Airplanes are for me, touchstones. It was on a PAL aircraft too, almost six years ago, when the first day of the rest of my blessed life, happened. At 23, the desperate need to pull my family out from the pit of hardship, rested on my shoulders. It wasn’t an obligation I was asked of; it was what a daughter, who was never given a chore all her life, would have always taken on the minute she saw her superhero break apart from an infinity of doing all the fighting alone.
My father’s only mistake was this: giving me and my siblings the good lives we deserved even if it meant compromising his. So I did what needed doing. Seeing Daddy burden-free now, makes it worth every while. So when I ride airplanes, I always spend a moment to relive my journey and how Family, like most Filipino migrants to the first world, has always been a potent inspiration. Not forgetting my story is what keeps me grounded and grateful, especially at times when the lights of progress gets to blinding.
I look around the cramped aircraft: all ten rows of seats taken, and imagine how much small town big stars’ dreams Flight PR 212 contains. Surely, there is a handful that shares stories similar to mine: children bent on giving back to their folks; parents who juggle multitude of jobs to provide for their offsprings; lovers who have lost their beloveds to distance; and those who, amidst distance, still hold on to promises once made under mango trees. I look at the foreigners in the mix too, and smile whenever their eyes catch mine. It is my way of saying “Thank you, for giving my country a chance.”
Homecomings are the most expensive of trips. But I will always take it each chance I get, for no amount of reason can ever top sleeping in one’s childhood bed— now old and squeaky—off. I miss the smell of sea at low tide; the tangy taste of steamed banana dipped in fish sauce; my mom’s morning nags. I miss the landmarks of my youth: a wooden bench outside a neighbour’s sari-sari store, my barrio’s pineapple-littered roadside on summers; the blue and white chapel by the hill whose pews, was where most of my answered prayers were said.
You see, I absorb so much in my heart and I keep memories alive in thoughts. I guess that is how I am able to write: by piecing together the fragments I store in mind. Making a living gets in the way most of the time. But moments like this, on a 7 to 8-hour flight home, and on the eve of me burning the savings I toiled very hard for in the last year, I take a moment on a touchstone.
I think of my father, and how we are so gonna brag drunk together, about this; and dreams coming true.
This post is part of a travel series featuring a six-week journey around my home country.