Saturday, February 05, 2011

A Snail Beat Me To Home

AFTER ALMOST A MONTH OF DELAY, I finally fulfilled a simple promise with myself: to visit my parents in Bicol.

For most people, it might not seem like a big deal. But for me, it is. The last time I got to visit them was almost exactly a year ago, right after the New Year of 2010. I was supposed to travel during the Christmas vacation of 2010, but due to some unforeseen events, I had to postpone it. Until now.

I was hesitant at first. I just started with my new workplace late in December 2010. And frankly, I had some difficulties with my personal finances. But I pushed through, not only because I wish to rebuild in myself some sense of palabra de honor. I had to realign my faith in God… a God whom I believe is in control of my family, my finances, and my life.

Go Home As If I’m About To Die!
I do confess that what did persuade me to really plan for it was a simple incident in January 2011. My mom, who has been paralyzed and bedridden since 2007 due to a stroke, was rushed to a hospital due to a seizure. While the whole panic (on my part) lasted overnight, my anxiety was more prolonged. What if I came visiting too late? What if I don’t get to see my mom before she goes home to Christ? I’ve had enough regrets to struggle and live with, and frankly I didn’t want to add another. Amusingly, such thoughts were largely an influence from a manga series I’ve been reading entitled Katekyou Hitman Reborn, with its signature flame of dying will. Since I didn’t have the dying will bullet (and I’m not brave enough for one), I made up my mind and planned for a family visit instead.

With a wishful prayer, I mustered up some strength to talk to my Australian employer. Just after two sentences, he readily told me it’s okay. I didn’t even had to explain.

Thank God for giving me such an understanding boss.

The problem was that my meager salary was going to be a challenge. I already asked for a cash advance just to help me survive until our monthly payday. When I received my first (official) pay, I knew I just had to buy my bus tickets in advance – before I unwittingly spend it on something else. Looking at what’s left of my salary (and with ZERO savings), I knew it’s gonna be Faith 101 and Budgeting 101 all over again…

The next challenge came with my work. The week of my departure was unexpectedly busy, and I had to spend nights trying to finish everything. Not that I needed to; it was my boss’ policy not to work overtime. In fact, he told me just to endorse to him whatever projects I didn’t finish before I leave. But I guess my own sense of gratitude made me duty-bound to make him a bit happier by completing the projects. At least that way, they’ll miss me more in a positive way. And less in a negative way.

Running Full of Time
The day of my departure was a drift. And by drift, I meant like the one in racing (see Initial D or The Fast and the Furious 3). Despite the severe lack of sleep due to inhuman will to work out all the deadlines, as well as troubleshooting a troublesome gadget, I was able to look decent for an important visitor at the office, perform some rush prints with minimal glitches, pack my traveling bag during lunch break, and do some last minute clean up on my work table.

I was planning to leave at 5PM, explaining that I was hoping to avoid the commuter congestion at the MRT. My boss advised me to leave before 5PM. Talk about abounding grace!
I barely managed to escape the onslaught of commuters. Lugging around an overloaded backpack and a bulging duffel bag in an after-office human traffic is not a simple feat, especially in Metro Manila. Plus the occasional awareness/alertness necessary to discourage any criminal attempt. By 5:20PM, I safely arrived and deposited my traveling bag at the ticketing office in Cubao, and headed off to Ali Mall to meet up with my friend, Ptr Ronald Molmisa.

Ptr Ronald is the author of Lovestruck, a simple book about love that aims to reinstill among the youth/teens a moral sense based in Christian principles. I got to know him back in 2010 in a youth congress by PCEC-NYC. Anyway, I met with him to got several copies of his book – which I planned to share with the youth of WIN-Bicol. But he surprised me by giving 10 copies for free (and a pin, too!) – and a free dinner, too! I was overwhelmed by his generosity, knowing that he’s not that affluent. God bless him so.

By 8:30PM, I was onboard the Isarog Line, torturing myself with Dwarfina on the bus TV. The travel itself was boring. I arrived in Naga City at 4:45AM, transferred to a shuttle van which traveled to Sabang. Before 7AM, I was at San Jose. Despite the countless visits to this place, I still can’t get used to how seemingly unchanging the place feels (except for the Buy-1-Take-1 burgers which now sprouted near the Municipal Hall). I found out later that there was in fact some progress: the government building now has wi-fi signal. Ahuh. I’ll have to figure out a way to tap into that… when I get back someday.

A Day At A Snail’s Pace
I had a cute welcoming committee right at the gate of my father’s ancestral home: a full-grown golden snail, lazily squirming its way through the early morning drizzle (wish I had a camera!). I momentarily gazed at the green expanse, breathing in the familiar scent of the garden. And looking out for dogs. As much as I love them, I know too well how they react to strangers.

Good thing that there was only one, which seemed to remember me from my visit a year ago. Or maybe it was just too lazy to greet me with a snarl.

Seeing my parents and brother again after almost a year felt… ordinary. No hugs, no tears. No profuse kumustahans. We had our simple breakfast, and I got tucked myself at a guest room. The next time I opened my eyes, it was already lunch.

I spent the whole day away from the laptop – despite the occasional pangs to open it. To my delight, I found a neat stack of Reader’s Digest. It reminded me of my childhood - flipping through copies as old as my parents, trying to rediscover forgotten stories and cultures. Before I knew it, it was already late afternoon. Gathering old photos wasn’t as simple as I hoped, though. There wasn’t much to find – and with a sigh of regret, I remembered all those photo albums that were lost in the flood back in 1993.

By the time I realized it, we all had retired to sleep. And for the first time in a long while, I tucked myself to bed at 9:30PM.


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