The trip from Manila to the city of your first destination somewhere in the south is a story whose plot resembles all other stories you have heard: of families sundered by job in other places like this story of a young woman with five children who, for a month, had to travel from her rural place to see her husband who earns a living working for a multinational company somewhere in Batangas.
She says she has not seen her husband for about a year.
Her husband could only come for a quick visit once a year, and those quickie demonstrations of a father’s presence is not enough to convince her kids that their dad is not going to abandon them.
The children’s ages are between 15 and 1, her youngest still breastfed.
You did not see her at the waiting area.
You were busy trying to imagine how your gallivanting days will be justified by writing—and writing to your heart’s content.
But to do so, you need to go away from the Manila of your many distractions.
This city has held you by the neck in the past, and one of the many reasons why you called it quits with your homeland is that this big city did not give you enough chance to sit down and think and write.
You have imaginations that you are a writer, and you feel sorry for yourself when on any day, you have written anything meaningful except to mark X to student papers that do not make sense.
Of course, you have believed that your writing makes sense.
It is for this reason that you have found power in marking Xs to those papers that you think do not meet your standard.
You busied yourself at the waiting area, and then an announcement came saying that all of your mortals must leave and move to another area.
It was past your scheduled flight, and you heard one man saying, ‘This is not PAL for nothing! It is always late—Plane Always Late!’
You look at him and he is young, and you wonder how the hell did he have that deep-seated frustration about this airline.
People like us have memories of this frustration, but his young man has not right to be disappointed precisely because he is young!
But if he had to practically give up his sleep to beat the traffick jam only to end up waiting for the plane unproductively, you would understand.
The reality is that airport lounges are the most infertile places ever invented.
You cannot do anything substantial except to wait for announcements of delayed airplanes making a turnaround so you can go to your destination.
You were able to hit the skies after 30 minutes of patient waiting--and rage!
You are on row 25, by the window, and you like it there.
You imagined the cotton clouds and the blue skies and the mystery of seeing the nuances of colors as soon as you take off, and as soon as your plane starts to descend fast, and navigate the sea and the mountains.
The young mother with 5 children is uncontrollable.
‘It is my first time to ride a plane,’ she tells me.
She is asking for help. She does not know how to make the click so she can put on her seatbelt.
Her daugther, possibly two, is seated between us in a three-seater row, the young mother by the aisle.
‘This is how to do it,’ I showed her.
You remember the first time you took the plane years ago—and you had the same apprehension.
But during your Citizen Army Training days, and even the Philippine Military Training the year before, your wore the same buckle-belt, first on your khaki, and later on on your fatigue.
The young mother begins to be talkative.
‘We talk the boat from our city to Manila, and it took us 2 days and 3 nights. And the kids kept on crying because of the waves. And so my husband decided to have us take the plane.’
‘What does you husband do?’
‘He is all-around. Metals, quality control. He is under his former boss in Afghanistan. My husband worked there for many years, and then he came home. He applied at this company, and there he met his former boss.’
‘That is something,’ I say.
‘Yes. Otherwise, my husband could not have landed a good job. Except that he is not able to come home more often. Which pains the children a lot.’
‘He cannot use what he knows in your place?’
‘There is not that job that he knows in our place. All we have got is the sea, the land, and our copious hopes. There is nothing there.’
‘How are you coping?’
‘I know that he is a good man. I know that he will make it sure that our children will have a life better than what we know now.’
‘You are not planning to join him in Batangas?’
‘No, we cannot. The cost of living there is so high. We might as well save for the education of our children.’
‘He worked in Afghanistan, your husband?’
‘Yes, under his current boss.’
‘Must have tough with him leaving you endlessly to take care of your children by yourself.’
‘Indeed, it is. We are a family true, but we are apart most of the time.’
After more than an hour, the plane that was late was ready for its descent, and in a few minutes, it shall have landed.
You say goodbye to this young mother with five children.
A Mindanao City/NAIA
June 3, 2013