Saturday, November 27, 2004

Rewind: The FLIGHT BACK 5-6 October 2004

A continuation from the entry, Rewind: NAIA Drama

Still in NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport)
I only have 45 minutes to go through immigration --a quickie; the series of security check ups --the larger-than-life phenomena in NAIA; to the toilet --after that grueling episode, I need a pee and some make up touch; to smoke --you bet I need this more than the pee!; and to find my gate --well fortunately NAIA is small unlike for example Schiphol airport.

While I was balancing my weight with my heavy laptop bag and 2 other hand carry bags, I heard someone spoke.

“Shall I help you, Miss?” A voice of a man said.

I was startled. I looked up and saw this Filipino man obviously gifted with age dressed in impeccably sharp dark blue suit. What ran first through my mind was, “What do you want now, mister D.O.M.?”, an infamous acronym for -Dirty Old Man- LOL. It didn’t took me a long time to realize that he must be a man of importance because of the train of people behind him, which half of the group looked like bodyguards.

I flashed my biggest smile and said, “No, thank you. I am alright.

Are you sure?” He said, his entourage quite amused.

“Oh yes, yes... I am but thanks anyway.” I replied.

I smiled back again at him and quickly gathered my bags and left their group.

Oh well, what do you think? Could that have been my fat chance of milking a D.O.M? But then, I am such a coward, I can never be a gold digger. Hah, so much for that ambition, I don’t think I can even survive the thought of flirting with an old man. I am too decent! ROARS haha!

Later, I figured out that he is on the same flight as me and that he is the Philippine Commissioner of XXXXX. It was quite easy to avoid him, he was in Business Class, I not.

The FLIGHT to AMS (Amsterdam)
Ugh. I have the same seat, again. I badly wanted the seat by the window so I can partake the spectacular views during take-off and landing but... oh well.

Anywhoo... I thought to myself, “Since I am in the middle seat, might as well be-friend my seat neighbors”. That’s a good plan rather than staring fixed to the TV; pretending to read and scan the magazines a hundred times; or sleeping through the whole flight with an agitated back. I was resolved, I can use some company.

The Filipina woman beside me on the left was a bit aloof, so I started with the Filipino guy on my right. He was actually a pleasant introduction. He helped deposit all my 3 bags in the overhead compartment. A closer look at him reveals that he is in his 30’s.

“Where are you going?” I asked nonchalantly.

“I’m going to Sudan...”, He said. (actually I forgot, it can either be Cameroon or Namibia, sowee!).

“Wow, Sudan... that is in Africa right?” I said.

Nodding he said, “Yes, it is in Africa but I do not know where exactly.”

The next thing I did was to take out the Dutch in-flight magazine from the rear back of the seat in front of me and showed him the African continent.

I then learned that he is a U.N. (United Nations) volunteer. He got the volunteer job via the internet –see the powers of applying online. He was one of those minimum salaried types back home, who holds on to deliberate dreams of going abroad to earn better wages for their families. In this UN job, he doesn’t have a real salary but an allowance + other benefits, which he said is already good enough. Once his 6 months temporary contract is over, he then can be taken into permanent employment.

I offered my unsolicited advice, “Once you get your permanent employment, ask for a transfer to another country that is safer, perhaps South Africa or outside Africa.” I said with concern

“I thought about that too...” He answered back with a void look in his face.

FYI. Many parts of Africa are torn and stretched apart currently with civil wars. Just check BBC and CNN. Though right now, I am wondering how he is doing. I hope he is safe.

Dinner served.

Hmm, it’s time to be-friend the neighbor on the left since she somewhat loosened up after dinner was served. She looked like someone in her late 40’s... and I am guessing, a successful businesswoman.

“Hi, are you going to Amsterdam?” I asked. I thought it’s alright to ask these somewhat privy questions since she and the other guy were Filipinos. Though, I would never dare ask a foreigner these types of questions, more so if they are Caucasians.

“No, I am not.” She said with an infectious inviting smile.

“Oh, where to then?” I asked again in my friendly voice.

She smiled again and stretched her arms, “I am going to 3 different countries, it’s actually a package tour... Hungary, Bavaria of Germany and the Czech Republic (former Czechoslovakia)”.

“That’s quite nice, but you are traveling alone right?” The nosey me asked.

“Yes, I am traveling alone” She replied.

The Czech Republic is well known to boast of many castles. But this isn't the reason why this woman is going there... I later on found out her tragic romantic story, so get your tissues ready.

She and her husband have a thriving business in Batangas, Philippines. They earn very good money to be able to travel abroad every year. In fact, they have been to the most beautiful places in the world. And last year before her husband got sick, he told her incessantly that he wants to go back to East Europe and visit the Czech Republic. They had been to all countries in East Europe before EXCEPT the Czech Republic... and he knew what he wanted for that year (2003). But life is rough, he died of cancer before he can realize that small wish. It was too soon.

While listening to her story, a tiny knot in my insides bled, well not literally but it saddens me and caught me off guard.

Hence, she’s sitting there in the airplane to fulfill the wish of her husband - to visit the Czech Republic. It's been a year from his death anniversary and she made a promise to him when she visited his grave a few months ago that she will fulfill that wish.

She also told me that she brought with her his picture so she will not feel alone. With his picture, it’s just like -he is there with me- and that its just like the -old days being together in their travels-. I almost cried my heart out upon hearing her say this. Mush-mush *wipes my tears*

But I learned something that moment. I saw the strength in this woman. It’s only been a year since she lost the love she had, but it seemed that she had sufficient courage and resolve to move on and fulfill the wish… even during her time of grief.

Incidentally, I watched the movie, The Terminal before I left for this business trip. It made me smile to actually meet someone in real life having almost exactly the same message in the movie --to travel to a far away place in order to fulfill a wish of a person who no longer lives.

This so far, was the most interesting flight I have ever experienced...


  1. A sad story but why travel alone? Life is short that's why my wife and I won't wait for our retirement to see the world. There's so much to see and experience. Someday we can meet you there in NL MissT when we visit the BENELUX countries.

  2. hey iskolar,

    yeah really sad, i almost cried when she was telling me her story. she wanted to travel alone (without her kids) coz she wants to somehow re-enact her travels with her husband in the past, especially to the czech republic since this is the country her late husband have been wanting to go. its like a promise between his husband and her.

    that would be nice if you come here!!! traveling aside from adventure is also relaxation.

  3. Anonymous7:09 pm


    Skipped too? ;-)

    Really, would like to comment about your Sudan-bound seat mate. Although it might be true that he is, as you put it, "one of those minimum salaried types back home, who holds on to deliberate dreams of going abroad to earn more for their families." That might just be too broad a statement, and might create an impression that he and other volunteers are in it for solely the "monetary reward." I know of a lady acquaintance (not married, in her 30s, but was introduced into the NGO scene early in her career, and I cannot comment about her previous pay scale) who is currently volunteering in Ghana, working with women groups. Her e-mails out of Ghana suggest that she finds the volunteer work challenging, but that she is happy with her work and has even invited others to volunteer. I guarantee you she will not retire after her stint in Ghana, but who knows that she will find another piece of truth in that pursuit of purpose that will make her journey on this Earth worth the while. Cheers and keep up the awesome work. I have travelled through Schiphol in each of the last 3 years; despite very careful planning of these trips, I find myself always sorry for not taking the excursion out into beautiful Netherlands. P.S. If you come across some in your pamalengke, please post pictures of sweetpotatoes (aka kamote). Salamat.

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