March 17th, 2013 · No Comments

At the end of the movie “Beaches”, the main character Richard, played by Leonardo de Carpio delivers his last thought provoking lines: “I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it’s not some place you can look for because it’s not where you go. It is how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something, and if you find that moment… it lasts forever.”

While de Carpio’s acting was forgettable in the movie that bombed at the box office, the quote was memorable.  Right there in that passage is the explanation why Philippine Air Lines never has to worry about us going home. 

But what of us here?!  Are we in paradise?  And for that matter, do we belong? Are we really a part of this great big Land of Oz or do we simply remain in the fringes of society, adrift in limbo, forever displaced?

We have been on the lookout for paradise for as far back as I could understand what adults were talking about.  We all left the Philippines either at our own accord or dragged by our parents to come to Australia believing this is paradise – the land of milk and honey – the better life.  So are we in it?

To belong means to fit in; to be part of something; to contribute to something greater than our selves and more importantly to be accepted.  To belong, we need to share commonalities – language, traditions, values, customs, aspirations and a past binds us together.  As humans, we have the innate drive to connect to something – to a group and to the broader community.  That probably explains why we gravitate towards each other, although some more than others.

The reverse of course results to separation, exclusion and isolation.  We are all familiar with generation gaps, peer group pressure and those with feeble minds and fickle hearts would rather endure and go with the flow rather than suffer the pain of being ostracized by the very groups they belong to.  After all, it has always been clear that the scarlet letter shall hang on the chest of whoever dares to think and defy.

But how can we truly belong if our credentials and qualifications are not even duly recognized? How can we belong when we are half understood and when we half understand? How can we belong when we keep asking only for what’s “ours”?   

Australia is no doubt bending backwards to understand and cater to our differences. But in doing so, we are labeled with acronyms like NESB (Non English Speaking Background), CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities), ESL (English as a Second Language) etc.  We are constantly reminded that we are not the same – and we should be treated differently. 

We on the other hand find it easier to say “yep, we’re different”.  We lap it up and demand for more and more, rather than working towards belonging and assimilation.

 Perhaps, it is some kind of perverse patriotism or a new found fanaticism that drives us to spend every hour in pursuit of what we can get and not what we can give?  Are we trying to bury a strong sense of guilt that we use every ounce of energy we have to let it simmer below the surface, ever afraid to let it boil over?

Some of us have evolved and have learned to embrace both cultures. Some can even stand tall, side by side. But some are stuck in a quandary, while others are still madly scrambling for acceptance and recognition they are so desperately wanting.

We find our niche and then spend most of our waking lives discussing, arguing and at each other’s throats convincing each other of false notions and that it is for the good of us – even when it is not for the good of all – and sometimes it’s not even good at all. It is easier to agree with the wrong and be part of something than be right alone.  Sometimes we wake up to the sadder realization that hey, we don’t even belong to each other!

To add to our confusion is the old adage that forewarns, “He who does not look back to where they’ve come from will never get to their destination.”  But if we are ever to move forward and we keep looking back, we’re bound to smash our faces or heads into something along our paths. After all we weren’t designed with eyes on the back or sides of our heads. 

Oh well, I don’t always belong but at least I know, I’ve been to paradise.


 Oh and by the way, I heard there’s a new kind of cabinet in town – and it does not belong to Ms. Gillard or Mr. Abbott.  It’s the kind of cabinet you’ll want to nail, bolt down, lock and throw away the key!


Tags: Grey Matter