Nhaya Paden moved to the Philippines when she was 4. Her parents, Gilmer and Julie, serve with SEND’s Philippine Sending Council, mobilizing Filipinos to reach the unreached. Now 16, Nhaya and her family are in Arizona for a year of home service. She captures her thoughts on missing the Philippines in this poem. 

 

Until You’re Gone

It’s funny how you don’t know how much something means to you until you leave it behind

How you notice small things that you always took for granted

But by the time you do, it’s too late and they’re already gone

I never noticed how beautiful the twinkling city lights were until I saw them from the sky

Fading in the distance

I never missed the business of the city streets until I left them behind

I never thought that using my feet to get me places was something that I wouldn’t always have

I never imagined that the things I did day after day after day

Would become precious memories I’d hold onto when I was gone

All those things I used to complain about

All those things I didn’t want to do

I’d give anything to have them now

But you wouldn’t know that until you were gone

I miss the rain that came every night without fail

I miss the rolling r’s and the glottal stops and the short vowels that I barely bothered to learn

I miss the smell of the ocean air and the taste of salt on my lips

I miss the crystal shades of the turquoise sea

The living rainbow under the waves

I miss the feeling of sand between my toes and the breeze blowing back my hair

I miss the broken power lines and the defective sewer systems

The cracked roads, broken sidewalks

The sputtering tricycles and the rumbling jeepney engines

I miss the clouds

Thick and full

Settling in the air and making it heavy enough to settle on my skin

I miss the color green

The shades of emerald

That even in the city found their way into every nook and cranny

I miss the sea of brown skin and black hair that, if I wanted, I could melt into

I miss the smiling eyes and work-worn people I barely even bothered to give a second glance

I miss the chaos of traffic

The broken stoplights and the rule-breaking pedestrians

I used to be part of those numbers

I miss the palengke

I used to hate it

But I want to wander its maze-like paths once again

Listen to bartering and Philippine telenovelas playing on the cheap TVs

I miss the way names and places and words rolled off my tongue

But I didn’t know these things until I was gone

— by Nhaya Paden

 

Read on …