LOLA GOT'S LUTONG BAHAY IN AMERICA: Chapter 12: First World mindsets and self-driving cars. by Margot Marfori

NEVADA (MindaNews/10 November) — Following the last chapter written about how general perceptions on reading a book seems to be influenced by location; and, after feeling settled in on life here in America again, the sense of my foreign-ness in this country of my children’s future, has slightly diminished my longing for my birthplace, Davao City. This doesn’t mean though, that I no longer sometimes wish I was back there, but my thoughts now follow from less than a discomfited sense of geography. Rather, it wanders toward imagining what could be happening back ‘home’ in times of regular family rituals, or on holidays when there is usually some special event planned for a family get-together.

Like when my father’s death anniversary came last October. I wondered if there were fresh flowers and new candles put inside the family mausoleum in the park. If our eldest brother still led the office personnel in a short thankful prayer, and then a quick merienda afterwards. If they held a small reunion with my brothers and sister with their children and wives, maybe? My mother and her best friend, Mrs. Jamora? I imagined the bam-i cooked by Alita, the bibingka cassava, barbecued pork skewered in bamboo sticks, even the banana leaves that would be used to serve the pancit in the bila-o.

Then, comes November, All Souls Day and All Saints Day. Here, Halloween is just over with: trick or treating, candies and costumes. In Davao, tents will be going up in the cemeteries and the necessary tools for the Todos los Santos vigils will be put together. Much like Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos, we celebrate and honor those who’ve passed over. Our religious personas take a step backward for the national holiday that it has become. Mass will still be heard and prayers still said, but after all the ceremony, it is, in truth an excuse to stop everything and simply be with family.

Sometimes I wonder what my grandson is doing on a Sunday, or what shows he may be watching at certain times of day. Will he have gone home already from school, or has  he forgotten his glasses in the classroom again. (Murag buang gani…)

They say that you have to let go of the past to move forward. My everyday friend tells me that I have to make my own history here, now. Should I really think of my life in Davao as ‘past’ when there are still very strong ties that bind me there? How can one really let go when all my fifty-four years of living has been rooted in the same place. How indeed.

This is where I segue, for a moment, into the self-driving car that was recently announced by Google. In all my years of hoping that some kind of technology must be invented so that some of us, who have no desire to learn to drive, may still experience the independence and privacy of bringing ourselves where we want without bothering others. Here, I thought was the perfect innovation. How wonderful that all you had to do was input the place you’ll be going to and it does it all for you. Stop signs and crossroads, even traffic lights on the way to wherever you’re going is already taken cared of. It had the sensors to know when to stop, even on sudden or unexpected situations that someone like me would only panic over. The perfect opportunity to be on my own, at last, and have people stop nagging me to learn to drive. Because here in America, knowing how to drive is like an extension of one’s standard functions. Some are shocked when they find out I do not drive. Whaat! Really!? How’d that happen? (Sa ato pa….Aws! Tinuod ka?)

Okay, fine, so how does the self-driving car even relate to the thoughts that ask us to remember times when we were in Davao? The self-driving car would enable me to push forward, I thought, and conquer that hurdle of ‘learning to drive’ and, at last, really be part of the common  American experience. But, as I read and watched further on, towards the end of the announcement on the thing, the news anchor mentions that the person controlling the vehicle would still need to know how to drive, even if the car does it for him. That means still having to get a driver’s license. Ngek, ngek, ngek!

I realize now, after the disappointment of the self-driving car (and knowing that I wouldn’t be able to afford it anyway) that the fear of having to do something I never had to do before, in my ‘past’ life has also transported itself here in my new life in America. Conquering these fears do not have geographical limits either, it seems. They come with us wherever we go, and does not dissipate as we hope they will. They remain as alive as when we were in our country of origin, and rears it’s head out when we think they’ve actually gone.

But, I find too, that our fears keep us in our places. They remind us to keep our feet on the ground, and to never forget where we came from. Especially when we have to go farther than anticipated. And, just when I think I’ve acquired a smidgen of the first world mindset, like the self-driving car, the reality of familiar fears come back. It brings me back too, to where I still belong.  Love it or leave it. Seriously though, “Ilustrado” by Miguel Syjuco is an exceptionally good read. (Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’ effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their experiences in their adopted countries. Dabawenya Margot Marfori is a writer and visual artist who continues to live the Davao she loves. She taught at the University of the Philippines in Mindanao from 1996 to 2002. She is now based more times of the year in Henderson, Nevada, while her youngest son is studying at UNLV, and, where her two older children in San Francisco are near enough to visit).