We moved a lot when I was young. I always thought it was a necessary thing we do and felt like a little camper going from site to site. For every place we left, I brought with me a memory of it.
The first stop was the subdivision where I had a handful of playmates, mostly young boys. I learned how to ride a bike early because kids on the block used to roam around every street in the afternoon on bikes, and I wanted to join them. We collected fallen sarasas from a tree in the house on the corner of our street. It was fascinating to watch laborers mix cement as they renovated houses nearby. Our school service driver was our neighbor so I was never late for school. My bed was across from my parents’ big bed. I used to own this trolley for my big doll, and I would pretend it was my sister. I remember a picture frame being hit by a shoe and cracking into small pieces when one of the two adults at home threw it at the other during an argument.
I recall living near my grandparents in their village. It used to be my mom’s best friend’s old place, and I always wondered why we transferred. I loved the sight of a small pool garden that could be seen through a big glass door in their living room. I couldn’t remember sleeping in the rooms, but I recall one afternoon when I was surprised to find a dog staring at me from the glass windows after a nap. It was our neighbors’ pet that could jump over the old fence. I never really made friends in this place. I only knew silence.
We stayed for almost a year at an apartment where we couldn’t separate parts of the room; it was just a big square room. I remember running down very steep stairs in the middle of the night to my father’s van to ask him to stay. My mom said I should not be crying but she herself was crying while ironing our clothes. Months later, we moved to another place nearby with an attic.
The attic was my own space. It was painted green with blue and yellow vinyl tiles. I always sorted my books, magazines, and dolls on the shelves. I loved sleeping in my parents’ room, but I enjoyed the idea of having my own even though it felt eerie. This was the first time I started to paint pictures in my head and just dream, so I could put myself to sleep quickly and ignore the figures I imagined on the dark walls. When my cousins visited, we used to play hide and seek. I would hide in the big cabinets where I felt I was not alone. It was a big, empty home. I used to be excited to invite friends over, but I never did because I was not allowed to. I stared at the attic window for a very long time on the day we said goodbye to it. This was the last home where I had my parents to myself.
My mom and I lived at my cousin’s place for a few years. It was not a big home, but they always made room for anyone who needed it. They loved karaoke and they were good cooks. My mom’s brother, my aunt, and my cousins were very gracious to give us a safe space when we were homeless.
I went to college and my dad’s mom was very generous to provide a little space for me in their humble home. There was always breakfast. I remember staying awake until morning on a school day just looking at the wooden frame of the double-deck, hoping to go to school early and see my friends. I stayed with them for a year and then lived on my own for the rest of my schooling. Before my mom left for abroad, I used to be always excited to see her at her cousin’s nearby. It was a jeepney ride away. I transferred from one dormitory to another every year, or sometimes, after a term. I met nice people. I used to feel alone whenever my roommates went home on weekends. I started to own stuff and brought them around me everywhere just like a camper who was always ready to set up a tent. I had good laughs and ugly tears in all those temporary shelters.
When I started working I moved at least three times before this apartment where I’ve been staying for almost 10 years with my beloved. I accumulated more furniture than ever. My partner and I were able to have our friends over and cook something for them. I love having people around. We both grew to love cooking. There were not-so-good days, but we have more great days sitting on the couch and watching Netflix. I am not as sad as I used to be. But I will have to move again.
I am packing everything once more. At night, I think of paint, wood, blinds, air-conditioning. I am anxious, yet I am looking forward to this. It’s expensive to own a home in this country, but I am grateful I get to build my own, along with the love of my life. It takes decades to be fully ours, but we will work on it. Someday, we can have family and friends over in our home where they can simply be. Maybe in the future, we can have kids who will have a safe space they can call home. They can move, but they will always have a place to go back to.