With teary eyes I left Manila through the Ninoy Aquino Airport on March 18th 2005.
I didn’t want to leave my friends, my good friends from elementary school and all that I had ever known. I was leaving my grandparents, my cousins and family friends. I told my parents I wouldn’t go- that I was happy to stay. They weren’t going to settle for that, though.
The first thing that made me smile when I stepped through the gates, arriving upon the new country I would call my home…was a Milky Bar. While my parents hauled away their barong-style bags full of clothes and belongings (I never liked those, the texture was too shiny and the colours too bright) past customs, my eyes were drawn to a vending machine nearby.
It is a strange thing, but it was technically the first thing I did all by myself, the first thing I bought when I stepped onto Australian soil- and it filled me with pride.
I still remember, the vending machine had priced it at $2.10 and I was never prouder than when I managed to fish the dull, small but thick $2 coins from my pocket and slid them into the coin slots. At that time, that was worth about nearly 100 pesos, which was extraordinarily expensive to me. Was it worth nearly 100 pesos, when I could probably get it for 50 pesos back in Manila?
But that wasn’t the point. I could afford something in Australia as a child, with the coins my grandfather had given me before I left. He had been to Australia before with my grandmother on a holiday and he kept all his Australian coins in a small bronze platter that was shaped like a swan. The swan was the perfect weight to keep the dewy plastic covering secure on top of his large fish tank, hovering over his dark, gloomy pet tilapia.
They were the last of his coins and he had given them to me. And as a result, for a mere child of eleven I was proud to say I could buy something all on my own, without having to ask my parents for permission- as I had my own Australian money. Biting into the Milky Bar, I was surprised at the strikingly sweet taste and how it melted in my mouth. Nowadays I don’t really like Milky Bars anymore, I don’t even remember the last time I ate one after that. Maybe there is some funky symbolism about it that made sense to my eleven year old brain- Milky Bars are white—I’m landing in a country of majority white people…I don’t know.
ow. Maybe. I just remember that I wanted it, and that was that.
Little did I know what was ahead of me, beyond that single Milky Bar.
What’s your immigration story and thoughts?