more affected by them than
others. This is both a gift and a curse. Actually, I think that you'd make a good lawyer, since you write and organize your thoughts well. But, then again, the huge debt load and long hours of an associate might not be a good idea. Try moving to another state if you can before your final move to the PI.

Jong said...

christ may be the answer to your restless soul brother..

KP said...

That's a beautiful chicken, and I hear you loud and clear, especially the sick chicken analogy. The Phils isn't going anywhere, your task is to make the most of where you are, at least for the time being - a wise person gave me that advice before. The stress of a similar job led me to take some time off; and looking back I learned I had a quarter-life crisis, I'm in my mid-30's now, and dude, I'm fortunate cause I got family here in the US. Also, most in my family can't identify with the values you and I treasure, but I learned to let others be who they are while respecting my own values. And of course I'm seeking happiness as you are. I rely on the words of the late Albert Ellis, that understanding breeds peace of mind.

Japes said...

Please do read the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible... if you have read it.. read it again.. everything is meaningless as the book says...another thing.. we only got one life to live.. so do whatever your heart desires.. more than the longing... Jesus will surely complete you... Just trust God's perfect'll never know you'll go back here in the Philippines sooner... Everything happens for a reason... and you have a purpose on where you are right now... I appreciate your love for our country... God bless you!

mark said...

it was nice seeing your childhood pictures. you write pretty well. you're a nice man- good luck to you.

Jake said...

That was interesting story. Keep in mind that we all have choices in this life. Choose to live yourself to the fullest and never forget to live. Follow what your heart desires.

Silvia Zanotti Berner said...

Life can be full of surprises. I got to read your blog through a series of links starting from the Philipine Madrigal Singers, which I met in september and fell in love with.
Seriously, any day your life can change dramatically through an encounter or whatever. Try to appreciate what you like of your life and change what you don't like. And enjoy all the good bits. I'm Italian, we have very different backgrounds but I think when I was your age I felt like you. Don't be afraid to give up what you don't like about your life, it can get so much better.
And allow me to say this, since I'm much older... Man, you are handsome! =)

Journeys and Travels said...

Now, I say, as a fellow blogger, this is the most impressive recollection of the reasons why we are WHO we are today and spawning years in the Philippines just made it more concrete for you to admit you have the best and I pray you will continue to have that great life in the coming years. Come back to the Philippines so often and travel around.

see you on the road Coco wherever it may be and God bless you in your future undertakings.

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Yrneh Libb said...

Wow. I saw bits and pieces of me in you. For many years, I searched for the real meanings of existence until i developed an insight that it all begins in knowing who i am and what i love....all other things revolve around them...but when one is not filled, the search continues....there are so many things that i love and love to, photography, cooking, yoga, gardening, writing, public speaking, teaching, etcetera and so on and forth...went to Ph. D. program and, i am still searching while doing the things that i love to do...just like you, one day i might pause, i said pause not stop...but the search will continue until i find the zenith of what makes life so meaningful...have a happy and exciting journey CocoNuter.

Joemarie Escovilla said...

gave up years ago on the habit of deconstructing my life as one solution to overcome any major stump, most of the time anyway after foregone conclusion you're back where you started, forlorn and depressed. all the searching, the analyses and deconstruction do nothing to the very fact that change as you want it, has its own process and pace. sometimes i think, the very meaning of life is not in quality but in the quantity of things, experiences whether good or bad sometimes transforms overtime and we have different take on it afterwards proportionate to our level of discernment and insight; we only have one life after all as you put it, why retrict to being a pawn or king when the board is so large and life is so broad.

Karen Grace Kiel Felia said...

super like :)

Karen Grace Kiel Felia said...

I am worried about your golden chicken..

Karen Grace Kiel Felia said...

Follow your heart then pray for it :)

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