Disembarking

IMG_4401The last rays of a tired sun reflected
on the mirror-like, just-out-of-the-factory 737
disgorging it’s passengers
through a miles-too-long aerobridge

Two businessmen with over-sized briefcases
who planned ahead to avoid the anxiety of
a shoulder-to-shoulder, four-deep baggage claim

A mother with a crying 3-year old
whose tears ran out long before the discomfort

Three surfer dudes returning from distant waves,
congratulating a fourth who (apparently)
scored the number of one of the stewardesses

My heart seemed like it was beating out of my chest—
Oh! the relief of arriving
and the joy, the joy of reuniting

A family—mum, dad, three children wearing Mickey ears—
showing the relaxed look of having holidayed,
but now-glum faces at its necessary end

An elderly man whose face lights up like Christmas
at the sound of a screeching duet of “Grandpa, grandpa!”
from youngsters (impatiently) waiting
in the the cordoned-off area

Where was she?

Why did she always wait
for everyone else to leave the plane?

My restless mind scans the passengers
making their way along the aerobridge,
most into the welcoming embrace of family
or meeting smiling friends

Is that her?

Craning my neck I see a grey-laced-with-pastel-blue head
on a increasingly-hunched-but-still-stately frame,
Rose Pink the chosen colour for today’s adventure
(Once she dressed in Sunday-best for traveling;
now it’s all about comfort)
Yes! My heart was beating out of my chest—
two years is a very long time.

Scanning the crowd,
her gaze meets with my growing-misty eyes.
Pushing through the meeters and greeters
I find myself in a strong, Chanel-scented hug
(lingering—will she ever let go?)
“Oh mum! It’s so good to see you again.”

A World Away (Philippine Adventure, Part 1)

2013-04-21 (13-04) Philippines 027It was like we were walking into a wall of humid heat as we left the terminal at Manila International Airport. We made our way out of the door and into a world so far removed from our own—a world in which brightly decorated jeepneys, roadside sari-sari stores and crowded streets were the norm.

I had jumped at the chance to accompany my dad to the Philippines to catch up with his former students and to attend a Conference with many of them in Manila. Having spent the first seven years of my life in Legazpi City (Southern Luzon) and Ozamis City (Northern Mindanao), I welcomed the opportunity to travel to the place closer to where I began my journey.

It was amazing to see how my distance from my birthplace had coloured my memories. I didn’t recall the humidity being so oppressive. I didn’t remember eating rice every meal. I didn’t seem to be able to call to mind crowded streets filled with cabs, buses, jeepneys and tricycles (motorbikes or bicycles with covered sidecars).

It didn’t take long for these things to jump back into my mind with a vengeance.

But my memory did serve me well with regards to the people: warm, welcoming, caring, considerate. Hospitality is a part of their nature.

Meeting us at the airport was Manuel, one of dad’s former students—now a pastor and supervising minister in the Grace Gospel Churches of Christ in the greater Manila area (He arrived in Manila 25 years earlier and had seen 14 churches planted around the region in that time).

It took us 2 hours to traverse the 27km from the airport to Manuel’s home in Quezon City. The early evening came alive with markets along the road, people returning on the train, buses and jeepneys from their day’s work, and the sounds of children playing. . . .

Every turn in the road brought a new sense of wonder. I must have looked like a typical “Americano” tourist with wide eyes and camera going full-pelt.

We arrived at the house around 8 where we were treated to a lavish spread of rice, chicken, salad and conversation liberally sprinkled with laughter, memories, and a few Cebuano phrases (at least the best dad could remember them!)

My dad was in his element, reminiscing about the “good old days” of mission trips into the mountains, riding carabao on muddy trails, Bible College days and many other such experiences. Manuel, also, told stories of his time living with our family in Legazpi, walking me to Kindergarten every day, then moving to Mindanao to attend Bible College.

I was reminded how, though we may be worlds apart in many ways, yet here we were at this table sharing food, talking as if 41 years hadn’t even passed, celebrating God’s goodness, however we conceived it to be in our own surroundings.

(to be continued . . .)