Arrivals and departures are most difficult when one has developed some metaphorical and metaphysical roots in a certain place.
Friendship forged through the years, for instance.
And it is not only through time but through thick and thin, through the stories of struggle and survival that we all went through.
And tears and doubts and worries, there were too many to count.
We remember only the conclusion: that we have to be strong, to grow stronger, to grow strongest to hold on to that glimmer of hope about a future for us all that is brighter, happier, more joyful.
So for three Sundays in a row now, we have had this bond.
Each Sunday we strike an agreement loosely agreed upon as:
TO GO ANYWHERE, JUST ANYWHERE, TO PLACES WE HAVE NOT BEEN, TO LANDS WE HAVE NOT VISITED.
There was only one rule of the game: We are not to know where we are going.
No nothing of that kind, just that driving to anywhere and to nowhere until we run out of gas.
That is to be the signal for going back, not necessarily on the same route.
We preferred a more unfamiliar route on our way back, although this does not always happen when weariness possesses us.
Or hunger and thirst sometimes.
Like this Sunday, after my l'affair de Redondo Beach--this is in the other posting--we did it again.
You are going away soon, friends taunt. We have to go and visit the places we do not know.
Ok, I say. To where?
Just drive towards Pasadena, a friend suggested.
Good idea, I say. Pasadena after the Tournament of Roses. Can we see something there with not even the shadow of the roses?
Never mind the Tournament. We are on tour, so drive, a friend reminds me. He throws the key to me, the key to the red Toyota Tacoma that we use to hit the road during long distance driving such as this one.
So off we go to the many freeways that have demanded so much of us in our cat-and-mouse lives in California. In the coming month, I will leave California to relocate to Honolulu. Life will not be the same in the islands, with less freeways to navigate, less toxic life to live each day.
Or so I wish, hope, and pray.
We extend the remaining time we have with you, friends say. We extend the place as well. So we go.
We all hop in, starting off the journey with the prayer for safety.
I am behind the wheels and I am running at between 70 and 80 mph at a time, or your equivalent of a 110-130 kph in the Philippines.
Like the 'Over the Top' story of someone the likes of Sylvester Stallone, a truck driver in that Hollywood film, I am over the top when I am the one driving as opposed to that feeling of panic and restlessness when I am the passenger, with our travel so light I feel like we are feathers being blown by the friendly summer wind coming from trees on the shoulders of freeways on mountainsides, from the early summer blooms of wild flowers in their garb of pink, violet, magenta, orange, yellow, white.
I look at this burst of colors, this riot of colors and I turn them into water. I drink the colos turned into water.
We go first to the store in Gardena we frequent when we have trips like this. It is my treat, I say. Take whatever you want. Kakaskasin ko ang credit card ko at bahala na, I say.
We are back to Freeway 110 after a while.
Off to downtown Los Angeles, a traffic slowing down once we hit the freeway to Pasadena. Some members of the city's road engineering crew are repairing a portion of the freeway. It is the same we repair our lives on Sundays like this one.
We get past the traffic jam. And then we are back on track.
Religious songs we remember years back come to our lips and we sing them with gusto, sometimes off key, sometimes we hit the notes right, but most of the time it is the thought that we are becoming spiritual that matters.
And this long journey to places unfamiliar and unknown is the motif, the raison d'etre of this metanoia, this sudden change of heart, this conversion of recidivists or doubters or skeptics or fanatics. Well, take your pick.
From Highway 134, we saw the familiar landmarks of our cultural life in Los Angeles from a different angle: the ABC 7, the Disney Studios, the towering edifices of Los Angeles on the far west even as we hit the mountains and valleys along 134 and then 101 to Ventura county.
At Carl's Jr in Oxnard, we get off, take coffee and that abominable burger, the last one I do not take. I have had enough of this spicy chicken sandwich thing during the time of want, my own time of want.
Instead, I take that Southern Diet Cheese, in triangles, one at a time. It is one luxury I have discovered while looking for good alternatives to make myself healthy and strong for another journey ahead, for another arrival, for another departure.
I imagine life in Honolulu while we cruise on mountaintops.
I will surely miss this scene, this day, this time, this place, these friends. Now, now, my eyes get misty.
From on top, a valley rich in vegetation looms large, with the verdant promise of a better view once we reach it.
I take a deep and long breathe to take in all the richness of the details of the scene before me.
It is the same valley of my father's village, his valley of fields of corn and rice and watermelon and bell peppers and cabbage enriched each year by the flood coming from the eastern mountains, the Didaya. This is his Lusod, my father's, the Lusod of an agricultural mine his family gradually lost to other people when his family's luck hit rock bottom.
I think of this driving on and on to nowhere. It is truly a metaphor of our diasporic lives, in Los Angeles and elsewhere.
I think of my next arrival, my next departure. I heave a sigh.
But then again, the sweet good luck needs to be earned, again and again.
Journeying is part of the game of life even when arrivals and departures come in circles.
Like this one journey we take today, this journey to everywhere and nowhere, with the journeying process itself as the prize.
When Sundays are like this, we come up with a wistful thought: Sana, each day is a Sunday of firm belief in the God of possibilities.
A Sunday of sweet surprises so we are able to extend time. So we able to extend our sense of place.
A. S. Agcaoili
Oxnard Blvd, Oxnard, CA
June 4, 2006