There and back again
I suffer from a chronic case of homesickness. There is no known cure, and any self-respecting OFW accepts this as a common malady that can only be relieved by the performance-level, hernia-inducing rendition of Celine Dion’s greatest hits via the Filipino expat home staple called the Magic Sing.
The symptoms can be so bad that seeing ‘You are a professional singer!’ splashed across the screen brings forth the healing and life-affirming effect of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Despite having lived away for more than eight years now, nothing gives me greater pleasure than counting down to those days when all our bags get packed with a month’s salary worth of pasalubong, when we call for a cab to take us to Heathrow and when we spend the next 16 hours cramped like contortionists, inappropriately nourished yet insanely pumped for touchdown to NAIA.
The plane lands, and within yourself you sense a visceral humming, followed by utter good will, taking you back to that day when you first mixed vodka and orange juice and realized God wants you to be happy.
You start walking past well-lit duty-free shops with their year-round alcoholic specials on Johnnie Walker, and you instantly forget about your cheerless, 8-hour layover in some Arab country where they don’t sell Coca-cola.
Your eyes then feast on carousels filled with luggage labeled on font size 72 with the owner’s name, address and telephone number, and it makes you think of Eat Bulaga, your suking tindahan and the tambiolo.
If the 45-degree downward incline on the platform leading to the alphabets doesn’t jar you, then the 35-degree-which-feels-like-42-degree weather will no doubt be screaming home-sweet-home at you. Mabuhay! It’s more fun in the Philippines!
Ask our sons. They know the drill. They were born and raised here in the ‘not-home,’ but it’s clear that the desire to be back where their roots were sprung is genetic.
They contracted the winter bug a week before one of our flights, losing about 5 pounds between them. Downright wilted and wasted. After getting their fill of a full Jolly meal, they started running around like a couple of puppies on speed. Go figure.
You are so stoked you think you won’t be sleeping anytime in the near future. It’s when the sun next rises that the jet lag journey of agony bares its fangs at you then launches into nefarious, echoic laughter which suspiciously sounds like Joaquin Buwaya’s. The next couple of days are then mostly squandered on lounging, alternating between dreamland and binge-land, so before you know it, hello next dress size!
The following 20-odd days are then spent on a frenzied pendulum of glass-half-full/glass-half-empty, catching up on a whole year’s worth of bumming around; soaking up Vitamin D and growing tan lines; sight-seeing new haunts and re-visiting old ones, watching Regal Films classics and siesta-novelas; re-establishing papag connections, reliving the good, old days that didn’t seem so good while you were actually living them; packing carbs; packing six-packs; all the while enjoying each day less than the day before.
Before you know it, Revenge of the Creeping Dread is now showing.
It is during these tail-end days that I feel true kinship with a convict on death row, with the despedida calling to mind the last meal request on the night before execution.
Seriously, how can you even think about eating when you’re about to be offed with 1,700 volts of pure death?
Moreover, doesn’t the unfairness of having to go back to the not-home just make you want to go thermonuclear? So, yes, in my head, holidays ending and incarcerations are closely linked and may even have a directly proportional relationship.
The flight back to the not-home tends to be forgettable as we force ourselves to sleep through the misery because crying is so cliché. That we shed bucket loads time and again is irrelevant. We’re so going through the vicious circus again next year.
In the meantime, I’m googling the lyrics to Just Give Me a Reason. –Rappler.com
Cheryl Bartolo is a 30-something married mother of 3 currently residing in the UK. She wants to be a writer when she grows up. Her magnum opus will be the screenplay of her biopic where either Idris Elba or Samuel Jackson will be playing the title role.