My head was already working on how I am going to write about this trip even before we boarded the Cebu Pacific flight to Phuket, Thailand. I kept a notepad handy, but aside from important names or new words that I know would be difficult to recall later, I shunned writing my thoughts down while still on the trip because I wanted to make the most of the time digging up new things in a new place. Each new experience is kept in a tiny pocket somewhere in my uber-excited brain…detailed and sterling. I was even able to crop up a title for this blog.
Not until the last leg of our 15-day Indo-China trip when I lost my money to someone on a bus en-route to Phuket while I was so deep in sleep. So while my head is quite full with various things, I couldn’t get my mind working on it. The once overflowing thoughts ran dry and everything seems a blur. I just slept on it most of the time since I got back. I tried putting up an “I am okay” front but I was all the more cranky than before I left, not even able to sit down and talk about my travel without a tinge of hostility, probably scarring my relationship with my family who worried so much when they knew of what happened, pulling resources and time to ensure I come home safe.
So if you are reading this blog, I want to forewarn you that this is an emotional stuff that is not really cut for a travel writer’s entry which I earlier hoped to pull in. It’s been 8 days since I got back and getting the ball rolling is quite difficult, but I know somehow, somewhere, I have to start writing. And I did…from the end.
Going on a backpacking spree to some far away land with an ‘UNEMPLOYED” status in my immigration card stunned the officer on duty. She quizzed me on a lot of things from where I got my money, where am I going, what used to be my job before I fell on the unemployed category, which school I attended in college, what degree I finished, whom am I going with, what relation do I have with the person, etc, etc, etc.
That was probably 10 minutes. Well, she was clearly JUST doing her job and I, on the other hand, was JUST being honest… a wal-lang chasing her dream of traveling the world.
Ten months since I came home, I’ve been staying with my mom. I was back being the home-girl I used to be after I finished college, tending her sari-sari store (mini-grocery shop), became the resident cook for her restaurant, attended to guests in the family-run inn, did the housekeeping and even took care of the pigs, the chickens, the duck and the dogs since I am most of the time left alone. In short, I was busy, I was working, I was not idle. That means, I shouldn’t be categorized then as “unemployed” should we agree with Thesaurus’ definition of unemployment as being without a job, redundancy, idleness.
But which category then should I belong? Self-employed? Business person? The only business I could claim my own is retailing phone credits to globe/tm subscribers and selling snacks to employees of the local government that doesn’t even rake up an average of 100 pesos daily.
I kept a clean pile of empty bottles, cardboards, used papers and bottle caps from the store to be sold to the junk shop. I even bought our neighbor’s empty bottles to add up to my pile. I skipped the salon and did my own haircut. I cut back on small things that I know I could survive without, like unnecessary text messages or phone calls. It may not be enough but for me, a little always helps.
My parents, supportive of my dream, harvested vegetables from the farm, patiently carried them on a 45-minute hike to where transportation to town is available, sold them and handed me the money. Every single cent piled in my travel money bag, including a P100 tip from a French guest for the nice meals and the hospitality he said.
And when I said I have kept savings from my previous stint in the UAE, I was telling the truth. It was not much and it was supposedly kept for another application abroad, but I just couldn’t shrug off this travel bug. All of these and my siblings pitching in, I believe I was financially able to go backpacking.
Had I gone through all these details, I probably missed my flight. Thanks to my travel-buddy, Kuya Dave, who is a travel writer and photojournalist, for helping me get through Immigration. I was not ready for another hiccup at Immigration. I thought having proofs of travel abroad would have somehow stepped up my standing but I was wrong. For a moment there, I missed being an Overseas Filipino Worker as stamping out of the country takes less than a minute with an Overseas Employment Certificate. It makes me wonder how other Pinoy backpackers manage such a situation? If you are one, I would appreciate if you could share your two cents worth on this one.
If only the person who stole my money knew how I managed to realize this travel, would he/she have second thoughts? God bless his/her heart. I am just thankful I came home unscathed, well except for insect bites which happen all the time even while home, that I can still find a way to get back what I have lost. At least he didn’t get my Niko, my phone, my passport and my cards, and even left me with a few Thai coins to pay for the toilet, a few Vietnam dong and Cambodian riel for souvenir and enough Philippine Peso to get me from NAIA Terminal 3 to my brother’s house in Antipolo.
On a positive note, I got my birthday wish. The wonderful experiences, even this appalling incident and all of the stress come with the package.
Until next time. Remember, no matter what gets on the way, always keep the faith, follow your heart, stay safe and travel light.
(September 25, 2013)