I looked out of my airplane window and saw the bright lights shining from the city of Manila right before landing. I stepped off of the plane onto that foreign land, the Philippines, the place my parents called home. At the age of nine, the eighteen-hour trip caused me to feel fatigued and irritable. Hot, humid air surrounded my body, but the night was calm. As we took a cab across the city to my uncle’s house, I gazed at the modern buildings of the bustling city. I said to myself, “This is nothing like my parents told me.” I slept in the comfort of the suburbs that night.
Individuals experience times of struggle throughout their lifetimes. For my parents, though, hardship became a regular part of daily life. They used to tell me so many stories about how difficult it had been during their childhood years. When I was younger, I would simply listen, not able to fully comprehend or envision a life like theirs. I was naïve. I could not imagine a place unlike “the land of opportunity.” That all changed.
Then my parents and I left for the provinces far outside the city. A bus drove us on a long stretch of highway. Everything suddenly disappeared behind me. Wooden huts became more frequent as the concrete transformed into dirt roads. The faint scent of the country air entered my lungs. Dozens of pedestrians spoke so fluently in a language I did not understand. My parents called this home.
Finally, we arrived at my mother’s old house and greeted many of my relatives and extended family members. The rickety, wooden house had been a haven to my mother and her nine siblings when she was a young girl.
They attempted to take me on a tour. The backyard was virtually an entire rice field behind the house. Patches of trees still surrounded the neighboring homes, and animals roamed freely. Most people traveled on foot, so my grandparents were lucky to own a jeep. Living without luxury meant nothing to these people.
My mother walked me through a day in her life as a teenage girl. She walked five miles just to go to school. She collected water that ran downstream. She didn‘t buy meat and vegetables; she raised the animals and harvested the crops. My family also told me stories about how they used to dive into the river, venture through the thick forests, and simply enjoy each other’s company. I could feel the connection that they had to this place, this environment. They didn’t need money to live happily, yet my parents had taken a chance by leaving their homeland.
During that trip, I realized that life must have been harsh many years ago for my parents. They had been raised from humble beginnings, and I always try to remember how far they’ve come. They succeeded in giving my a better life. I believe that children should appreciate what their parents have done for them. I believe that they should strive to make their parents proud. I believe in being grateful for my parents’ struggle — the one I don’t have to endure.
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