I cannot even call it home now, this Los Angeles of my mind.
You expand the situs of where you have found yourself, at least temporarily, and you have Gardena in your mind, you have Torrance in your mind.
In a few days, I will leave Los Angeles for the challenge of another place.
It is the same way I left Williamsburg, a colonial city of settlers running away from religious persecution in order to find something new, something called religious freedom.
They looked--the 1607 settlers of Williamsburg--to the lands beyond the seas, the future beyond the present, their dreams the same stuff that makes the dreams of today's im/migrants of America, Filipinos included.
This time around though, the idea of freedom being pursued is far larger in scope than the one sought by the Virginia settlers.
I think of all these from the lens of my being an immigrant of this country, a liminal condition of existence, something that sets you close to that which is possible but something that which reminds you as well that this land has yet to be claimed by you.
So you begin the days of the journey back to where you have found some temporary home in the heart: to the Gardena of your settling months in 2003.
And then to the Torrance of your early im/migrant years, the Torrance of tears and terrors, the Torrance of sweet surprises and sweet sorrows, the Torrance of your being a part-time writer, fictionist, researcher, teacher, and even a government man.
You hit it home, man. And you prayed a lot. A lot.
You begin the trip back in Williamsburg at the Transportation Center down on Lafayette, close to that Colonial Williamsburg where a president of the new nation being imagined and founded in the mind was to get his 'tavern drink' that eventually became his favorite.
The accounts say George Washington thought that the arak in the tavern was good for the nationalist heart, for the soul that imagined a new country to be founded on political imagination and religious dreams.
You remember that afternoon walk on a Friday that you wrapped up your work with a government agency and there, in the heat of the summer sun, with the military parade giving you some kind of a hard lesson in history, you are transported back to Vigan of old, to Laoag of old minus the monstrous new buildings that cannot offer you anything enlightening about your country's historical past.
You wait for the Carolinas, the coach (read: the bus; read, the bus in these parts is called coach and not bus, remember this) that would bring you to Richmond less than a hundred miles away and from there get a Greyhound that would bring you to Dallas about a thousand miles away.
Such is the fate of the alien--the immigrant who wants to see something everybody calls 'country', the heart of America, the heart of the American people that know still because they know where they come from and where they are going.
Sadly, on the road, you see and you see well: that not all Americans have this consciousness of what is it to be an American.
But this is not the lot of this nation only; it is the same story we have back there in the home country where politics and religion mix so well and then the brew gets to be mixed with the economics of opportunism and avarice and greed.
That, to me, is the most perfect concoction to perpetuate the same story of social injustice we have known for so long as a people prior to our settling over to the Americas.
The proof is not in the icing; being an immigrant of another land is itself a testament to this long road to freedom, like these four days that I had to put in to be able to go back to Torrance, to the Torrance of my thoughts on how to love a land that seemed to have forgotten how to love its people.
A. S. Agcaoili
July 1, 2006