Out of Place
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.