A Piece of My Homeland

by Fernando Perfas

“Typhoon Rolly” takes down close to 40 transmission lines in Bicol. | Photo source: Powerhousephilippines.com

I spent my early boyhood in a small village in southern Luzon, the Philippines’ largest island up north. It was a quaint place where life was simple and where time seemed to move a bit slower. Although the village was a mere twenty-minute walk to the town center, we hardly went to town except to shop for necessities. The village had nothing to boast, no important historical landmarks or tourist spots.

We didn’t see a lot of “outsiders,” and if someone came to visit or spend a few days in the village everyone seemed to know, especially if the guest was from Manila. The simplicity of life in my ancestral village would have been enough to drive city folks to depression. In all its banality, I cherish memories of my brief life there. The place was memorable because it held so much meaning. It was a place I was closest to nature, a place where I grew up believing in nature spirits, witches, and monsters.

We were surrounded by mountains, volcanoes, the sea, and rivers. People lived off from what the waters and the land had to offer. Since the region where we lived was in the path of typhoons, we had to endure the seasonal storms that left so much destruction in their wakes. In spite of the ruggedness of life, my home and my village was a special place because it was the last place where I had my family together. Before my teens, I lost my father from an untimely death that started off my family’s diasporic journey from our village to Manila, and after that to countless other places for me.

“The simplicity of life in my ancestral village would have been enough to drive city folks to depression. In all its banality, I cherish memories of my brief life there. The place was memorable because it held so much meaning. It was a place I was closest to nature, a place where I grew up believing in nature spirits, witches, and monsters.”

It was heart breaking that after so many years when I longed to see once more where I had my roots, the place had not only changed but had undergone transformations beyond recognition. It was devastating to realize that the old village that contained all that beautiful memories was gone. It was overrun by poverty; teeming now with shacks and exploding population of poor people. In an effort to thrive, most often people succumb to short-term survival strategies that breed neglect, decay, and abuse of the environment. In this case, it has turned the place into a monument of failure.

“If one has no history or has not taken roots to a place he finds himself, for him, it is just a place or a space to occupy. He will never lift a finger to care and tend the land tenderly.”

How many “beautiful” places on earth had been reduced to ashes because we failed to protect them? We are like raiders from ancient empires that sacked cities and ravaged countries, except we raid our own towns, villages, forests, seas, and rivers.

The poor misuses natural resources for survival while the rich, driven by greed, ransacks a whole mountain or an entire track of land for a quick profit. Both find no deep meaning or connection to the land where they had just moved into or had bought in order to exploit and squeeze.

If one has no history or has not taken roots to a place he finds himself, for him, it is just a place or a space to occupy. He will never lift a finger to care and tend the land tenderly. For some whose connection to their land of birth runs deep, it is their link to their ancestors and the ties that bind them to Mother Earth.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at fbperfas@gmail.com.

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