top of page

Places We Like to Go Back to

We all have a place that we would like to go back to. Oftentimes, it’s a place that has impacted our lives in a significant way. It can be our ancestral home, a school, a church, a retreat house or even a garden. The point is when we visit or go back to these places, we remember the significant human experiences that have influenced our lives, usually for the better. It’s like watching a movie and we are the actors. Just like a movie with a good ending, we always come out feeling energized, refreshed, and fulfilled.

In the movie, Love Is a Many splendored Thing, actress Jennifer Jones, upon learning that her boyfriend, played by William Holden, died in a Japanese air raid, spent precious hours by herself under the tree they used to frequent as lovers. Here, she gathered her strength as she grieved and put the death of her boyfriend in proper perspective.

In Jones’ experience, the tree gave her a sense of continuity in her relationship with Holden. The tree did not only remind her of their relationship, but it relived the precious moments in their lives that gave her a sense of contentment now that Holden was gone.

Singer and composer Gary Granada wrote a song that defines childhood, love, marriage, and family. The title of the song is Punong Mangga and Granada beautifully described the importance that a mango tree played in the lives of two young people who ended as lovers:

Sa ibaba ng gulod, sa itaas ng ilog may puno ng mangga. Tayo’y naglalaro ng sungka at piko noong tayo’y bata pa. Hanggang sa tumanda, ako’y nagbinata at ika’y nagdalaga. At doon pagsinta sa isa’t-isa ay unang nadama.

Saksi pa ang buwan ng maging tagpuan ang puno ng mangga. Dooy natutuhan nating pagsaluhan ang lungkot at saya. At nangarap ako na iregalo sa iyo sa kasal nating dalawa. Isang dampa sa gulod, isang bangka sa ilog at isang punong mangga.

If I were the one described in the song, wouldn’t it make sense for me to visit this mango tree occasionally to reflect on my childhood, the excitement of falling in love for the first time and dreaming of having a family with the woman I loved?

But there is more to just visiting the mango tree and perhaps reminiscing about what happened years ago. As Laura Jobson, senior lecturer in Clinical Psychology, Monash University, wrote in 2019, “Our memories provide examples of similar situations we’ve been in before. This allows us to reflect on how we managed that emotion before and what we can learn from that experience.”

So, we all have a favorite place to visit because of what this place has done to us or because a place is associated with people who have made our life worth living.

For Granada, it’s a mango tree. For Jones, it was an ordinary tree on top of a mountain somewhere in China.

For me, home is still my favorite place to go back to because of the love and comfort that I can never find anywhere else. Home for me is more than the physical structure. Home is where values are respected, and personal bonds are formed.

As an Albanian proverb puts it: “The sun at home warms better than the sun elsewhere.”

So, the question is simple enough. What about you? What is the place that you want to go back to that helps you regain your bearing? What is the place that you want to go back to that helps you energize yourself? What is the place that you want to go back to that makes you realize that life is beautiful?

I had a friend who did not find it difficult to answer these questions at all. Although he was from New York, Bikol was the place he had always wanted to go back to when he was still alive, teaching at the Ateneo de Manila. For those who did not know him, we, his students, fondly called him O’B, a moniker for Fr. James O’Brien, SJ.

It was while teaching at the Ateneo de Naga for many years that his love for Bikol flourished. He learned the dialect, studied the Bikol culture and values through integration and assimilation, sang Bikol songs, delivered his homily in Bikol, and pioneered the teaching of Bikol History and Culture, using research materials that he had asked his students to write. He named the first Ateneo de Naga High School literary magazine, Maogmang Lugar, obviously referring to Bikol as a happy place.

O’B died in 1994 in Manila. During the wake at the Loyola House of Studies in Quezon City, there was a Bikol night where everything was in Bikol: Bikol liturgy, Bikol songs, Bikol eulogy and speeches.

Wrote a friend of mine: “The atmosphere was one of jubilation. What a beautiful send-off by Bikolanos to a fellow Bikolano.” O’B was finally home.

If all this means anything, it means that life is made up of revelations and interconnection of seemingly mundane places, things, or events the sum of which gives us a better understanding and appreciation of our experiences.


bottom of page