Alone

So be lonely. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.

— Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love)

And so, as of late, I am beginning to understand why the feeling of loneliness seems to be a rather alien concept in Filipino culture. This idea of loneliness could be better described with isolation and disconnected—and is hastily casted as a first world city emotion. And supposedly, the general assumption why this doesn’t thrive rampantly in Filipino society is because of the dominating presence of community and family, and that Filipinos just have other things to worry about. If you dig deeper into the dynamics of inter-personal relations, you might notice a strong, almost urgent, need for attachment. People meet, connect, then connect further, have a follow-through, then their friends connect, their families connect, and they are connected forever. I know this might sound hasty, but such seems to be the general process to produce the quintessential Filipino relationship (platonic, familial, romantic, whatever). Its characteristic is everlasting, rarely ever fleeting.  Be friends with a Filipino; share a really nice moment and agree on a mutual connection—you’re friends forever. You might not regularly maintain this connection, okay, but re-connect at some point and it’ll be as if there was never really a disconnection. The key ingredient here is: attachment.

Here is a culture that doesn’t leave room, space or time for one to be alone—as in, enough to actually feel lonely, in that isolated/disconnected sense of the word. My general observation is, we are culturally predisposed not to sit with this loneliness when it does strike. Besides the omnipresence of the family, to be detached let alone solitary for an extended period of time would be commonly regarded as, well, queer.  Of course, these are all general observations and postulates and do not attempt to represent any particular group, sub-group or the society in its entirety nor disregard the fact that this may actually exist within the same demographic of peoples I refer to.

Our culture of community is often described as tight and interdependent. I say, key characteristic here is: dependence.

I can’t help but wonder, as Filipinos, when are we ever really alone? In this socio-cultural context, what does independence even mean?

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