Saturday, July 7, 2007

7 7 7

My 10 day visit to the US ended at 4 this morning. We could have arrived earlier but the airport was closed and hence we had to spend some extra time in Vancouver. I tried the Las Vegas-Vancouver-Manila route for the first time and I wasn’t disappointed. The flight was 18 hours long but at least I didn’t have to change planes. I do have many things to write about and I will begin from the most recent.

Yesterday was one of the hottest days in Las Vegas history, 116 degrees Fahrenheit. You couldn’t stay outside for long. 4 hours before the flight, there was already a lengthy queue at the Philippine Air Lines counters. What distinguishes a flight to Manila is the presence of the ubiquitous Balikbayan boxes crammed with stuff and these boxes always weigh 70 lbs, the maximum allowable weight. If you were to x-ray these boxes, you will find many cans of corned beef and Vienna sausage, bars of Ivory soap, seasonal candy purchased the day after the event, shampoo, towels, Pringles potato chips, athletic shoes, clothing from Ross or Marshall’s or TJ Maxx, generic vitamin supplements, Splenda, used household appliances (particularly the recently replaced DVD player), hair color, toothpaste and deodorant. Returning female seniors are particularly adept at this ritual. And so even if it takes longer to check in and the counters are perennially crowded, it has always been a source of comfort to be in line with kababayans. The chatter becomes overwhelmingly Tagalog and everyone is just happy to begin the arduous trip home. No mistake here, no matter how long you’ve stayed away, regardless of the color of your passport, everyone’s homeward bound.

Amid the chaos, your faith in our simple ways becomes stronger. Like ants we are prepared to return various goods and sundry material transported via giant container cargo ships back across the Pacific box by Balikbayan box. I find this trait so admirable because each box is an amalgam of months of flea-market shopping, garage sales, K and Wal Mart specials. We anticipate the joy and grateful acknowledgement of the intended recipients back home with every shopping mission. We become united.

Hadn’t heard it in a long time but the main cabin erupted in cheers as our plane touched down the Manila Airport. We were all just glad to be home.


r.g. lacsamana said...

Ah, home sweet home at last. It didn't last long, did it?

That sweltering heat in Las Vegas
is not unusual at this time, though it appears to be a little more intense this year. Reminds me of my arrival in the mid-60s in Tucson, Arizona to start my internship. The only consolation in that kind of inferno is the humidity is only 5% or below, which does not make you sweat, in contrast to the tropical weather we have at home, or in Florida where I have stayed for close to 40 years. A lot of people in my town, though located by the beach, start heading for the mountains of North Carolina, Georgia or Tennessee as soon as school is over.

Those raucous scenes by the airport with that constant lively chatter of those going home for vacation, with their ubiquitous balikbayan boxes, are uniquely Filipino. A trip home would not be complete without those "pasalubongs," more so before Christmas. And as the Doc correctly observes, what is inside those boxes contains more than what you typically find in a sari-sari store. But whatever they are, they represent the bottled sentiments of love, generosity and devotion to family that we Pinoys are famous for.

I recall the good Doc mentioning having to attend a UP class reunion. How was it? I have attended a few of my own, always torn by ambivalent feelings: happy to see old friends and so many successful in their practices, yet sometimes saddened at realizing we are in a foreign land, having been drawn to leave the homeland by one thing - the lack of opporltunities there. There is somehow a twinge of guilt, though most of us have come to accept the reality that the brain drain will not vanish, barring an economic miracle.

So, what is the Doc going to do now? Is he still serious in pursuing that seat in the Senate in two years? He and his Kapatiran Party colleagues will have more time to familiarize themselves better with the voters along with their agenda. We badly need new blood in that body.

Philip said...

Welcome back Martin!

pinoy said...

Welcome back!