I think Elton John got it wrong when he penned the lyrics "sorry seems to be the hardest word", because "goodbye" is so much harder.
I've been living, working and partying in Cabiao for the past 10 weeks. 74 days to be precise. But it only takes 66 days to form a habit. Without even realising it I have established a whole new set of subconscious behaviours. For example, before arriving in the community, I highly valued my privacy and personal space. However, I have now become so accustomed to living in close proximity to my counterpart, that I will actually miss sharing a mattress at night. A more trivial habit is my new-found love for sachet coffee ('Cafe Blanca 3-in-1' is probably the favourite). My standard 'black coffee no sugar' is going to taste so bitter by comparison !
The difference between this kind of experience and standard 'travelling' is that you don't just observe other cultures and communities- you become a part of them. It's more challenging because it forces you to make compromises and changes that you aren't always comfortable with. And it makes you question parts of your own identity that you weren't even aware of before. (For example, I didn't realise that I can be incredibly impatient!) But when Lola Emma (my host-grandma) told me- teary-eyed- that I was like a daughter to her, all the difficult-times seemed to disappear from memory. The same goes for Teddy's text message which read: I will miss your voice and your smile. Moments like these will stay me forever.
They've become a part of my extended family, related not by-blood, but by a shared experience- and I would like to think that the feeling is mutual; Teddy told me that the a Messina house is always an open door to me
My last day in Cabiao was manic: I actually felt time moving too fast for once! There were not enough hours in the day to say my goodbyes to everyone and I am certain that I missed a few important people out. Like the coffee shop lady. The barangay secretary of Polilio. And all the other people who have made a consistent effort to smile, accommodate and welcome me into their community. I really will miss the friendly, open nature of Filipino people. But I will particularly miss the kind and considerate community of Cabiao: the people lead a simple life, but also a selfless one. I think that explains why they are always so happy and full of life!
Thank you Cabiao for welcoming me into your community with open arms! I will never forget this experience and I hope that I can take home some of your positivity, selflessness and 'life is too short' attitude!
N.B. The photo is from our community farewell party last Saturday.