Utang na loob

Here’s to mom and dad, who planted seeds
and nurtured them and watched them grow
into tall, proud plants that reached the clouds,
having used their own water and sunshine.

I sprouted and spread, yearning for more
than the soil that embraced my roots and nourished me,
too young or blind or stupid to understand
that I could never truly leave this plot of earth.

It devastated me until I grew too tangled,
too tall to sustain myself, and I fell down
back towards the earth upon which
they stood and still stand, watching and still watering.

And there are so many of us, growing and fighting
for the limited space in the sunshine,
stretching our backs and cutting others’ leaves
to be the tallest, the proudest, the most.

And often we forget that it is not only sunshine
but water and soil and roots that we need
to truly live and thrive, and we forget
that staying grounded does not mean failure.

There is a balance I still seek
between true freedom and utang na loob,
this feeling of indebtedness and responsibility
to give back to the earth and the roots

To be able to stand and grow while proving
to them and perhaps myself that I am worthy
of their sacrifices and sunshine and water;
I am growing but always falling.