In Bataan, there is a Philippine Refugee Processing Center and inside there is a wooden boat that is the same size as a little bus.
This is not a replica, the guide tells us. 34 men, 20 women, 11 children came here on the way to a new beginning and this is the boat that they built and rode.
Their boat was the first to arrive here but throughout the decades that the PRCC operated, close to half a million people lived here, as a halfway point to being relocated to the U.S.
Around the boat are old artifacts, no, sorry, belongings. Old notebooks that the children wrote lessons in, cups, plates, kitchen utensils. Old radios, old televisions, old beds. Old photographs. They are laid out as if the people that once used them would still return.
Outside the Processing Center are fields with overgrown grass, houses with shattered doors and then the monuments.
One of the monuments is, if I may say, “Angkor Wat” but it is not a massive complex as it is in Cambodia. Here, in Bataan, is a replica that is six feet tall, 15 feet across but the details — just like its original counterpart are amazing.
These monuments were built by hand by the refugees. Some for worship but I guess all of them to remind them of where they had come from.
I wondered, as I remembered one drawing by one of the refugees inside the PRCC of a man on a bike, with his wife (I presume) and their children with the words on top that read — with my family everywhere is my home, what would we build if we were taken away from our home?