When I left the Philippines, I had to leave some pieces of my culture behind – some pieces of myself behind. Everything changed, my family, my home, my plans, my dreams. And until recently, I didn’t realize that it also changed some of my expectations of love.
Like most girls growing up, I wondered what it would be like to be in love. From what I saw, it was sweet, slow, innocent. Culturally, that’s what it commonly was. I had in my head some images of traditional Filipino courtship, of how I imagined my future relationships would be. And then I left. And I had to leave those expectations behind. It wasn’t exactly easy to get used to a different view on relationships, but it wasn’t terribly hard. I didn’t mind it too much. There were a few things that I missed here and there, but none of it really mattered to me.
Until you said, “Mahal kita.”
Words have always meant a lot to me. Not necessarily more than actions, but sometimes they get pretty damn close. And my culture is a huge part of who I am and why I do the things that I do. So it shouldn’t have surprised me how much power those two words had on me, how much weight they had when they rolled off your lips. I’m not sure you understood because I’m not sure I understood either. But I know that during those seconds, I felt like I got a glimpse of the kind of love I’ve always imagined, the kind of romantic love I grew up watching other people have. I didn’t think I would ever get that, and that would have been fine. But you have managed to tell me how you loved me in a way that meant a lot to me in so many different ways. No one has ever said that to me before, and you said it with urgency, with utmost sincerity, in a language that my entire being aches to hear.
That’s just so you, isn’t it? Giving me a piece of you, sprinkled with tiny pieces of things that resemble me, too. And every time I think of that moment, I start to shake. That’s how powerful that moment was for me.
I hope this is making sense. And I wish I could have said this in person, but I don’t do well with expressing how I feel. I’ve been trying to find the words to tell you how much that meant to me, but it’s been weeks and I’m still struggling. So this will have to do.
And of course, mahal din kita.