Transients, Pilgrims, Seekers (15)

Field Notes N15

A week of toing-and-froing in ZaNorte--that is Zamboanga del Norte for those aversed to the Orwellian vocabulary of shortening phrases to economize, and hopefully, not to carry out deception as this 1984 vocabulary wanted to do--had given me a lot to talk about, and to write about. 

Like Cebu and other places I have been to prior to taking up the life of a vagabond and living in many places except the homeland, Dipolog--and Dapitan afterwards--have become strange places. 

Both are cities on steroids of the false kind.

They are some kind of politicians—or children and wives of politicians--rushing to become senators.

Or even presidents, if they have the history of madness, ambition, wealth, name-recall, and what-have-you.

I have known them before, these cities, but now they are unfamiliar places. 

The airport you still remember, with the mano-mano style for getting your luggage and baggage, and the template of the carambola as people eager to go home compete for a corral-like space where the exhibits of travel are dumped like garbage from a mano-mano truck. 

Ah, this is interesting, I remind myself. 

You cannot compare this spectacle with those of other places, I reminded myself.

You must now add that when you checked in for your flight back to that horrible Luzon metropolis, its heart run by a B-actor well-loved by the B-crowd for his posturing and for his empty promises of cleaning up (but not in his backyard, or should he?), the bored screening people asked you to open the entrails of your bag and backback, take out all those they ask you to take out, and make that groping act to feel what else is inside your bag because: (a) groping for unwanted things inside a bag makes them alert and (b) the X-ray machine is out of order (has it gone bonkers too?) and therefore, groping is called for to ensure that there is going to be security for all air travellers courtesy of the groping, back-patting, and social psychology, Dipolog-style.

Of course, the flight was delayed. 

First at 12:50, and then at 2:00, and then at 4:00 PM all because something is wrong in the air traffic somewhere, or that the replacement plane has also gone bonkers. 

So much for waiting.

So much for not being able to do something substantial when one is at airports with the eternal whirring and whizzing of the industrial fan.

No, the airport in not in air-con mode.

Since you came from Dapitan and you had to pass through checkpoints, you left your resort place in Dapitan early, at 8:00 so that by 9:30 you are there at the airport and waiting and waiting for your noontime flight to home. 

To get that delayed flight, you had to wait for six-and-half hours at the airport of Dipolog, with two inane television on with their inane shows and so loud you wanted to make abracadabra and turn them into computers so people would understand the cyberspace world of bored travellers like me. 

But even air travelers, most of them incidentally called Filipinos, love to watch those mindless shows.

And the airport people let them be—or have connived to make these people watch these inane shows so people forget that their flight has been delayed twice.

Ah, democracy! 

The delayed came in, at 4:00.

You are called in and you are seated in the middle, on the right side of the plane when you face the pilot's cockpit.

On my right are sisters-in-law Daisy and Karen.

Karen is from Dapitan, and Daisy from Cotabato.

Daisy is married into the family of Karen who are natives of Dapitan. 

Daisy has a four-year old daughter, and she will leave her behind under the care of her mother-in-law when she leaves for Qatar. 

"I will be paid 300 USD for a month," she says. "We could save some for the studies of Miriam, our daughter." 

"Your husband allowed you to leave?"

"Initially, he did not. But his work as a repair mechanic in a machine shop is not giving us enough for our needs and for our future."

"How long will you stay in Qatar?"

"Two years, that is the contract. I am praying I will have a kind and good lady-boss and man-boss."

"What will you do there?"

"Domestic help. That is all they want from us Filipinos. Except if you are a nurse or an engineer." 

"What about you, Karen?" 

"It is the same thing. I will serve the needs of a family of five. That was what I was told. This means that I will do all the work." 

"You will not be staying under the same boss, you and Daisy?" 

"No. We will live far away from each other. But we will have day-offs, or that was what we were told." 

"So you will be away for two years, too?" 

"Yes. Two years of sacrifice. Two years of prayers--and lots of prayers." 

"Why don't you stay here. The salary is not that much." 

"We cannot find that over here. Salesladies are paid three thousand pesos or just a litte bit more. And then you have to pay for your transportation and other needs at work. Nothing is going to be left with you. I tried. It did not make sense.” 

"Is that the reason you are leaving?" 

"We have to live, that is the reason." 

How old are you two?" 

"Karen is 24. I am 22."

"You married young?"

"To young to have a family. An OFW father deserted us, and mother became an OFW herself to fend for us. We have gone through a lot, and I wanted a stable life. And now these hardships are visiting me all over again. But I keep praying and praying." 

Keep well, I told them. 

I imagine these two young women in Qatar with their kindhearted lady-boss and good-natured man-boss. 

Or so I hope.   

Dipolog, Las Island Filipinas, June 9, 2013

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