This is my third time visiting the Philippines since my family immigrated to Canada in 2001. Coincidentally, we’d be celebrating our tenth year in Canada in Manila on September 29th.
Our trip to the Philippines came quite suddenly; I only found out about the possibility of it in the beginning of summer. It turns out, my physically strong grandmother has been diagnosed with one of human kind’s hardest battles: with cancer. Because of the sensitivity of the topic, I prefer not to disclose which cancer it is, but it’s in its final stages.
First of all, I would like to commend the Philippine Airlines for getting us safely and without any delays to the Ninoy Aquino National Airport. We had a ride on the new plane model which had really pretty pillows (purple and blue). They served us beef stroganoff for dinner and ham and eggs for breakfast.
My dad’s brothers picked us up from the airport. On our way to my grandparents’ house in Quezon City (part of Metro Manila), I noticed that the streets were almost spotless, missing the piles of garbage and plastic bags that I was used to seeing.
While waiting for the traffic lights to change, we had to open the driver’s window to hand out untouched bread from the plane ride (I knew it was just going to get thrown away, so I made space for the bread I’ve collected). Three little girls were very excited to receive pre-packed pandesal bread, lined up beside the car as if we were a soup kitchen. Soon, I was reminded that the Philippines is still heavily populated by hungry people, who at a very young age, are ready to fend for themselves even if they would have to risk their own lives.
It wasn’t too long before I finally saw my grandparents. It was only three years ago when I was last in Manila for my debut (18th birthday). Then, my both my grandpa and grandma were still physically strong, and ready to dance. This time, I was shocked to see my grandpa’s frail body sleeping on the futon, now located in the living room. My grandma, who used to take care of everybody with such contagious energy, was peacefully sleeping in her makeshift bedroom, separated from my grandpa’s spot by a glass door.
Soon, I held my grandfather’s hand, of which he replied that he’s happy. He’s probably happy that all of his kids were finally in the same room once again. He’s happy that most of his grandchildren were there to see him. He’s happy that in a way, we’ve all been reunited and are back “home.”
As for grandma, as happy as she is to see us all, she seemed unhappy that we had to see her in such a poor condition. As much as I didn’t initiate any conversation about her condition, she reminded me that she now feels very weak. I get the feeling that after taking care of my grandpa for so long, she now feels useless that he is stronger than her.
I feel quite blessed that I was still given this opportunity to speak with them, or even just be with them. We don’t have much to do, and they like to sleep, but I’m sure our presence gives a sense of comfort, of happiness. And I feel just the same. I’m glad to be here for them, even just for the next thirty days.