Out of Place

By in

   I live in – and for all intents and purposes, I love – Baguio City.  I was born here, I was raised here, and if anything, I would prefer to die here.  I wouldn’t have problems in the afterlife if I am to be interred in the crowded necropolis that is the Baguio City Cemetery.  My love for Baguio has been a 22-year love affair: ever since I was born, I knew of no other place where I should live.

   I live near Brentwood Village, a place I sometimes refer to as “Little Seoul.”  Pardon the pun, but it is one Seoul-ful place, where Koreans have settled with their questionable residency certificates and business permits to operate English language centers.  Anyone fresh off college and looks for work would be hard-pressed not to find an ESL center at Brentwood, teaching a foreign language to foreigners.  It is the irony of it all.

   I’m not a “nationalist:” if anything, I share the same conundrum the Mahatma himself, Mohandas Gandhi, faced when he returned to India: he had to speak English instead of Hindustani.  At least I don’t have to suffer the nationalistic indemnity and damnation of having to speak a few words of Korean in order to “properly” communicate myself.  But I’ve learned a few bits and pieces of Hanggul: to know that a given place is either a church, an Internet café, or a bar and restaurant.

   There’s a bulletin board at Porta Vaga that’s the exclusive domain of Koreans: signs written in Hanggul advertising heaven-knows-what: prayer meetings, boarding houses, business opportunities.  I don’t know, and I wouldn’t know until someone is patient enough to teach me the language.  Not to be ethnocentric (the anthropologist’s mortal sin), but somehow I find myself irritated at the Korean invasion.  I feel an invasion of my space.

   There is, was, and forever will be an aversion to the invasion of space: whether it is personal space, interpersonal space, or social space.  Lately, America has been debating over the issue of outer space, even.  Wearing my hat as a passing “social scientist,” I think that everything from global policies to personal identities are built on space: without spaces situating these concepts, we effectively become voided and empty.

   And so perhaps I couldn’t be blamed for having a negative impression against Korean migrants in general.  Surely, there are a lot of kind-hearted and considerate Koreans out there, but the thing is, I’d rather have my space – and my identity – back where it belongs.

21 comments on “Out of Place”

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