Ma. Lizbeth J. Baroña
"I really need a psychiatrist".
chosen by the Philippine Department of Tourism in 1994 as one of
the twelve best destination in the country.
My sister let out a howl of laughter, saying
it's got to be the only thing I said to her all day that made sense.
She quit laughing though, when she saw my face all red from efforts
to keep myself from crying. On my hands are pictures of my homeland.
I have been staring at them as if in a trance before my I-am-crazy declaration.
It has been eight years since I left Batanes
for college, and I feel homesick everyday, every minute. If I am not
openly bawling about it, it's always in the corners of my mind and heart,
throbbing, like a fresh wound.
I have long concluded that something's
got to be wrong with me. My friends think so, because I have this 'chronic
homesickness' that I have never gotten over with.
I was born in a place where time seems
to stand still. I grew up in a place where everybody knows everyone,
where everything seems to be just within reach, where God playing favorites
seems most evident.
What pains me is that I never realized
how extraordinary special my home is until I left it for college and
beyond, until coming home is a rare opportunity that we have to fight
for - literally. Batanes can only be reached through plane - a transport
that gives you no guarantee. Especially during holidays, Ivatans who
want to spend the holidays with love ones in Batanes have to fight for
bottleneck plane seats.
Setting foot on the islands is unlike any
arrival one experiences when visiting places. Aside from the "vacuum"
it leaves in your wallet, you have to cry, scream, and pray your way
to a plane ticket. I have experienced being stranded on a strange place
because the elements seemed bent on keeping the anticipation up. Once,
by keeping my brother and I stranded in Laoag Airport for 5 days and
4 nights. Even though my vacation has been cut short by 5 precious days
-on board the last flight landing late in the afternoon on Christmas
eve - setting foot on Batanes soil never felt more magical.
You see, that's what makes my home special: its almost like heaven.
So literally and figuratively far, that I long for its skies and sacred
landscape almost in a way my lungs need air.
The skies are bluer, the hills greener,
the sunsets more magical, the moon bigger and brighter, and the stars?
- there's got to be a million more of them if you look at them from
And so, staring at a picture of my family
frolicking beside the royal blue sea during one of our family outings
last year was too much for me, I cried. And that's when I quipped I
need professional help. My sister joked that unfortunately, Filipinos
have never really been open with seeking counseling through a shrink.
I might be branded as one whose mind has gone somewhere - maybe. But
I keep asking myself: is it I? or is it my homeland?
I concluded: it's got to be my homeland.
I figured out it's too beautiful to leave
behind, and my not being there - seeking my material dreams in strange,
far places - is what's driving me crazy.
Everyday, I long for those sunsets, the
setting sun sprawling its orange rays on the Plaza, where children,
newly freed from their prisons otherwise known as classrooms ran free;
where mommies walk their babies, and toddlers bask in the warmth of
the sunset; where my Dad plays tennis like he always does for more than
half of his life (my Mom watching, silently celebrating every passing
shot my Dad unleashes on his hapless opponents); where tired students
chatter about Math and boys while slowly inching their way home; where
the scorching summers drive you mad, and the winters boast a 12 degree
Celsius bite even through three layers of clothing.
In the past eight years, nothing that has
taken place in my life has ever taken those pictures away. My heart
both breaks and soars whenever I think of home. It makes me cry and
laugh at the same time. Crazy? No. Just in love with my homeland. Just
in love with the Batanes Group of Islands.
Ma. Lizbeth J. Baroña,
24, Development Communication graduate from UPLB.
Currently works as a Writer at the Bureau of Agricultural Research, Diliman