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  • Philippine Arts Council

How to Leave Your Child

The Filipino in Me - Insights into Living Heritage

Entry by Mila Bongco Philipzig. Edmonton, Alberta


Artist's Statement

In the Alberta Lit Fest, I was one of the panelist and readers, and I read my poem "How to Leave Your Child" to show and raise awareness on lives of overseas workers from the Philippines.

How to Leave Your Child

You try to ignore this for a long time.

While lining up, lining up, lining up

For all sorts of papers demanded of you

While submitting yet another form, paying yet another fee.

You brush it off

In cursing the traffic while rushing from appointment to appointment

Sweating through the heat, enduring fatigue and hunger pangs.

You try not to think, but you know.

You know very well that soon

You will leave your child.

You prepare and harden your heart.

Wrap your heart with resolve and determination.

Put up shields against doubts.

Seal off any hesitation.

Squash fear.

Lock your heart with sense of duty and loyalty to family.

Believe that separation will bring salvation.

In secret, pack your luggage.

Every shirt you fold, every towel you roll, each item you sneak into your bag

Is a turning away.

A turning away

From your home, from your children, from a life that will never be the same.

Pack quietly but quickly.

Before you start thinking

Before you start crying.

Tears are messy. Avoid tears.

Then, plan well

How to tell your child

Practice your smile

Find the perfect tone

Choose the words carefully

To say

You are going away.

Do not look into their eyes for

You might cry.

They might cry.

Remember, tears are messy. Avoid tears.

You need to create a distraction

Buy a new toy, or what about a new TV?

Probably best to throw a party

Cover the deception with merriment and gaiety

Use up your last money for a big celebration

For the grand announcement

You've made it, you're going away

To join thousands of others forced to migrate to work

You've made it

This is success.

To your guileless child

You will say

Anak, it's all for good

It's going to be worth it

I will be back soon

As often as I can.

Rehearse, so you don't falter.

Anak, I do this for love.

To be somewhere else is the best way

To show my love.

It'll be all right.

I will be back soon.

Say it again and again

Practice the smile

The perfect tone

Hold back the tears

Unclench your fists


I love you but I have to go

I'll be back soon.

It's the best thing right now.



Anak, I do this for love.

It'll be all right.

Say it again and again

Until you sound convincing.

Until you start believing it yourself.


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