Words by Athena Abadilla
Images Courtesy of Athena Abadilla
Editor’s note: For our Issue 6 contest, we asked readers to submit written stories and poems on how culture significantly impacted their lives. Athena Abadilla of Kauai (who is our honorary mention) tells us of her travels from Hawaii to the Philippines and how a single family visit caused a shift in her cultural perspective.
Athena (right) pictured alongside her sister and grandpa from a 2010 family trip.
Upon boarding Philippine Airlines flight 107 to Manila, I could not even imagine what I was about to encounter. I’d had envisioned a trip to my parents’ birthplace as being full of awkward family get-togethers, underdeveloped living areas, and constant usage of the Ilokano language – which I had not yet come to understand. I thought I’d be lost in an unfamiliar world, longing to return home.
However, my time spent traveling between Cebu, Manila, and Ilocos changed not only my view of the Philippines, but also my view of the world and myself. A family vacation turned into a genuine learning experience. Immersed in the simplicity and strength of the culture, I came out with important lessons that have become an integral part of who I am. This is my heritage – an ongoing legacy that will be continued throughout my future.
First and foremost, I learned to cherish the life that was given to me. Although a little cliché, these few words of instruction became more real to me as I began to assimilate to the Filipino lifestyle. The humble houses with thatched roofs and scarce running water made my small house in Hawaii seem like a mansion. Up until then, I was not aware of the severity of life in a third-world country. This experience led me to be increasingly grateful for my life – shortcomings and all.
Additionally, it amplified my empathy towards those who live differently than I do. The open mind that I had gained from visiting the Philippines has allowed me to reason more clearly and efficiently in a variety of circumstances. I’m no longer fazed by external differences.
Like the Filipino children content with playing tag in the streets of the lowly barangay, I approach every challenge with an optimistic spirit and an undistracted mind. I’m now able to view complex situations from a range of perspectives and am always ready to try new solutions in order to succeed. My experience with the people and their way of life truly enriched my way of thinking
Lastly, I learned a better respect for the hardwork of my parents – and, along with that, a newfound determination to achieve. Seeing the rubble that was left of my mom’s house in the town of Dingras was inspiring. It was a true testament to the fact that perseverance leads to an exceptional outcome. In the end, I departed the town with an appreciative mind, enthusiastic spirit, and tenacious disposition. The Philippines, particularly the province of Ilocos Norte, is not only a location to me. It is the origin of the culture that I’m proud to call my own. It is where I’ve found my better self.
Embracing my Filipino heritage in every instance furnishes me with tools to better chart my future. Therefore, I do not wish to change the world; for I believe it is the uniqueness of each particular location and culture that makes life an educational endeavor. Each place holds its own lessons. Consequently, my goal is simply this: to inspire others to stimulate their minds with what the world has to offer. Not only does the Filipino culture reside in the Philippines, but it also lives within me. It is something I am honored to carry, cultivate, and share. My culture is the root of my existence, the flame that burns inside of me, and the wings that allow me to rise to my fullest potential.
About Athena: Athena is an incoming senior at Waimea High School on the island of Kauai. She is the class president and loves to write, watch movies, travel, scroll through Instagram and hang out with friends. After high school, she plans to move to the mainland for college, where she wants to major in English and Education. She is inspired by the various cultures in Hawaii and is blessed to call this beautiful paradise her home.