I was finally able to fly out of the Incheon International Airport while the temperature was about -6'C. Everyone seated at the pre-departure of Gate 127 that night was eager to board the plane and be flown out to the warmer and more festive atmosphere of Manila.
(Chestnuts always remind me
Every December, I fly out of Seoul to spend my Christmas holidays here at home in the Philippines, where the celebration is just on a different level.
Here, the Christmas carols sound more joyful, the parties are more fun, the gift-giving more exciting, and the holiday dishes taste more yummy! And all these are more memorable when enjoyed with family and friends.
And as I was seated by the window on that late-night flight, I was sure I wasn't the only one in the plane thinking about the get-togethers and family reunions during the holidays.
I was already thinking of the Filipino food I need to savor. Once again, I'd be able to taste the flavors, smell the aroma and most of all, relive the memories of enjoying these delicacies and dishes from home.
(Brownies from the mall!)
And days before Christmas, as most families, we usually head off to supermarkets and fruit stalls to make sure we have our traditional fare on our noche buena table. Aside from chestnuts, the taste of apples, grapes and oranges are in the memories of my palate since I was a kid. (And fortunately, these were all available at cheap prices at my neighborhood fruit market in Seoul!)
(Lechon is a roasted pig, which is a staple during
big family occasions in the Philippines.)
(Our local parish church is adorned)
But why do I come home?
Christmas and its celebration, with all the food, fireworks and fun, are secondary to why I do. The shopping, the dining and traveling around the places and neighborhoods that I miss are also secondary. Although the homecoming ceremony of packing my suitcase and rushing to the airport may be exciting, the long journey I always take from Seoul to this place feels like a routine that I have already perfected all these years.
And as I write this piece on this house where I grew up, around the people who have influenced me, I feel happy, safe and at peace.
My journey always feels complete when I reach the top of the stairs that lead to the door that has welcomed and bidden me all this time, and into my family.
This is why I come home.
I belong to this place. I am home.