You are where you live. Probably a provocative thought for people who, for various reasons, uproot themselves from places they call home to settle somewhere else. The title of that article brings to mind an excerpt from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love.
“…every city has a single word that defines it, that identifies most people who live there. If you could read people’s thoughts as they were passing you on the streets of any given place, you would discover that most of then are thinking the same thought. Whatever that majority thought might be – that is the word of the city. And if your personal word does not match the word of the city, then you don’t really belong there.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love)
Born in Cebu City, baptized in Bohol, brought up in Davao, lived the remaining teenage years to adulthood in Metro Manila, I am now back to my roots wondering if I belong here. Relocating to Davao is still a good idea despite the drastic change in lifestyle. Gone were the busy days of juggling work, sports, training, and other commitments that filled my days and nights – leaving a pervading feeling of disorientation from being thrown off course.
Manila was home. Nineteen years is too long a time not to adapt. If truth be told, I feel that I have thrived exceedingly well in that place. The challenges and adversities were no joke, but somehow, I found myself easily sliding into spots where I found ways to excel. Passion. Drive. Intensity. Excellence. These are just some of the words that immediately come to mind when I think about me and the cities I have lived in Manila.
Davao remains a mystery to me though. It is not an edifying thought considering that it is the place where I grew up. But that sense of belonging continues to elude me. I have never been in a place this long and still feel adrift.
So I have decided to find that word. The word that defines this city. In the time I have been back, there has been one theme that hovers around some of the words I have repeatedly heard. Laid back. Relax. Cool. Chill. If the recurring theme is a glimpse to that one word that defines this city, how does it fit someone inherently passionate and intense?
Local historians attributed the source of the word Davao to the mix of words some indigenous groups had for Davao River. If Davao indeed evolved as a word inspired by water, it is beginning to make sense why so many people I have met while living here seem to epitomize laid back, relax, cool, and chill really well.
Finding words that describe cities best can be an interesting exercise. It helps put things in perspective, especially if fitting right in a place does not happen instantly. Because, who knows, maybe at some point in time some of us will have to move to a new place we will have to call home. Not everyone would be lucky to slide straight into that sense of belonging easily. In that case, maybe the best we can hope for is to adapt without letting go of the words that define us most.