( originally written 26th December 2009 )
IT’S PROBABLY, on the broad spectrum of human experience and situations, one of the loneliest, and quite ironic that it is spent among hundreds, probably even among thousands of people in the busiest of locations.
We refer to spending alone as near a date to Christmas as possible in transit, traveling major hours or distances from one corner of the world to the other, and getting caught on the coziest day of the season without anyone near you that you know, hate or love. Quite sobering, and a bit depressing.
Interestingly enough, a lot of travelers were stranded during extreme weather conditions both in North America and Europe, and quite a lot of commuters were rendered helpless when trains traversing the English Channel between UK and continental Europe were stalled.
But we refer to something a little less exciting, a little more mundane. We couldn’t help but plan a visit back to Islas de los Pintados just a few sleeps before the 25th, when we finally convinced the boss we deserved the remainder of our annual leave and were good for it ( meaning our promise to return on schedule was good as gold ), got a last-minute ticket just a day before Christmas Eve, and confirmed it just a few hours before we actually packed our meager change-of-clothing and thick-thick paperback into a grimy backpack.
Anything for the chance to rebond with any and all loved ones back home, revisit well-loved sites, roam familiar haunts and break bread with buddy-buddy bros (& sisses) esp during the holidays. Sounds baduy, tacky and cheesy, but we would spend our bottom dollar (and humble peso) just to get back to where we once belonged. ( thanks for that, Fab 4 ! )
Balik sa topic : you probably know where we’re going with this. We got home just in the nick of time a few hours before Christmas Eve, and looking at various waystations in the interim, wondered how lonely it must be for traveling salesmen, professionals on-the-road, and world-weary wayfarers to be in the middle of Heilongjiang, Alma Ata, or some other lonely outpost on this sometimes Lonely Planet, waiting for yet another ride to Nowhere, sa ilalim ng Bundok ng TraLaLa.
We were in no such place, in fact we were just a few hours away from home, but in return for a spontaneously instant itinerary we had to spend halfway between Kilometer Zero and Ultimate Destination ( Cainta, Rizal ) in Sydney Aus. Nothing bad about it, since, as efficient, sleek and squeaky clean airports go, this was near the top, in our humble estimation.
[ Nobody spill the beans, but in between zzzzz’s and ngorkkks, did we imagine a “hidden” stopover around the corner, Brisbane we think (?), which coincidentally is home to one of the larger Pinoy communities in Aus. Well, as long as we’re homebound, might as well pick up as many kabayans as possible, just don’t take too long Kapitan Kulas. ]
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Unfortunately, spending more than the essential waiting time (4 hours) in this place was not in our immediate interests, even for the sake of argument overlooking the fact that we were not issued a transit visa; not that we deserved one since the document was granted only for stopovers beyond 8 hours ( a notoriously popular mode of migration being getting-lost-while-seeing-Sydney for a day and inadvertently-staying-lost-for-a-year ), no sneak-ins for you Mr Opportunistic Oriental Overstayer.
Hmm, we never thought of such, but we can sympathize with your self-righteous paranoia, Aussie Immigration Officer. Don’t worry, we’ll be gone after our 4 hours, thank you very much for the kick in our brown behind.
Frankly, we were hearing more than a few growls from Mr Tumtums, but the Aussie dollar is worth a bit more than NZ’s, and since there was a meal waiting for us on the plane, we decided to just wait it out, let the digestive juices stew a bit, and walk around SYD International; it would be quite a while before we returned to this neck of the woods.
It shouldn’t have been a wonder, but there were more Pinoys, Chinese, South Asians, than any other place we had been to recently. Maybe it was also a coincidence that we were in a PAL flight, but then again KAL, SAL, JAL and Cathay Pacific flights were on the roster of arrivals and departures every hour that we waited for our plane.
Might have been our imagination, but the way our eyes traveled across the rows and rows of seats in waiting lounges and departure areas, one could have sworn that we were anywhere else except Australia. The distribution, no exaggeration, was less than 2 white faces in 10 that we encountered.
And it seemed like the airport management had adjusted to this reality. Everywhere we went there were Asian sales staff, ready to assist your purchasing queries in whatever language / dialect you were accustomed to. Likewise, signs explaining sales and specs for both consumables and electronics were in a babel of languages and script, no possibility of anything getting lost in translation.
Ang kulang na lang talaga, Ate and Koya, ang ginto at pilak na panggastos para sa mga pasalubong for the loved ones back home. I wish !
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By the time the wheels touched down and every passenger nimbly made his/her way out of the plane, the oddly familiar smell of burnt air greeted us on EDSA. Had we not been light-headed / adrenalin filled from 24 hours of travel, we would have recognized it as the carbon monoxide / diesel / lead / tire rubber cocktail of scents that most Metro Manilans are used to.
But for the moment, we just perceived it for what it was : the familiar smell of home.
Happy holidays everyone ! YLB NOel