The four walls of our family houses have always been home to us. It is where we eat, sleep, do homework, learn our first words, and form our most valuable bonds. For a lot of people, leaving the confines of these four walls is unthinkable simply because the doors of their home have always been open to welcome them. Some of us, however, have begun to think of building a life outside the nest.
The Filipino culture is very welcoming of the idea of a whole family tree living under one roof. Generations upon generations populate each story of the Filipino house because parents are fond of reminding their children that no matter how old they are, no matter what condition they are in, they will always be welcome to their family home.
Still, the allure of a life outside of the nest attracts and persuades many people of this generation. For Dustine, Leanne, and Matt, that allure has them hook, line, and sinker.
I think I can
For Dustine Gavino (III, OCM), the decision to move out and live independently from her family came with her decision to sacrifice the traffic that she had been experiencing in exchange for good academic performance.
“I want to be in [the] dean’s list, and going home every day could make my grades low,” Dustine shares. “I also want to focus on my thesis, rather than focusing on the traffic that I encounter every time I go home.”
“I am already an adult,” as Dustine would convince her mom who was unsure of her choice at first. Dustine was firm in her belief that she can do it, but her mom worried that she might need the family one day. Eventually, Dustine’s confidence in her own independence persuaded her mom to let her live on her own. Still, her mom visits every Thursday while Dustine would try and find time to come home to them whenever she’s not pre-occupied.
Living alone can be a bit jarring for the first few days. Coming from a home where there is always food ready to be eaten at the table, Dustine had to adjust to having to prepare or buy her own meals, sometimes not even realizing that she no longer has food in her place. Even if she had to get used to not seeing her family everyday, it slowly became a perk for her to not have watchful eyes scout her every move. “Your parents can’t see you and what you’re doing.”
When asked about the practice of a child living with her parents for a long time here in the Philippines, Dustine replies, “All in all, it’s okay lang naman to do either. Live alone or with your family.”
No longer a child
At the age of 16, Leanne Johnson (III, PSM) told her parents that she wanted to go to college and live apart from them. “They had other plans for me,” she explains and adds that her family was not too happy with her decision. “I wanted to [live independently and go to college] for the sake of my future.” However, upon understanding the rationale behind her decision, her family supported her and sent her off with well wishes.
While living with the family can be a source of comfort for some, it can feel in some ways suffocating for others.
“Honestly, I just wanted to have my own space,” explains Leanne when asked why she wanted to leave her family home. “I didn’t like the idea of my views being constantly criticized by others, and I felt like I wasn’t given the opportunity to learn the skills of being independent.”
With all the freedom having your own space entails, however, comes a lingering feeling of homesickness. Leanne shares that although she has made attempts to replicate the home cooked meals she’d once eaten with her family, “You can’t help but notice that it doesn’t taste the same.”
Something is fundamentally missing from the recipe, and that is the constant presence of loved ones to share the meal with her.
As much as Leanne misses her family, she does feel as though there had been some distance between them since she moved out. She doesn’t, however, consider her leaving as the catalyst for this divide.
“I think even if I wasn’t away from them, distance would still be present as I am getting older,” she says. “I am no longer the innocent child, constantly relying on my parents for knowledge, which I feel was hard for them to accept.”
Home away from home
As someone whose immediate family had migrated to a different continent, Matt Panganiban (II, BSA) spent the first year of his college life in the Philippines under his aunt’s roof. With this came the added strain of also living with his three cousins. Matt shares that, back at his aunt’s home, “It was really hard for me to focus on my studies whenever I got home, because there were lots of things going on around me,” as would be expected from the number of people he’d shared the house with. This is what ultimately motivated him to live alone.
To Matt, living alone means two things: privacy and personal space. “I get to do whatever I want, whenever I want,” he adds. “I had no curfew to follow and I was kind of in charge for my own self.” This level of independence was one that he couldn’t quite reach while still living with his family, yet one that living on his own has allowed him to attain.
Whenever he tells others about his current living situation, Matt shares, “They always say the same thing. ‘Ang tapang mo. Buti nakakaya mo.”(You’re brave. Good thing you can handle it.) In his opinion, however, he does not feel as though it is all that daunting to live alone.
“It’s not as lonely as one might think. It’s honestly fun and exciting to live alone, and it kind of prepares you for the real world,” Matt muses, obviously content with his decision to live on his own.
For whatever reason a person chooses to live apart from the home they’d grown up in, it is important to remember that it is a choice—and this choice must entirely be their own. There is no shame in staying close to your roots, nor is it a requisite to pave your way in life without the presence and aid of family. Ultimately, home is wherever you choose to find it in, and once you do manage to arrive at the place you are to call home, a sense of independence and individuality is sure to follow.