(Before I begin, allow me to apologize for not having posted for quite some time. Three months, yes? Between covering Manny Pacquiao’s last fight and some seismic shifts in the office, things have been pretty hectic my end and there was little time to update my blogs. Hope this post makes up for lost time.)
I had always been fascinated with the word ever since I encountered it a few years ago.
It is said that the word, which has Welsh roots, has no direct English translation. After cursory research on it, I understood why. English even struggles to define hiraeth. I came across several attempts to define the word in English, and three caught my attention. There are dictionaries that refer to it as that intense longing or yearning for one’s homeland. Some define it as some sort of melancholic homesickness for a home one can never return to. Then there is my favorite: A longing; a heart-gutting yearning to belong that dissipates only after one finally finds his home.
That last definition is what resonates with me a lot.
I’ve always thought that what I did not understand was the physical concept of home. I had changed addresses so much growing up, I never knew what it meant to grow roots. Before I turned five, I had already lived in three separate addresses: One in Loyola Court in Cebu and the two others in Cagayan de Oro (Licuan and RER Drive).
When I turned eight, I lived in a quaint little house in Mandaue (Cebu again) for a year before flying back to Cagayan de Oro (RER) and living there for three years. I never even got to graduate from grade school in CDO because for my sixth grade, I had to fly back to Cebu and live in Mandaue again (the details of those transfers belong in a looooong story that only close friends and family know).
After elementary graduation, the family migrated to Manila, where I lived in a house belonging to my paternal grandparents. The house in San Mateo, Rizal, will forever be associated with Magnolia Chocolait in lovely glass bottles (because this was my favorite treat when we vacationed there several years before, when I was younger) and basketball games screaming from old television sets. I stayed there for about two years. In my junior year in high school, we transferred to hilly Modesta Village, which sat in the border of San Mateo and Parang, Marikina. That house had a clinic that my mother ran and freezers of ice cream we sold in a small grocery-slash-bakery-slash-VHS-rental business my father owned. My high school classmates would visit me quite a lot and (sorry mom, pops) scoop tablespoons of ice cream out of their containers. For a while, birthday parties around the Marikina-San Mateo border featured ice cream cans with a noticeable scooped-out space the size of a dinner spoon.
I stayed there for around two to three years before hauling my bags to San Mateo for my final semesters in college.
After graduating from UST, I lived with a few reporter friends for a while in a well-hidden apartment off FB Harrison St. in Pasay City. This was followed by quite a long spell in Quezon City, where I spent eight years in a humble riverside (and therefore flood-prone) compound off Araneta Avenue. Then I transferred to a studio-type apartment in Vito Cruz, Manila, that became a favorite crash-place-slash-party-haunt for Inquirer employees. It was homey and liveable until one day, the property beside it was sold to a condominium developer. That was when I found out my apartment only had three walls and was built into the wall of the adjoining property. When a wrecking ball took out that wall, well, suffice it to say the neighborhood would have had a good view of my pooping habits if some kind soul had not lent me a tarpaulin to fashion a makeshift fourth wall.
The ex-girlfriend (now wife) thus helped me find a new apartment closer to the office. This one was a modest studio-type space in Manila that I stayed in for a couple of months. I got burgled there and had to move two doors down to a more secure, one-bedroom apartment. About a year later, when the ex-girlfriend and I decided that we could end up spending the rest of our lives together, I moved to a bigger place in Makati that had three bedrooms. I lived there for about a year or so before we decided to invest in a condo unit that we could call our own.
And this is where I am now. It is a little past midnight and I had just finished celebrating Father’s Day as I write this. The wife and Isay are asleep in the bed. I am on a cushion spread on the floor (my snores wake Isay up) and I realized that homesickness has been quite a tough concept for me to explain because I’ve never really had a physical home. My office address has been more permanent than my home address.
And yet, hiraeth.
It was everywhere, anywhere, out of nowhere. It had this powerful grip on me. An emotion so strong that I couldn’t put a finger on until I came across the Welsh word. The strangest thing was I never even knew I had it in me until it left me, its dark clouds chased away by the sunshiniest smile.
I never knew how painful longing could be, how lonely the yearning to belong could get until both longing and yearning began walking out my door.
When I first held Isay in my arms, I finally understood the melancholy I had been dealing with all these years. Despite being in a career that I loved, doing what I always dreamed of doing, there was always something missing. Someone to share it with. A home to return to and recount the days battles to. Isay is that person. Isay is that home. In this little person who cannot speak, who cannot yet comprehend the world around her, I found someone who understands. In Isay, I find the fuel to chase my dreams. In this little girl’s trusting eyes and disarming laugh, I finally found someone who will not judge me but trust me to see her through this world. Someone who would understand that I have only the very best intentions for her and that everything I do, I do for her. I finally realized that it wasn’t just the physical home that I had missed out on growing up. It was the home that only the heart understands. I’ve had family, friends and loved ones who gave me a glimpse of that home. But those glimpses came in fleeting fashion.
You wake up one morning and you’re in another address. New relatives to live with. New neighbors to get to know.
Isay gave home a permanence that I can finally take root in.
When the world celebrates Father’s Day, it gives children a chance to thank their dads for being a steady and stable anchor in their lives, for the love, patience, guidance and protection he selflessly doles out and for providing for the family’s needs without asking for anything in return. When I celebrated my first Father’s Day as a dad, I took the opportunity to show gratitude to a little girl who will never understand what she has already done for me simply with her mellifluous laughter.
Thank you, Isay, for washing away my hiraeth. I hope you enjoy this short video of the moments we have shared thus far.
I love you, little princess. Forever and beyond.