Heading home

A note from Pinay New Yorker: This post was written during my flight home to Manila on March 2, 2023, and is being published belatedly days after I arrived back in New York on March 15.

I’m just over 2/3rds of a 17-hour flight home to Manila, just four months from the last time I touched down on the land of my birth in November of last year. That’s a little rich but I planned this trip the same time I planned November’s emotional journey home.

The November trip was my first time to come home in 3 years. Covid kept me from my yearly trip home, and while air travel slowly returned to almost normal, the fares and schedules just didn’t work. Finally, on the Independence Day seat sale of Philippine Airlines, I snagged the first availability I could find for a round trip New York – Manila sale fare, which happened to be in November. The fare was $1076 dollars, a far cry from the regular fare of $2400 I kept seeing. That already included the additional fee of $20 for an aisle seat each way.

So I decided to buy a ticket for the same price for March, in time for Mom’s birthday.

And here I am, all excited!

The trips home are a gift to me from me. I’ve been a New Yorker for almost 23 years now, but my entire family is in Manila. I left to start a family in New York and while that has been whittled down to just the son and I, I have all of my family back home. Dad passed away 11 years ago, and mom is turning 83. In preparation for the trip home, I always get excited months ahead, planning on the pasalubong I will bring home, and spending time with the family and reconnecting with friends. We’re a tight knit clan of 4 siblings and 4 in the next generation. Although we are constantly in touch via Facebook messenger and WhatsApp, these times that we get to spend in 3D as some now call it, are precious indeed.

In the weeks leading to the trip, I start shopping for the presents for the folks back home. Chocolate is always on top of the list, but we always decide which ones to get depending on the season. It’s easier when the son and I are both traveling, because then we have four 50-lb bags to fill.

I got 3 bags of 100 piece Lindt truffles, and that alone already ate up 4 kilos and change. Ferrero Rocher is also a favorite across the board, and I caught a buy one get the second at 50% sale at RiteAid which made it a good buy. I unpack the truffles from their original container and arrange them in a carton so that they don’t get crushed.

I already have a system whereby I weigh and apportion my luggage allowance, making sure to keep within the 50 lb or 23 kg limit. While I paid for an extra piece in November, this time around, I stuck to the 2 pc checked in bag limit, and I went with a roller and my huge tote as hand carry. I actually ended up checking in a pound or two lighter than the max.

I always make sure my underwear and at least one change of clothes is in my hand carry. Just in case my luggage gets lost, I know I will have a change of clothes. And I like to change to something more comfortable when I land, more so when I leave New York in winter clothes and land in the much warmer climes of Manila. I have a pair of leg warmers that have travelled back and forth with me, that is essential to my travel go bag. And while I always go with a neck pillow, I have managed to start a small collection because I always end up leaving it behind. To date, I think I have 6. I know I left one in Manila and am almost sure I left one in Sydney in November. I just bought another one when I left New York today when I realized I failed to take my newly washed neck pillow with a hood with me. You’d think an item so essential to my going on long trips would be something I would be glued to. On the contrary, in my haste to go down and catch the Uber car picking me up, I often end up forgetting about it.

So I am heading home,and my heart is full. Nothing quite compares to the joy that takes me over each time I find myself back with family in Manila. Laking pasasalamat ko.

My phone is charging on the seat USB port and I’ve picked out the films I’m watching. I am exhausted from the long wait for take off. I’ve taken off the shoes and donned the slippers, made sure my eye glasses are within reach, and I closed my eyes.. finally. Dreaming of Manila.

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