In 1959, Rod Serling introduced the world to his brand new, seminal sci-fi anthology series, The Twilight Zone. The first episode, entitled “Where is Everybody?” depicted an astronaut stuck in an old familiar town, seemingly devoid of human contact. I bring this up in my post-Philippines chapter because adjusting to America has become its own Twilight Zone episode. I have ventured into a realm where the familiar has spun on its head.
In Manila, I had grown accustomed to hearing the non-stop hustle and bustle of traffic, yelling on the street, and roosters crowing. Now back in America, I hardly hear anything. I was surprised when for the first time in a long time; I did not hear the sounds of karaoke or fireworks going off at 2 in the morning. While visiting the National Mall in Washington D.C., I was made uneasy when seeing the monuments dedicated to American founding fathers rather than the monuments of the Filipino founding fathers. The national narrative has changed as well. While Filipinos are content with displaying their heroes as martyrs for freedom, Americans depict their heroes as victors. For Filipinos it is sacrifice that defines the national consciousness, not victory. It is subtle changes like this that let me know that I am in a different place, a new dimension of sorts.
When going out in public, I still need to get a grip over how so few people there are. I was used to travelling in subway cars with sixty other people and small jeeps with nearly twenty people. My mind is still in the Philippines and alarmed at how different the way of life is in America. And yet through all of this, I remember that America is my home, where I was born and where I have grown. The Philippines is my ancestral home, where I was born before I was born, the source of my heritage, culture, and identity, my life before it became life. I have become the astronaut in “Where is Everybody?” lost in an old familiar world that seems deserted. I am finding my way between two homes, over 8000 miles apart. This tale of repatriation seems as though it can only find its place in the Twilight Zone.
Paul Fontelo '13