Eyes wide shut. The surroundings started to tremble. My palms shook while resting at the edge of the armrests. Consciousness stirred in the moment my head tilted to the side. I slowly started to open my eyes. A ding went off as a small light lit up at the ceiling. A voice-over announced we were experiencing some turbulence. All passengers and crew were asked to fasten their safety belts. My eyes adjusted to the dark interior and the seatbelt sign was clear in sight.
It was about five in the morning, Los Angeles time, and we were somewhere over the Pacific. Sitting still, I stare blankly at the lever of my tray table, waiting for the turbulence to fade. My mind, though, was somewhere over limbosphere experiencing its own unrest. After eight hours on the plane, I still couldn't believe I’m going back to the Philippines. Albeit only temporary, I cannot help but feel anxious.
The decision to go home was one so swift it hadn't had the chance to sink in yet. Mother had an accident that resulted in a three-segment fracture of her humerus. An orthopedic surgeon recommended surgery so we thought it best she have it done at home. The quality of care in several hospitals is at par with world-renowned facilities at a price we can afford.
I was also uneasy that I might not recognize home anymore? What if I’m not able to adapt, assimilate? How will I manage with the country's summer heat and humidity? Will I be able to tolerate the forms of pollution I will see? Will I be able to endure inconveniences of every shape and size which some balikbayans fail to? Then there’s also my current home in L.A. What will become of it, befall it, while I’m away? How will it manage? In what state will I find it in when I return?
At the same time, I also feel elated going home. It's been more than two years and I'm excited to see what changes the Philippines has gone through. There are many family and friends to rekindle ties with, places to visit and revisit, and experiences to relive and relish. I am most excited of the food which I miss the most. Although most items are available in L.A., nothing really comes close to those at home. The one thing I can't wait to eat is pinangat or gulay na natong (taro leaves cooked slowly in rich coconut milk and hot chili peppers) in my home city of Legaspi.
The one month sojourn is also a chance for self-evaluation. What changes have I gone through since I left? How different or the same had I been since the last two years and so?
Ding. The seatbelt sign is switched off. My eyes had grown heavy. Jetlag is kicking in. I shut my eyes with the hope that my mind will soon follow. It's still five more hours until I see a new dawn in a "new" land.