Sunday, September 28, 2008

Diary Of A Departing OFW

Sep. 24 (11:00 am: Manila Time)
Prior to my return to overseas work assignment, I spent the last hours of my stay in the Philippines inside a church in Makati with my wife, Jembie. Initially, we thought of watching a movie but I realized that we need a solemn moment of solitude. The last hours before my flight schedule proved to be the most trying moments of my life as if I really hope that I could freeze the clock from ticking away precious seconds of my life. On my way to the airport, we have to go back to our house to pick up my youngest daughter to go with my wife during the airport send-off. On our way to the airport the rain pours as if God in high heavens is sharing with me the pain of leaving a family behind. The car I was driving of all the times suddenly had a mechanical trouble leaving me no choice but to ask my brother to send the car back home and hailed a taxi instead in the middle of the rain pouring at intermittent intervals.

(1:30 pm: NAIA)
At the airport, I asked my wife to board the taxi waiting at bay and to her hesitation, I reasoned that they have to go before heavy rain pours, not from above but from my eyes. I pretended to be fine even though I was not. As the taxi sped away from my view, thoughts of running after the taxi to bid farewell to my wife and daughter comes to my mind but my legs and feet proved to be powerful than my thoughts. Finally, they’re gone and out of my sight, I was left alone and with a heavy heart, I dragged my feet inside the airport terminal and found my self standing aimlessly in front of an X-ray machine. In that area near the X-ray machine is a sign visible to all incoming passengers telling us of personal effects that are not allowed in all hand-carried and check in luggage. The person manning the X-ray machine ensures that all passengers pass through the metal detector and have to be stripped of metal objects. The X-ray machine scans all bags and luggage that pass though the conveyor but perhaps what the X-ray machine and the metal detector failed to see are the tears in my eyes and my bleeding heart.

(2:10 pm: NAIA)
Inside the terminal, the check in counter at NAIA as expected is chaotic. Passengers come and go and from the piles of passengers queuing to check in their luggage. One can easily discern a passenger on leisure trip, with a face beaming with pride and excitement from the one driven away from his family not by choice but of dire needs whose face is masked by strong determination but with a heart that bleeds inside. At the boarding area, I saw a batch of passengers disembarking from the plane’s aisle with their face beaming with excitement to reunite with their loved ones – exactly the same euphoria I felt on my way back to the Philippines during my 2-month vacation.

(3:45 pm: NAIA)
The PA system announces the boarding call to remind all passengers bound for Abu Dhabi to board the plane. As the ground steward announces the order of boarding by seat number, I remember praying that my seat number’s row be overlooked. As I enter the plane, my heart is pounding and my shoulder becomes heavy not by the weight of my bag but of my emotion. While the plane is on its way to the runway, I wanted to tell the stewardess to ask the pilot to stop the plane to let me out but again, reality reminds me of the need to go.

(11:45 pm: Dammam)
I arrived in Dammam after a connecting flight from Abu Dhabi. After checking out at the immigration counter, I saw my officemates who patiently waited for me until wee hours. We head straight outside the airport terminal only to find our company car towed away by airport’s park and ground employees. We found the car in the impounding area and while my companion is paying the impounding fee, I remained inside the car recalling the events that had passed for the last 24 hours.

(1:45 am: JUBAIL)
We reached our accommodation and head immediately to my room only to find the air-conditioning unit is not functioning. I opened my room’s window and I glanced upon the tall chimneys of petrochemical plants nearby that breaths fire in the sky. The chimney breaths fire like a dragon but the fire couldn’t dry the tears on my pillow. As I glance to the 4 corners of my room, I knew that I’m alone – again. My body is exhausted but my mind keeps on resuscitating the events I had during my short stay with my family back in the Philippines – sleepless in Saudi Arabia. I don’t want to unpacked my suitcase for I was imagining that tomorrow, I will be back to Philippines and to be with my family and to never be separated from them again. But how is that? I quipped. Will I resign from my job? What shall I tell my boss? I have just arrived from a vacation then I will resign? Ok, granting my boss allows me, what’s next? Will it be “And they lived happily ever after” story? I don’t know, I just really don’t know.

(3:00am: JUBAIL)
I still couldn’t sleep so I tried to keep my self busy so as not to give my mind a chance to procrastinate. I cleaned the toilet seat and floors, I cleaned the room, wiped off the dust in my cabinet, on the windows, tables until I come across the files of my family’s pictures and letters from my children and wife. In one of the letters, I saw the Toblerone chocolate given to me by my daughter as her gift before my flight, at that time, I feel like dying.

I know that days before my next vacation are still far but if only God would allow me to make one wish, it would be an opportunity to work in a place where my heart is – my family.

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