Story of Us

19 Jun

4,000 Filipinos leave the 7,100 islands of the Philippines everyday.
From streets that you know like the back of your hand,
From a history that you know so well because you live it,
From the words that you understand, curses, jokes that need no explaining
Because you have a place in this space and time,
To suddenly being wrenched away,
To airplane interiors dark with sleep,
To gray skies half the year,
To silent, suburban neighborhoods,
To subways full of strangers.

And one day, you see a face like yours, that might have ridden the same jeepney as you did,
And you blurt out your hello in Tagalog.
And of course, it runs like a movie:
He stares at you in a funny manner, and says, almost rudely that he does not speak Tagalog.
And that is that.

2,160 hours later on a bright autumn day,
You enter a room in your college and who was the only person there,
But him.
And you speak to him in English —
Because he does not speak Tagalog, mind that he’s American-born —
And he’s not a rude guy after all.

After some more time,
Specifically, 2,160 hours more.
Of casual acquaintanceship, of being each other’s people-you-know-from-college, of dinners on the fly, of careless hugs and easy affection,
One day, you sit on the arm of the chair he occupies,
And he snakes an arm around you
To keep you from falling
And you feel…
That the silent streets are no longer lonely
Nor the subways so full of strangers.
That life is not so gray
In fact, you feel that it could have been a movie:

Slow motion, heartbeat as an isolated soundtrack
And pupils dilated,
It’s something you might want to stay and watch.
Stay and watch
As you both move to the couch,
As he draws you against his chest,
As you lean your head back on his shoulder,
As he puts his arms around you,
As you weave your fingers through his.
As he lightly kisses the corner of your lips,
As you turn,
As he kisses you,
Softly,
Deeply,
Sweetly,
And all of this,
In a room full of people,
Everyone speeding up as your world and his slow down.
Without speaking one word.
English or Tagalog.

4,000 Filipinos leave the 7,100 islands of the Philippines everyday.
It is a movement of people that carried
The heart and soul of your people
That carried the movement along with it.
Your love story
Is embedded in the story of the movement
Of the people whose hearts and minds have been in diaspora.
You become familiar with new streets, new histories, new words
Because you, your mother and father, your grandmothers and grandfathers
Had no land, no jobs
Nothing but the history of struggle that is the soul of why we are Filipino.
You are a migrant
He is a child of migrants.

Yes, your love story is embedded in the story of the people,
Of the movement.
Because 17,520 hours later
You, torn from your homeland,
Found faces that could have ridden the same jeepney as you did back home.
And you found the people, you found the movement.
Because 4,000 Filipinos everyday bring with them
The movement.
And you feel…
As if you have returned to streets you know
As if you understand the words and need no more explanations,
That you found your place.
It could have been a movie:

The rain starting to pour,
Faces up to the sky,
Placard held high
Your umbrellas abandoned
Chanting
In unison.
In Spanish.
In English.
In Tagalog.
Feeling your heart
Boom against your chest.
Keeping rhythm
With the hearts of hundreds of thousands.
Your voice no longer just your own
When joined to the voices
Of the many
No longer feeling alone
In time or space

Yes, your love story is embedded in the people.
Although he didn’t see it this way, at first.
Child of migrants
Who thought he had no place
In the national liberation struggle
Of your homeland.
It took 17,520 more hours
Before he found that place in the struggle
Like a love that he found
When he was without you,
When you had gone to the homeland.
And its rather like a movie:

A march of 5,000,
10,000 feet pounding the ground,
From pavement to pavement filled,
Spirits soaring,
And hearts hard to contain,
And you lift up your flags,
That flutter against a background
Of bright, blue sky,
Audacious and courageous,
You yell, answering and calling out to one another
In English,
In Tagalog,
You chant, answering and calling out to one another
So that 4000 Filipinos everyday
Could see their families again
So that 7,100 islands will be free,
You turn your head,
Heart beating
And you see him,
Marching beside you,
And you weave your fingers
Through his.
And you both move forward.

*Written June 1-15, 2012

3 Responses to “Story of Us”

  1. gwapo June 20, 2012 at 1:41 am #

    maganda yung poem until sa “no longer feeling alone”

  2. lainerz June 23, 2012 at 6:05 am #

    mel, this is so beautiful it makes me want to weep. and that is what all your poems do to me.

    love from the bay,
    elaine

    • melaniedulfo July 1, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

      lainerz,

      salamat sa pagmamahal. huwag kang umiyak, baka ma-iyak din ako. lol

      melanie

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