Pakil, Through the Eyes of a Balikbayan

Note: This was written by the author for a newsletter (?) back in 2001.

Pakil, Laguna is a small provincial town, in a small corner of the Philippines, which is a small island in a small corner of the world. The town is so small, quiet, and unobtrusive that it’d really be quite easy to miss if you’re just passing by on the highway. But to miss Pakil is to miss out on a gem. Besides being the very inspiration for the creation of Pakil East and the former home for so many of us, Pakil is the quintessential Philippine province. From its narrow streets, beautiful antique houses, its ancient church, and up to its lively plaza, Pakil exudes a sense of timelessness and grace. Even as houses change, children grow and people come and go, the small hometown essence of Pakil still remains the same.

Life in Pakil flows down to a trickle. You’ll immediately notice the absence of such modern day distractions like malls, arcades, and nightclubs there but Pakil’s strong point has never been in its ability to entertain the masses. Its beauty and charm comes from its ability to teach you to appreciate the basic things in life. Without distractions, everything seems so fresh and so new to your eyes and without distractions, life never seems to get stale or boring. Laughing with friends, eating a good meal, seeing a beautiful girl, or listening to a funny story never seemed to get old on me. Be simple at heart and learn to appreciate life’s simple pleasures and I assure you that Pakil won’t disappoint you in any way.

But even more important than earthly matters, there exists in Pakil a strong spirituality. The Turumba, the sermon at Mt. Ping-as, Holy Week are but a few examples of this guiding spirit. Faith is a lesson that’s taught very well in Pakil and even though I admit that I’m not the best Christian in the world, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of admiration and wonder at the love, faith, and hope that the townspeople have in God and in heaven. During a sermon on the peak of Mt. Pingas, I vividly recall the priest pointing out to the overhanging clouds overhead and saying how close heaven seemed to us as if we could just reach out with our hands and touch it. In Pakil, amidst the faithful, atop the mountain and with loved ones, I too believed.

I don’t think words can do Pakil enough justice. Visiting Pakil and the Philippines have been such enlightening experiences for me and I can’t stress enough how grateful I am for being given the chance to visit. I’m not going to kid you and tell you that everything is fine and well there. Life is hard, corruption and crime are rampant, and a lot of people are suffering but amidst the pain and chaos are people that we love. Even throughout the darkness they still shine through and now I finally understand why so many Filipinos voluntarily leave everything behind to work in a foreign country just so they can earn money to send to their families. Pakil and the Philippines taught me love, sacrifice, dedication, and commitment and its inspired me to become a better person up to this day. It’s a lesson that I will keep in my heart and will never ever forget.

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