We walk, wearing our shoes branded with names that do not belong in this field of debris and misplaced belongings. “This was our home,” my mother explains to me with glossy eyes. As we walk on the dirt-covered path, we are met with long stares and whispers. Our clothes, faces, and hair, give it away. My cousins and I are not from here and even though our parents grew up in this village, we know we no longer belong.
I am a traveller, my heart belongs to the world, but somehow in the small province of Bulacan I do not know how to belong.
While riding in our van, my family and I pass through the slums. Children are covered with dirt and they look at us from a distance with heavy eyes and slight frowns.
How lucky I am, to have the privilege to witness these moments, but to not have lived through them.
It was here in Bulacan that I saw dozens of lives that were once parallel to mine. I met people who made me truly feel the “human connection” to engage in this “human experience” and to just see life in the most simplistic, yet beautiful ways. I met young and old souls, from children who were struggling to pursue their education, to teens that had already quit theirs in order to support their families. I met aunts and uncles who wanted a better life, but could not find the means to create one. I felt and saw all the ways to be human.
I spent a month within Bulacan living like a local. There were no maps to follow, no “Trip Advisor’s Top 10 Restaurants” or any “Secret Gems of the Philippines.” I travelled with vulnerability, openness, and rawness and that made all the difference.
Travel with purpose and travel with your heart because I promise you that you will leave parts of yourself within every corner, village, city, and market. Take time away from your camera because there will be moments and feelings pictures can’t capture. And when you return home, share your knowledge with the world. Travel to remember, travel to inspire, and travel to leave footprints in this world, so that one day you can guide yourself home.
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