Four weeks, six countries (seven if I count the 12-hour layover in Singapore to meet best bud Jeanne), a pair of walking sneaks that finally gave in, 16 GB of photos and videos, a lost pair of eyeglasses, costly mistakes, new friends, an aching back and wonderful memories!
Two weeks left and I’m on the run to finish my projects and prepare for the European backpacking. It’s lovely to be spontaneous, but when time and money aren’t your luxury (and Janet Napoles Lim isn’t your mum) , then you have to do your research and be very, very prepared.
I opened an account in couchsurfing last year but never really bothered. In an effort to save money (always cheaper to travel in groups) and meet new people, I sent a quick post on couchsurfing asking for tips, and invites to tag along. I’ve been receiving messages from all over, some dubious and overly enthusiastic, which kind of uhm, scare me. And the unsolicited advise from my British guy friend (who have hosted countless times) to be cautious, was no help at all.
Traveling solo, witnessing tourist traps, and being a young Southern woman in a patriarchal society has taught me to always be on guard. But, as one French tourist pointed out while on my first backpacking to see the Angkor Wat, I should learn to let my guards down, let people in, and trust.
But while the opportunity to live with the locals and meet people appeals to me, my backpacking buddy, unfortunately, not only hates museums which is a total bummer, but is against the idea of letting ourselves into a stranger’s couch.
So yeah, two weeks left. Still no final itinerary, reservations and train or inter-Europe flight tickets.
Maybe it’s time to reply to those messages.
This is it! I made the necessary preparations but without really thinking I would see through to the end. I got my tourist schengen visa (in just 3 days, surprisingly, considering that my last schengen visa took longer than that even with a request to expedite from the OECD office in Paris), confirmed my tickets yesterday and there! One month in Europe! =) I’m amazed at how I am even able to do this (poor NGO workers, raise yer hand!). Will be flying to Europe mid-August (And I still could not believe it—-no f*cking work this time!) And quite sorry I haven’t been able to blog lately.
Traveling with my father is an attempt to make up for lost time.
As I grow older, the more mistakes I commit. The more I realize my imperfections.
And I definitely am not a perfect daughter.
As I started to deal with the realities of being an adult, the more I understood and value what my parents had to go through for the sake of all six children. And the day I felt like the world came crashing down was the day I started to look back.
And then one day it just hit me- my parents aren’t getting any younger.
And from then on was a desperate attempt to make up for the harsh words, for my impatience, for not making that phone call, for failing to come home on special occasions, all because I was too caught up in proving myself to the world.
And so I started bringing my father and mother along in my travels three years ago, when I could already afford it. Cebu and Bohol was their many firsts- first plane ride, first snorkeling experience, first time to see a tarsier, first time to touch a star fish. We went to Bicol the year after and then Palawan and Malaysia this year.
And so every year for the past three years, during those five full days we spend together, I started to remember what my father is like-his temperament and peculiarities. It was like reminiscing my childhood.
His love for coffee is still there and would never fail to bring sachets in every trip. When we were younger, my sisters and I would fight over the great honor of preparing his evening cup. The formula was 1:1:3- a teaspoon of his favorite instant coffee, a teaspoon of creamer and 3 teaspoonfuls of sugar.
He still tends to speak in English, in a slurred accent that makes it a challenge for me to understand. He encouraged us to learn to use the language at an early age.
He still avoids negotiations. And would still try to show me off, every chance he gets.
He already lost the struggle to quit smoking. He smokes half the same rate he did more than thirty years ago though.
And it’s still the same old coughing and the “sinusitis” that never went away and the white film growing over the left eye.
And still the same old pride.
These few years I started to observe little things- how he refuses our help to carry his bag, the over sensitivity, his silence when I point out the politically incorrect remarks, his delight in teaching us driving. I added it all up. And then it dawned on me- this must be a hard period for my father.
Because now, tables have turned.
We grew up with Papa as our only knight in shining armor. The one who could heal all kinds of wounds with rubbing alcohol, merthiolate and antibiotics. In the eyes of all six children, he was the strongest man ever! The only person who has the strength to throw you into the air or carry you into bed while you pretend to sleep. He was the richest person too, the one you need to appeal to if you want a new pair of shoes and your mother insists the old pair works fine or when you simply wanted a tootsie roll. Papa was the wisest person on earth, who could answer why stars blink, where dogs come from, and why you can’t have two bottles of soda every day. We tried to outrace each other for the privilege of bringing him his slippers when he came home from work to gain first access to the pasalubong.
Papa was the funniest and coolest- the one we ran under the rain with and who taught us to make walkie-talkies, stoves and pots using clay from that mound inside our neighbor’s yard.
Papa was Superman… until we became adults ourselves.
Suddenly, Papa is not the knight in shining armor anymore, who could heal wounds and broken hearts. We have doctors and friends for that. Apart from the fact that I realize that nobody cleans up the shit but your own self.
Suddenly, he is not the strongest person anymore, who could race you to the top of Lignon Hill or lift the heavy backpack to the overhead cabin.
Suddenly, I pay for dinner and the travels.
Suddenly, Papa doesn’t know everything in the world.
I can sense how painful and scary it might be for Papa. Now that all six children are on their own, Papa is not Superman after all.
Maybe that’s why he insists on pretending to be strong enough to be left on his own, and says that he wasn’t really interested in climbing the hill to reach the canopy walk, because he wouldn’t admit that his weak lungs will not be able to keep up with our pace.
And maybe that’s why he is delighted when we ask him for driving lessons and is more than happy to oblige when we request for his world-famous chicken dish or when we ask to be picked up. Suddenly, Papa is again that person you run to for help, the only one who can nail your favorite pinaupong manok and the one who can rescue you when it’s too late to get a bus home. Maybe he gets to be a dad once again.
Not everyone is blessed to have grown up with a tatay. Not every one is blessed to have a great father. And not everyone is lucky to still have a dad right now.
So if you still have a dad with you right now, call him. Go home. And if you can, take him traveling. Experience adventures together, just like when you went fishing or kite-flying during those lazy summer afternoons. Explore Angkor Wat or the Great Wall of China together, the pictures of which you often looked at during your childhood fascination with archaeology. Marvel at new sights and stories.
Laugh at his jokes, no matter how corny while trying to kill time at the airport. Crack one as well.
Sit beside him during the 30-minute boat ride and often ask how he is and tell him stories about yourself. So he can see how you’ve grown all up and realize how he did a great job as a father, no matter how much he thinks to be an imperfect one.
Make up for lost time. And make him feel that he is still… Dad.
Happy father’s day Papa!
I love you.
Papa was the one who instilled in me the love for traveling. After the scars and bruises, he finally managed to teach me how to bike when I was nine years old. That was the first time I tasted the power of mobility, the exhilaration of freedom and exploring. My mother will be outside the house looking for me because I failed to come home before 8pm as I was too happy visiting areas in our barangay I’ve never been to.
He taught us how to fly kites, and brought us to the beach every May 1 (or the nearest river and even irrigation) so we could go swimming. I experienced fishing and was used to being away from home to spend summer with relatives.
While I got the love for books from Mama that sparked my imagination and led me to become a dreamer, it was Papa who instilled in me the love for adventure so I grew up having the balls to close my eyes, hold my breath and just jump.
Capturing memories of our family trip to Puerto Princesa and El Nido Palawan in March 2013.
Will be blogging about Palawan soon.
We probably rode every single vehicle for public commute as we found our way around Mindanao’s roughest roads. But it is in CARAGA where I found the most majestic waterfall, the deepest and bluest river, and beaches on par with Boracay’s clearest waters and whitest, softest sands! And it’s really sad to see the irony of it all: that the people of Mindanao live in dire poverty while their land teems with great wealth. Mindanao took my breath away, and stole my heart. And I would go back again and again to explore every nook and cranny!
I’m excited to write about our Mindanao backpacking adventure soon!
How does one deal with someone’s loss?
You would be completely stumped when you get to the wake, driving four hours straight from the airport. You would be grappling for the right words to say. “My deepest condolences” would seem empty. Because really, what do you say to your best friend who just lost her father- the person who was instrumental in molding her into the amazing person that she is now and probably the only man who will love her like nobody else in this world can, or ever will?
You would feel completely useless and hopeless right there and then and will decide to loiter in the kitchen in an effort to make yourself useful. It would be a desperate moment to do something with your hands, to compensate for the loss of words because the silence would be unbearable. You continue to wrack your brain- what role does a best friend play in all this? But of course, she will insistently refuse your offer to help cook or even wash the dishes and would prefer you to stay in the living room and try to make yourself comfortable. You would do as she say, because your comfort should be the least of her worries at this point.
Normally you would ache to make her feel better. Maybe best friends are supposed to stamp out the pain in the other’s heart? Later on you will realize how foolish that was, because the warm hugs and the words of consolation, will never drive away the grief.
Death is a reality. At some point, we all have to deal with it. So you decide to stop being “pesky” and give her space to grieve, to embrace the sadness and guilt enveloping her. Friends can tell her so many things that would supposedly make her feel better, but in the end, nobody can convince her of the truth but herself- that it was time to let go, that she was a good daughter and that her father loved her to the very last breath. That the world doesn’t stop revolving even when her father’s world did and that a future is ahead of her. And that in this dark hour, she will be reminded of people who matter to her. And that there will come a point when, she will remember her father, not with tears falling down her cheeks, but with a smile playing on her lips.
You need not say anything anymore to her. You believe in her strength. You just need to remind her that when the world come crashing down, you’d be right there, ready to wash the dishes, if she needs you to.
A former colleague described me as emotionally constipated. I guess I never was good at expressing myself emotionally (though people often wish I learn how to stop expressing what my brain processes), so people think I’m a robot- made of steel, all brains with no heart. hahahaha. I thought being strong was never being emotionally vulnerable. I was completely wrong.
This is my way (no matter how weird) of expressing what I have bottled up in this dark hour of your life, Meldee.
Pack lightly but protect yourself from the rain and cold. Bring your headlight, your climbing pole, enough trail food and water and dry bags.