This creative piece is a work of fiction, based on experiences faced by individuals of Filipino culture and heritage within my own circle of family and friends.
I dedicate this piece to my loved ones — they gave this story its heart.
Creating doodles on the walls
Is the earliest memory of mine
In a small house in the Philippines where my family lived,
Where I thought everything was fine
As I drew line, after line, after line.
My name is Rose, and this is my story,
Of leaving everything I once knew
To chase a dream for a better future
For myself and the goals that I held dear.
At the time, nothing else felt so clear.
My early childhood was spent in Cebu City,
Where I helped my mother cook food on the sides of bustling streets,
And sold it to strangers who knew nothing about me.
I would cook, and cook, and cook,
The heavenly smell of meat inviting passersby to look.
They would look at the small shop that we had set up for the day,
On a hot and humid morning, the sun warming our skin.
We had to make enough pesos before the sun set,
To feed my five younger siblings and put food on the table.
From a young age, I worked hard—I knew I was capable.
When I was ten, my cousins moved to Canada.
From time to time, my family would give them a call,
To learn about their adventures, their grievances, their woes.
“Life is better here, but money is tough,” my aunt would say.
“Regardless, you are welcome here with us, here you can stay.”
Since then, a hunger in my soul ignited and began to grow.
I believed that if I studied hard and ranked at the top of my class,
A world of opportunities would show.
Dreams of a distant land began filling my mind,
A place where I could build my own family, new treasures to find.
I was the first of my siblings that decided to move.
And so, when I turned sixteen, I was ready to take flight.
To live in Canada with my cousins, to continue my studies there, to start anew.
I was ready to learn and begin a new chapter in my life,
Despite the thought of leaving my family hurting like a scorching knife.
“Are you sure you will be okay?” my mother asked,
As she held my face in one hand, and wiped her tears with the other.
“I have such a strong feeling,” I said proudly,
“That in Canada, I will find the path that is meant for me.”
I kept longing for that distant land, longing for the sights that I would see.
I held onto those thoughts as I boarded my flight and began my journey,
I was so hopeful, full of happiness and purpose,
Filled with excitement, but I was also nervous.
Despite all my confidence just a few moments ago,
My stomach was doing somersaults, but nobody else had to know.
When I arrived in Canada, in a city called Toronto,
I was in awe of it all—people that looked vastly different from me,
People of all heights and colours, different languages I could hear,
My eyes scanned through the crowd of people, some holding up a sign,
Until finally, I spotted them, a sign held high with a name—it was mine.
My cousins greeted me warmly, my aunt and uncle by their side.
“Welcome to Canada!” they called out in unison, with the biggest smiles.
At that moment, I felt so completely happy, my heart so full.
I couldn’t help but laugh at the newness of it all, with a grin on my face,
I thought about this land that I had always thought was such a faraway place.
We stepped out of that airport, and I breathed the crisp December air.
I had completely underestimated the cold, I was fully aware.
“So this is what snow is,” I whispered as I looked to the sky,
Little white crystals were dancing, twirling before my eyes.
Finally arriving in Canada, the coldness took me by surprise.
On the drive back to my cousins’ home,
My face was glued to the window, as it all looked so magical,
A fairytale land with huge roads and snow piles everywhere!
For those forty-five minutes, I simply continued to stare,
At all the sceneries and buildings, oh, the future stories I would share!
And yet… after a few days had gone by, the silence was deafening,
Out of all the things that I missed, I missed the chaos most,
The loudness of a house brimming with so much love and joy,
The presence of my siblings, playing, fighting, screaming,
Their voices and personalities always kept my heart beaming.
I learned that in Canada, it isn’t all a fantasy
Money is tough as an immigrant, is this where I truly wanted to be?
I spent my first few nights crying my heart out.
For the expectations that I had, for being so small-minded,
And it was on my seventh night that I finally decided.
I decided that this would mark a new beginning once and for all,
That I wouldn’t cower in fear at the vastness of this land,
That I would find my own path, regardless of where I currently stand,
That I would discover my calling, even if the road ahead turned rough,
And I prayed to God that my determination would be enough.
And so, shortly after the beginning of a new year,
I found myself in high school as the “new girl” in eleventh grade.
I would sit alone during lunch time and breaks.
Everyone seemed to have their own group of friends,
They all seemed comfortable and happy, following the latest trends.
Sometimes, I would eat with a random group of people during lunch,
To create an illusion that I had friends, it was a fleeting hunch.
But even then, they would question my traditional Filipino food,
“Why does it smell like that?” and “What’s in that?”
Questions that smothered my pride on the seat where I sat.
I started hiding my food and refusing to eat it,
I refused to be made fun of, the sadness like an endless pit.
Why couldn’t I just eat normal sandwiches and be done with it?
Then thoughts of my aunt and uncle would flood my mind,
They graciously packed me this food, and I had to stay kind.
There were times when I looked in the mirror and hated what I saw,
And then there was my accent, that made others smile in pity,
This made my anger simmer under the surface — so strong and raw.
Some days, I couldn’t stop my thoughts from spiraling,
“You’re not good enough,” thoughts like these kept cycling.
At school, it felt like no one was really by my side.
For a while, all I wanted to do was fit in.
I tried so hard to change myself,
That I lost the person I was from within.
No matter how hard I tried, it seemed, I could never win.
After months of self-reflection, I redirected my efforts
Into my studies and working hard,
Instead of trying to change who I was.
I excelled in my classes and got straight As,
That is how I spent the rest of my high school days.
University was a game-changer for me, I met so many new faces,
From so many cultures, and they all came from different places.
I would no longer back down and hide my true personality,
I refused to go back and change who I was for the sake of fitting in,
After years of trying, I realized that happiness came from within.
At university, I thrived and grew beyond what I could ever imagine.
My lonely high school days seemed like a short feverish dream,
All of it turned to dust and blown away by the winds,
As the years swept by, I rebuilt what I had lost — my self-esteem.
I would never go back to my past self, I would push my limits to the extreme.
I made new lifelong friends who supported me through everything,
Late nights spent studying and early mornings drinking coffee.
I finally felt like this is where I always wanted to be.
For once, alongside my friends, I felt free,
Free to be myself, while I worked hard for my degree.
Every day, memories of my family entered my thoughts.
I missed my mother’s warm hugs, my father’s stories abroad,
The sound of my brothers’ and sisters’ laughs,
I continued to work hard for them, to create my own home here,
A place where they would be welcome, with only happiness and no fear.
This tale brings me to the present, where things are still uncertain,
I graduated from university with so many life lessons learned,
Yet I still have so many dreams to accomplish, achievements still unearned,
But my dear reader, let me share some words with you before we depart,
For you, your own adventure is just beginning to start.
You have a voice capable of moving mountains,
If you so dared to speak,
To tell others your story,
Share your struggles, moments where you felt weak,
And times when things felt utterly bleak.
Narrate the turning points in your life,
Critical decisions that made you pause in your tracks,
To step back and analyze your choices and their impacts,
For it’s during your darkest and most uncertain moments
That will drive you to change, it’s part of life, the essential components.
Your story will teach others about things unknown to them before.
Your words could be the remaining puzzle piece that they seek,
It will be part of their guide when navigating the world, completely unique.
So, dear reader, I encourage you to share it,
I can guarantee that the world would surely benefit.
Leave your mark and be proud of how far you have come,
Take pride in your culture, wherever you are from.
The world is a better place with you in it,
You have the power to make a difference, to create an empire of glory.
So, dear reader, go on and share your story.