Before anything else, allow me to congratulate you on your recent graduation. I wish to congratulate you not only for your academic achievements but for growing up to be a truly wonderful daughter to mom and dad, sister to me, and friend to your peers. Teachers have always spoken highly of you, and I am very proud of that.
I write this letter as a symbol of welcoming you home and as a symbol of beginnings. For someone who spent over 15 years of her life abroad, coming home to the Philippines may seem frightening and unfamiliar. However, also prepare for the feeling excitement to flow through your veins as well.
Manila is a gritty and fast-paced city (despite the traffic). While being alert for fast approaching vehicles, don’t fail to appreciate the sights and sounds that the city has to offer. Binondo, Escolta, and Intramuros are home to rich architecture and landmarks that are worth visiting. Bringing a camera may be tempting, but I advise you to stick to the camera on your smart phone.
The duo you should always have is your coin purse and handkerchief. Always carry a coin purse and keep it filled up close to the brim. You never know when spare change will come in handy. The scorching Manila heat is an enemy in the metropolis, but a true ally in the beaches.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Learn the numerous methods to getting to one place. Whether it’s via train, bus, jeepney, taxi, tricycle or walking, you’ll get to a place one way or another. When commuting, I will not hold it against you if you are visited by the urge to swear and curse at the traffic. My advice, use the duration of the commute to study, reflect, and maybe even think about significant decisions to be made. You’ll have more than enough time. A well-thought playlist will always be helpful in the situation, but please do not take these as reasons to let your guard down. Be vigilant and on alert for your belongings, but most of all for your safety. This is, unfortunately, still a challenge we all have to face daily.
Learn. Most importantly, understand the national anthem (Lupang Hinirang), pledge of allegiance to the Philippine flag (Panunumpa ng Katapatan sa Watawat ng Pilipinas), and the Patriotic Oath (Panatang Makabayan). These are definite and passionate guidelines which embody a Filipino’s duties for his/her nation and people. Read and engage yourself and your thoughts in national issues. Stand by your principles and beliefs for the greater good of everyone. This will be truly challenging, but never lose faith in our motherland. The Philippines is filled with a potential that is yet to be unlocked. Always be a catalyst of change.
I’d happily accompany you to our historical museums and monuments around the metropolis. The significance of the stories that they possess are timeless. Through them, you will learn more about your roots, your identity, and your place as a member of the global community. Remember, history is the way to the future.
Being a student in Manila is going to be a very memorable stage in your life. It’s a city that will adapt to how happy, sad, angry, or in love you are. Like any living city, the cultivation of art, music, and film is a truly wonderful sight and sound.
Visit the Metropolitan Museum along Roxas Boulevard, the Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo, and the BenCab Museum in Benguet for your art fix. Filipino artists have always been innovative, vibrant, and daring in their expressions and mediums. Expect the unexpected.
As for your musical journey, try to start in the 1970s where the “Manila” sound was born with Hotdog and listen to our original Pilipino music (OPM) evolve into the modern sound you hear from bands like Up Dharma Down, Sandwich, Franco, and Brisom. I advise you not to get into the hype of whether music is better in the mainstream or indie scene. Good music will always be good music, period. Film has always been one form of expression that Filipinos will always love and cherish. For many, it does not only engage the sight and hearing but also the mind and heart. Filipino film is a fair source of stories that are either too taboo to be talked about or too secret for anyone to even be aware of. Make sure you catch Cinemalaya and the Metro Manila Film Fest to fully understand and then appreciate the spectrum of films that Filipinos have to offer. Abundant and diverse will suffice as simple descriptions for now.
Be who you are
Finally, I want you to learn in school, and not just study. Don’t make the mistake of taking your lessons for granted. Take into account all the teachings and advice that your professors have to offer, for they will help mould your vision of your career and dreams. I assure you that everything you learn will not only be helpful within the campus, but also when you leave.
It’ll be quite a ride from here on out, but remember that being who you are will complete the cycle of who you’re supposed to be. Welcome home. – Rappler.com
Mark Anthony M. Dela Vega dreams of becoming a justice-driven vigilante, but due to lack of funds he has opted to serve his nation as a public servant at the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs. His sister is currently awaiting results of her entrance exams from two universities.