Home Is Where by Ligaya Fruto

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by Ligaya Victoria Fruto (Anglo-American and Filipino Literature Fifth Edition, pg 398)

The girl sat tensely on the edge of the Consulate bench, her face carefully devoid of expression. The bird-of paradise pattern was gaudy on her aloha shirt, the thong sandals looked slovenly on her feet, and on her head, riding the loose curls, was perched a big hibiscus flower. Her hands were tightly fisted in the pockets of her old jeans as she listened to the older woman seated before the passport clerk’s desk. She looked at the woman, then at the clerk, with one eyebrow slightly raised. Too many movies, the clerk thought amusedly as he listened to the older woman talk. He smoothed the passport application that she handed him and read: Benita Medina Sales, born in Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, in 1908. On the back, in the space for names of persons to accompany the passport applicant, he read: Lucille Sales, born in Wailoku, Maui, Territory of Hawaii, on June 14, 1931. ‘Your daughter is going to the Philippines with you, Mrs. Sales?” the clerk asked. “Of course she is going with me.” The woman said, turning to the girl on the bench. The girl looked back at her, and the two locked stares for a long moment while the clerked fidgeted with the papers. She gave these to the clerk and the latter leafed through them with some interest. He glanced quickly at the woman as a copy of divorce decree appeared in the batch. He checked the names on both documents, then studied the remaining papers. A frayed certificate showed the old Philippine Commonwealth seal, and next to this were two thick photo copies of the girl’s birth certificate. “You can see I was born here,” the girl spoke up. “I am an American citizen. I cannot go to the Philippines. I will not go!” “Oh yes you are going,” the mother’s voice shook a little. “You are coming home with me.” “This is my home,” the girl said. “I am an American citizen. I will live here all my life.” “You are a Filipino,” the mother’s face flushed, then paled. “Your father and I are Filipinos. You and I are going back to our country. We are going home.” Home, the girl thought, and her hand moist inside her pockets. Where was it? For her it was here, where the roads wound between the mountains and the sea, where the breeze was cool while the sun was hot, where flowers grew by the roadside and never seemed to die, such ws the continuity of the earth’s richness. The sea was gentle, the lawns were smooth, and the people . . . At the thought of her friends, the girl’s young face worked a little. She did not know what the Philippines looked like. She had no idea of the people. Her mother said that they were her own people, but she felt no kinship. “I will not go,” she thought desperately. “I will not go to the Philippines, I am an American citizen. The Philippines is so far away, and those who come from there have such terrible things to say about the war. I won’t go. My mother can’t make me go.” The woman looked at the girl, and a dull ache began to throb in her temples. What an unnatural child, she thought sadly. She seemed to feel no love of home at all. She herself never stopped thinking of it: fields of rice glistening to the sun: tobacco plants maturing in the heat: nipa houses hidden in bamboo groves. The people talked her language. They are the same fresh fish from the creeks and cooked carabao meat in the animal’s blood. They worked in the fields. At night they gathered about the looms, the women weaving and listening to the talk of the men. That was home, where one could belong and not feel like a stranger who, just passing through, must leave a fee of toil and heartbreak, then pass over still more foreign roads. The clerk looked first at the mother, then at the daughter wondering idly what thoughts kept them silent. “How long have you been here?” he asked the woman.

“Nineteen years,” she replied. “I came with my husband in 1928. He worked for an experimental station.” “Did you live in...
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