For a total of 15 days, I was away from home. I did travel, quite extensively, during those days. People have accommodated me into their respective residences. I allowed myself to be amazed at the figurative hues and contours of shelters which would comprise a space to be considered as a home. How does space become a home? Is shelter a home too? A house is also home? A Residence, a home? Is a roof over one’s head enough for one to say that s/he has a home?
If our concept of a home is simply defined by what is traditional (read: romanticized) chances are, we will always be broken-hearted by not finding that kind of home. During elementary days, when asked to draw a home, the usual and picture would be that of bahay-kubo sa loob ng bakuran… naroon si tatay, nanay, ate, kuya, lolo, lola… kasama si bantay. Could we still draw off the same nowadays? Home has transformed through time, albeit positively or negatively. That said, it is better to be realistic, and accepting, of a real home that we have right now and right here.
A home in a context of community: In Italy, I found myself residing in a big building inside vast surroundings called the generalate house of sisters who are from different parts of the world. Other than their respective native language (Filipino including), predominantly, those who reside there are speaking either in English or Italian. They claim to be living in the ambiance of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Indeed, I have felt at home not just living with them, the quiet and simplicity of Nazareth could also be witnessed.
A home in an apartment: In Switzerland, I was billeted in an apartment. It was typical of urban living set-up. It has been very common, especially in Western culture, that a young professional tries to live alone in the name of independence and, perhaps, to find one’s worth or capacity. Can someone be at home while being alone? I surmise that it is possible. Creativity is the name of the game. I noticed that my friends who are living in Europe are maximizing what technology could offer – phone calls, SMS, social media, FaceTime, Viber, etc. Thereupon, the family is connected. They could indeed be alone… and lonely?
A home in a church setting. In the Netherlands, I was awed at first sight by the parish rectory where the priest-in-charge resides. It is a huge classy 3-storey structure surrounded by picturesque natural Holland-ish flowers. In a grand and groovy place, there lives a missionary-priest by his lonesome. Assigned to shepherd that particular place is a Filipino-priest named Father Macky Calo, MSP. Unlike back home in the Philippines, an ordinary parish priest has office staff and household personnel, Father Macky is a do-it-all – from opening church’s doors to washing the dishes, from driving here and there to hearing confessions, just anything and all things. Father Macky, told me, “I am fulfilled here. I have learned to love serving the people. When I will be assigned to another mission, I think people will be sad too.” … If that is not home, what is?
A home together with a family: In Vienna (Austria), a family warmly welcomed me into their home. They had not known me before. It was only my priesthood that serves as the ID card that would merit me an instant foster family. Other than the real warmth that I did immediately sense, it was their love for the father, paralyzed for nine years now, of the family that really astounded me. Wife and two children devotedly take turns in looking after an immobile head of the family. The father could no longer manage to utter a word even but communicating is carried on satisfactorily. It has been quite some time that it has been like that. The family is quite tested but love and devotion prove fulfilling. It is home.
All said, where is home actually? How do you turn a space into a home? How do you make a house so homely? In hindsight, home is not only a place where you stay; it is also where you actually are. Making a place a home means you supposedly have a home with or within you then you share it wherever you are. And even if you travel, it is possible that you can always say, “Welcome home.”