Throughout my stay in the Philippines, I have spent time in the “ancestral homes” (communities from which my relatives come from) of my father, mother, and all four grandparents. For me these have been uplifting experiences that bring me closer to understanding of my own Filipino heritage. It has been a culinary, physical, emotional, and spiritual collective journey into the past. I have seen relatives that I have seldom seen and in many cases never seen.
In each community, I have tried local foods, gone to hangout spots, churches, and other places of importance, and in each case, I have found something unique and gratifying in my own ancestral history. In the Visayas region, I discovered a people with a yearning for simplicity, an admiration of living a sustainable life in farming or fishing with a strong desire to be a humble person. In Bicol, I discovered a culture that admires delicacies and specializes in treating friends and family the best. I have lit candles in a centuries’ old Spanish Church in Dumaguete, climbed rocky waterfalls in Bacolod, and gazed at an active volcano in Legazpi. Every experience has felt just right. Each time I go to any of these places, it doesn’t feel like I’m going to a destination, it feels more like I’m forming a state of mind, reuniting with a collective consciousness of the ways of life that have preceded me.
Upon reflection of spending time in the “ancestral homes,” I was quickly reminded of the phrase in the title, “Everything that Rises Must Converge,” a short story by Flannery O’Connor. Flannery O’Connor’s story stems from the Omega Point theory by the French Jesuit, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the idea that we are all working to transcend to a greater, higher state of being with God. O’Connor and Chardin suggest that rising to that Omega Point is a movement forward, but my own journey forward to that Omega Point is slightly different. I have been looking toward the past for a state of transcendence in finding solidarity with those who have gone before me and using that past understanding in my own present as a music researcher. In other words, I am looking backwards so that I can move forward. Throughout my stay, I have worked towards gaining a shred of knowledge in what it means to live and be Filipino through tapping into traditions and spiritualities that have existed for thousands of years and still exist today in some modern incarnation. Through thoughtful reflection, doing new things, and talking to relatives, friends, and even complete strangers, I am working to find that higher state of being, to rise to that place of convergence where the past, present, and future feel much clearer.
Bahala Na (God willing)
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Paul Fontelo '13