The Balikbayan House: The Precarity of Return Migrant Homes
This chapter examines the spaces produced by Filipinos returning to the Philippines, specifically the balikbayans’ homes, where specific memories of being Filipino during their childhood must be reconciled with the habitus adopted while living in the United States. The neighborhoods where balikbayans invest, rebuild, and resettle are often unremarkable, in contrast to the “remittance landscapes” transformed by money sent home by transnational migrants. Balikbayans remake their homes and lives from a particular nostalgia for their childhoods in the Philippines. At the same time, they merge these lifestyles with customs, beliefs, and traditions they developed while acculturating to life in the United States. The result is homes that are in continuous flux: irregularly inhabited and whose modifications are largely a result of improvisation; the desire to enclose familial distance lies at the center of their functionality. The balikbayan house becomes a material artifact of a particularly precarious modernity.