For a change, I opted to start writing these series of blogs 30,000 ft. (or so) above sea level, yes while on board, Cebu Pacific flight bound to Manila. I came to Leyte for some reasons which I am about to tell you, in the next few blogs,—I came with these reasons in my mind and now, on my flight back to Manila, I will try to recall what I got accomplished and what are those that surprised me in the five-day planned and unplanned leaves.
I came home.
I came home to say goodbye to a loved one who left; I came home to see relatives whom I have not seen since I left for Manila after graduation; I came home to say hello to my friends and check what’s going on with their lives; I came home to have an excuse to get away from the city and call center life; I came home hoping I could write something essential, apart from coaching logs and call monitoring evaluations; I came home to either burn or rebuild wrecked bridges—connections that have been lost for years; I came home so I could perhaps remember the more important things I had, or still have.
I asked a two-day vacation leave from my manager who did not allow me to go on a four-day VL last Christmas. He was finally compelled to give me a break when I reminded him that I have not been absent for some 3 months now and if and only if I was able to finish all my workloads before my very early morning flight which is around 4 am on February Friday the 13th. I did. And 48 hours prior to my flight homeward bound, I have not been able to sleep, maybe due to overexcitement and being frantic about how the trip will turn out to be. Going back, I only asked to be on VL on Friday the 13th, Saturdays and Sundays being my restdays are excluded, and Monday, Manic Monday. Originally, that was the plan. But then again, a place as far as Leyte, 45 minutes flight and 24 straight hours of travel through a bus, you can never have much time, can you? Today, by the way is Wednesday, February 18, 2009.
How it All Started.
The last time I went home to Leyte was during the All Visayas Writing Workshop in 2007. More than a year now. And since December of last year, I have been planning and thinking of going home but at the same time, there is this apparent force from I don’t know where, that keeps me from booking that Cebu Pacific flight online.
February 5. Towards the end of my shift, I was just waiting for time so I could logout and go home so I decided to type “Lakan Uhay Alegre” in Yahoo Search. I usually do this because this keyword would lead me to Tatay Ed’s articles written for the Business World. And from there I would read through his articles, which most of the time talks about how proud he is of Lakan, his son, 8 years old.
As the screen populates with the search results, I check on the unfamiliar entries so I could start reading through. I started with his “Near Death Ruminations” written on December 2 I guess, and I discovered how he was living through his heart ailments and how apparently, has he gave up some of the things he was enjoying just to ensure he’s on top of his health.
After a few more articles, I stumbled upon “Ode to A Dear Teacher” by Alex Castillo. Clicking the hyperlink, I was lead to an article with that title and with a subtitle that brought shiver down my miserable spine. “…Goodbye Sir Ed. You will be sorely missed” it says.
I quickly browsed through the article twice, as I don’t know what happened to my reading retention and comprehension that I was not able to understand a single thing that I was reading. And on the third attempt, I then had no choice but to accept what I was reading. And just when I thought that the cliché “I-didn’t-notice-that-the-tears-are-rushing-through-my-face” was absurd (how can you not know that), the very thing just happened to me. In a flash, my other colleagues were approaching me, asking what just happened and all I could say was, “My college professor just died.” They would not understand. And Tatay Ed was never my college professor. He was my life mentor. And did I say that I he died January 11? I cried yet another sea of tears. No one, apparently, told me.
The very same day, while walking through then empty Ayala Avenue with my friend Maphene, who was also never good in condoling those have lost someone, whether in love, life or a competition, we kept silent. That’s how we deal with most of our problems back then in Tacloban. We simply kept things in mum. For we know, in silence we have communicated better.
Over heart donuts and chocolate chocolate from Krispy Kreme, we knew we were fine. Or at least I should be. We then went on our separate ways as we go to our respective homes. And from there, I knew, I needed to do something.
No thinking this time. I told my mom that I will go home by the next weekend. I just said, I needed a break. Of course, I was lying. I could have gone like this forever and not notice that a year has gone by without anything to look back to. And in a few clicks, I was ready to board Cebu Pacific flight 5J 651 bound to Tacloban. As I do these sudden decisions, I stopped to think and realize that I could actually do this without even thinking. And I should have done this a long time. Now, when I come home, I would only get to see what has been and what was left of it. But my life is short. No time for these what if’s and could have been’s.
While on board, in the midst of snoozing passengers at 4 am, I looked out of the window and all I could see, 30,000 ft. above, were bleak city lights and slowly, darkness creeping in. I assured myself that this is the least that I could do. I may not be able to see him anymore but I felt the need to say goodbye to him “in person”. But I still don’t exactly know what I am supposed to do once this plane lands. I’ll play it by the ear.
In the middle of hello’s and welcome back’s with my good old friends, I was consistently being bugged of what my purpose was in coming back. So, after the Valentine’s Day I spent with my equally hopelessly love loser friends Clang, Yell and Lemuel, I came up with what I am going to do.
The next morning, after we slept in our “comfort zone” aka the UP Open University Office, sending Clang and Yell off, I walked in the streets of Tacloban aimlessly. I saw familiar places and I “saw” Tatay Ed. Brod Pits, Shakey’s, Hap Chan, Mlakin Tian, T Claudio—our dorm, Rizal Avenue, Duptour’s Terminal, Plaza Grill, Sto Nino, Jose Karlo’s and finally, Magsaysay. I walked in these streets, past these establishments where Tatay Ed and I once shared coffee, pizza, camaron rebosado, grilled chicken and a whole memory box worth of knowledge and snippets of life—of how we were not exactly a by-product of hundreds of years of colonization and continued colonizations, of how his other kids apart from Uyay were like, of how he and Nanay Joycie met –and how I promised that I will take up Film in UP, and that in Cannes or the Oscars, I will mention his name last to thank him, we ended jokingly.
I did not go to Holy Cross, where he was laid to rest. For a simple single reason that the place is unfamiliar to me. We have never walk that path, never went there when he was still here.
I went to every single street of Tacloban which I remembered Tatay Ed and I walked past by. I know, in essence, a part of him has stayed in those—and will probably stay on forever. Towards the last stop, which was Magsaysay Blvd., I sat down in the pavement and wrote him a letter. No, I did not burn or let the letter drift in Kankabatok Bay. I kept it. I finally said my last words.