As a young child, I often heard stories about my mom’s childhood in the Philippines. She loved sharing her memories with my sisters and me, telling us how easy we have it compared to what she had gone through. She would always point out the hardships she had to overcome throughout her childhood. I was finally able to understand what my mom had experienced in her youth when I visited her homeland. Although I only stayed there for two weeks, those two weeks ultimately changed who I am and my perspective on life.
Having been born and raised in the United States, my outlook on life differed from my parents. I was always told that school should be my first priority. My parents did not want me to struggle as much as they do now because unlike them, I actually have the chance to attend college. I, however, was not aware of how important education really was.
In April 2007, I traveled to my mother’s home, the Philippines. My parents had strongly encouraged me to go, even if it meant missing a week of school. I was afraid that I would fall behind in school, but what I wanted more than anything was to visit the Philippines for the first time. In order to understand why education was vital to my parents, I decided it would be best for me to go.
When I arrived in the Philippines, the sight was already different from the U.S. The airport looked like it had not been fixed in several decades, and men tried to help people carry their luggage, in hopes for a few U.S. dollars in return. The city was polluted and cluttered; I couldn’t believe that there were actually people living in a place like that. At stoplights, I would see children along with parents, tapping on windows of cars trying to sell products to drivers, selling something as simple as flowers tied together just to make some money. That sight reminded me of how quickly I spend money on unneeded items. It was heartbreaking to watch young ones on the dirty streets when they could be playing and having fun instead. I compared myself to the children, thinking about how unfair it was for them to work at such a young age while I spent my childhood watching television and playing video games. In the province, it seemed like everyone had hard schedules. Everyday, I would wake up to the elders making breakfast. Adults would be hand-washing laundry outside and teenagers would be in the process of sweeping driveways. Even though my relatives did not allow me to help, I felt guilty since everyone was busy with work. After hearing about the Philippines for seventeen years, I finally experienced it for myself.
Through my mom’s advice, I thought about my opportunities and educational goals here in the United States. I appreciate how lucky I am to have been raised in the U.S. My experience gave me the determination to succeed and changed me into a more thankful person. I realized that life is not easy for everyone and became grateful for being able to attend school in hopes for a better future. I feel extremely fortunate to have the option to go to college. I do not want to struggle like my parents do. I want an education to help me get settled in a steady career. My time in the Philippines inspired myself to change my outlook on life, and I am proud of being able to embrace my educational opportunities and to not take them for granted.
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