My parents left America in the 90’s to raise three young kids in Southeast Asia, surrounded by pollution, terrorism, bombs, poverty, corruption, and overthrown governments. Today I thank them for the greatest childhood I could ever have dreamed of. I don’t remember confusion, but the clarity of Bahasa, Tagalog and beeping bajais. I don’t remember the bad dreams, but the comforting sounds of the call to prayer waking me in the mornings. I don’t remember the smells and tastes of pollution, but of spices, rice, mango trees and calamansi fruit dripping down my chin. I remember shadow puppets and every word of Bayang Magiliw, the sound of gongs and the smiles of locals. I remember my brothers and I swimming with sharks in crystal clear waters on an island later taken by the Abu Sayaf. I remember cockroaches the size of rats and rats the size of cats. I remember monkeys in temples and drinking from coconuts. I remember the heavy, humid air and the comforting, hilarious chaos of streets void of traffic rules. I remember the earthquakes and the candle-lit, black-out nights in typhoons. I remember warm ‘mabuhays’ and coca-cola in a bag. When I think of home, many places come to mind, but Asia will always arrive first.
I will always follow and live my dreams and give priority to adventure, because that’s who you taught me to be. Salamat po and tarima kasi, mom and dad.
Pictured above is the dry riverbed of a lake in Hakatere Conservation Park
Ashburton Gorge, New Zealand
Fuji RH-275 slide film, Canon EOS Rebel