At Short Notice
Our third trip to Bicol was planned at really short notice. Joey and I had an unspoken agreement to bring our elderly mom home to Albay regularly so that she could visit her equally aging brothers and sisters. We hadn’t been very consistent with the dates but had somehow managed to make the trip at least once a year. This year 2014, she had already gone twice — once during Holy Week (with me, Ed and Joey) and the second when Aunty Celia (my dad’s younger sister) died in June. So there were no plans to go this Christmas.
We were, however, expecting to go at any time (yet praying we wouldn’t have to). Well, on December 12, the news we were dreading arrived– Uncle Carding (Mama’s younger brother) had just died. He had had several strokes– the last major one was a couple of years ago– and had finally let go. Without protest, I sat down in front of the computer and booked our travels to and from Legazpi. The Purpose
There will always be a special place in Mama’s heart for her brother, Carding. She was nine years old when he was born and there were already two other sisters before him. But for some reason, he wanted only my mom to carry him whenever he needed to be carried. Then when he had grown and finished college, it was my dad who got him a job as Supervisor at Philippine Packing Corporation (now known as Del Monte Philippines Inc.), where he eventually met his wife, Mai. They were married in Bukidnon where both my parents stood as their principal sponsors. So when my uncle died, there was absolutely no question that my mom was going home.
Uncle Carding was 73. About five years ago he had a stroke but was able to attend his second son’s wedding in Pampanga. He was already on the road to recovery when he suffered a second, and probably more debilitating, stroke which left him bedridden for a few months. Still his will was strong and he was able to continue his therapy until early this year.
When we visited just before Easter, he was in a wheelchair, unable to move his limbs on his own and had to be fed through a tube attached to his stomach. And yet his eyes were still focused. He knew my mom had come to visit. He knew his granddaughter had prepared a song for him.
However, as illnesses like these go, his health deteriorated. In November, he’d acquired pneumonia and it was all downhill from there. On December 11, Mama had just instructed me to send out her annual cash gifts to her siblings (even if some of them didn’t need it and, in turn, instructed me to forward it to my uncle). After thanking me, Aunty Mai added that my uncle was on oxygen. I didn’t tell Mama because I knew it would stress her, not knowing that the next day I would be passing on more dire news.
We arrived on December 16, with just one day and one night before the funeral. Uncle Carding’s body was to be cremated and due to a series of superstitions (“pamahiin”) it seemed like everything was just happening so fast. There was a mass that night, after which the family was invited to say their eulogies.
With each speaker, Uncle Carding’s life story unfolded. First Aunty Mai (his wife) spoke, then Greg (eldest son), then Aunty Parz (older sister), then Joey (representing Mama, older sister), then Tatz (representing Uncle Dioring, eldest brother), then Uncle Mon (youngest brother) and last, Uncle Carding’s best friend.
Uncle Carding brought his young wife home to Tiwi at the request of his aging parents. He was the only agriculturist in the family so it was only natural that he take over the management of the family’s rice fields and abaca lands. The going was rough but he was still able to put delicious rice on the table and contribute good quality abaca to the province’s livelihood makers. When it became clear that the weather was not going to cooperate (Bicol is frequently hit by typhoons), he lay down his sickle and tried his hand at politics. From Barangay Captain, he moved up to Municipal Councilor and finally, Vice Mayor. And when, the following term, he lost to his strongest contender, he settled down to serving the people where he knew it was most appreciated — as a Lay Minister in the Parish of the Nuestra Señora de Salvacion.
That last night there were a lot of people come to visit and pay their respects. The next day, only family and close friends were at hand for the funeral mass and cremation. After a short two hours, the body had been turned to ash and Aunty Mai was allowed to take Uncle Carding home once again. A Time for Bonding
Because of expensive fares and miscommunication, Mama’s and my return schedule was still on December 20, giving us three days to bond with my aunts and uncles in Tiwi. Unfortunately, all those who lived in Manila had already gone back the same day as the cremation because they still had work days to finish before the holidays kicked in. Fortunately for us, those who worked abroad were still around to accompany us. Bendy, my cousin, along with his wife and baby boy, drove us to visit Joroan Church (also Nuestra Señora de Salvacion, said to be miraculous) and DJC Halo-Halo (THE famous halo-halo). Two nights were spent in the ancestral house, the very same house Mama grew up in. It had withstood 80 years of countless typhoons and the occasional earthquake and volcanic eruption. Her two sisters, both spinsters and retired teachers, had contributed much of their hard-earned incomes to reinforce the lower floor with concrete and strengthen the upper floor with a sturdier roof and ceiling. The youngest in the family, Uncle Mon, is a paraplegic. As a young man, he was shot by a jealous rival (they were courting the same lady) and the bullet got imbedded in his spinal column. Back in the 50s when it happened, doctors were hesitant to take on delicate operations like this, and so my uncle remained paralyzed from the neck down, unable to move except his neck and left shoulder. On the bright side, he is married with two children. (I will write this love story in another post.)
It is normal for siblings to have disagreements, as is the case in the ancestral household. We made use of the time we were there to try to appease the disagreeing members of the family. And now that there is a new addition – my young cousin’s girlfriend gave birth to a bouncing baby girl yesterday – we are hoping that peace can and will be made where peace is needed.
The Travel: Going
All our travels were delayed.
I had booked on PAL, my chosen airline for so long. In fact, even with our experience this time, I believe I will still continue to choose PAL in the years to come.
Our CGY-MNL flight was first moved from 5:10pm to 8:00pm and we were informed the day before via email. Well, because we live so far from the airport, I still decided we go there early just in case we could be chance passengers on an earlier flight. When we checked in, we were informed that the original schedule of 5:10pm was going to be followed and that no more seats in the earlier flights were available anymore. Wonderful!
Five hours later, an announcement determined the trend we were going to be taking for our journey– our flight was once again delayed back to 8:00pm. Not only us, but all other PAL AND Cebu Pacific flights, as well. So it definitely wasn’t just the airline’s fault though they certainly had a part in it. In the end, we finally took off at 8:30 and landed in Manila at 10:05. Then, because of the horrendous traffic outside of NAIA3, we decided to just book a room in a motel in Pasay, so that we would be close enough to the airport to catch our 9:25am flight to Legazpi the next morning and to have a place to sleep for a few hours. The motel in Pasay? SOGO Hotel!
The rooms were nice actually, the bathrooms clean and sporting hot water and the room service acceptable. And except for that card taped to the top of the TV (which nobody else noticed, thank God), I was happy as pie.
The MNL-LGP flight was only delayed by 20 minutes and we arrived at Uncle Dioring’s house just before lunchtime. Pretty good!
The Travel: Return
On the return leg, it was the same story all over again. Our LGP-MNL was scheduled to leave at 2:50pm but was lucky enough to have beaten the sunset limitation deadline, arriving at 4:47pm, 13 minutes before the runway was closed to incoming flights. We took off at 5:20pm and landed in Manila at 6:20. Unfortunately, the Cebu Pacific flight that was supposed to immediately follow didn’t make it and was cancelled.
It took my cousin’s driver two hours to get to the airport (45 minutes of which were spent stuck in a bottleneck crossing just at the entrance of the Terminal 3 ramp) but it took us less than an hour to drive all the way back to QC where they lived and where we were going to stay for the night before heading to the pier next morning. Amazing!
Finally, we took the boat to Cagayan de Oro. I could have booked us on a plane but I made the mistake of assuming that all the taxes and fees were already keyed into the boat’s online ticket rates just like with the airlines. I thought I was saving half of the amount I would have spent on plane tickets. I actually paid 2/3, saving only a little bit. Well, part of the experience I guess. Besides, my mom enjoyed the 2-day-1-night trip. Airconditioned private room for 4, a comfortable bed to lay on with free beddings and our own comfort room. And most importantly, FREE MEALS! There was a slight conflict at the start though. You see, I bought our tickets online and was assigned accommodations automatically, which turned out to be on opposite ends of the ship and on upper deck bunks. So getting there early, we were able to request a temporary exchange, subject to the approval of the passengers who booked those beds.
Unfortunately, they didn’t. Turns out, they had bought their tickets over the counter and had specifically asked for lower deck bunks because one of them had a broken foot. I asked again if they were willing to exchange (my intention was actually to exchange with the companion who didn’t look disabled) but the man was indignant and refused to let me finish my sentence. Then and there I decided that anywhere away from that couple would be a better alternative.
You know? It was. The room we were transferred to was smaller but had a bigger window that looked out directly on the sea (no obstruction) and I liked it instantly. The other room’s window was small and looked out onto a deck and so had no view to speak of. Also, we were now located on the lobby level (meaning no more stairs for Mama) just steps from the Front Office and a short walk to the restaurant. I couldn’t thank the ship staff enough for finding us the room. Our roommates were a seaman from Cagayan and a tourism consultant from Bohol. Perfect!
A special Thank You to:
Jeffrey Maten – 2GO Passenger Terminal, Manila
Julius Quezon – Ship Hotel Manager