I moved to Manila in July 2012 and immediately enrolled in a local Filipino school. As a native Spanish speaker, my English was low, and my parents hoped that this would improve in my new school. Unfortunately, although the lessons were taught largely in English, the language of the corridors was entirely Tagalog, and I hardly understood a word. Like most teenagers, I wanted to fit in. I wanted to make friends, and for those friends to be able to see the real me. I felt as as if I had two personalities, one when I spoke Spanish with my family, and a completely different one when I was at school struggling to make sense of things. I am a person who enjoys making people smile and laugh, and I wanted to do the same in my adventure in this strange school. Even when I was able to convince people to speak English with me, I was only able to partake in simple conversations: “How are you?” “Do you have homework?” “How big is your family?” I felt lonely and excluded. I knew I had the capability of finding friends who would understand me, but I had not discovered them yet.
Every day, I was challenging myself to be more like the real me…but it was hard due to the language barrier. In my first week at school, I was new and shiny and everyone tried to become friends with me; however, by the next week, I felt like an old toy. People quickly tired of trying to be friends with the girl who didn’t speak Tagalog and hardly understood their English. But there was one girl who was always there for me. She was one who reminded her friends to speak in English when I was around, she looked after me when I did not understand a teacher’s explanation, and she explained jokes, words and traditions to me. She whispered people’s names to me, so that I would give a good impression to people, and I learned to appreciate her like no other.
Looking back, I now realize that those weeks and months when I could not express myself were difficult, but the challenge made me a lot more mature. In addition, by spending so much time observing my surroundings, I was able to learn many things that I could not have learned if I had been living inside my comfort zone. I learned that one cannot expect to find the same type of friends on the other side of the world, because people and cultures are unique. One has to adapt to the new environment and circumstances in order to find the joy in it. It is easy to focus on what is missing from your life, but then you can miss everything in your life.
Irene Sáez-Díez Rebanal
If a movie was made about your life in
the year 2065, let us know what it
would be titled, and give us a brief
summary of the storyline.
The Endless Regatta
The movie tracks my successes and failures
whilst sailing solo around the world
Sailing is my passion, so, although the thought
of being absolutely alone seems frightening
the thrill of doing this makes my hair stand on end.
The movie is a methaphor about life being a regatta
I am the skipper, I make decisions
and I choose the path I take.
There are factors that affect how well I do. When the
ocean gets rough, I have to bail out the water.
When the wind changes, I have to adjust my sails to
navigate the best course.
But however rough the ocean becomes, however hard
the journey, I just have to keep going
because that is the only way to reach land.
The movie jumps from the day I fulfill my dreams to my
By 2065 I am 67 years old, and although the
regatta of my dreams ended long ago,
I remain strong,
fighting for my goals.
I approach every day with the same courage
I had when confronting my dream.
I have learned how to be the great skipper
of my life.
Irene Sáez-Díez Rebanal