- Part 4a 🇺🇸 Landed – Detroit, Michigan.
By this time, after 10 + hours of travel, I was exhausted. Mixed with excitement of course. We landed approximately 4 ish in the afternoon. Picked up our luggage & boxes and headed to a long line for US Customs and Inspections. There were four people and two large tables ahead. The line was moving quickly and efficiently. Until it was our turn. We were greeted with a groan and an exhausted laugh. All 4 had to work as one to open each one of our boxes & luggage. The only item they questioned was our “pasalubong – polvoron”. Pasalubong = Treats one would bring from their homeland or point of visit. Polvoron = is a type of heavy, soft and very crumbly Spanish shortbread made of flour, sugar, milk, and nuts, especially almonds. This item is always make immigration officers bat an eye lash. Thinking it’s crack. After a long process of opening, inspecting, and closing up boxes, we placed our items onto another conveyor belt, heading to our connection plane. My mom looked for a phone booth and called my Uncle in NJ. Meanwhile, I needed to go pee, badly. I lingered from one hallway to another and bumped into two airport workers, one looked like Denis Franz and Larry Bird. “Sir, where is the CR?” (Crickets) Both looked at each other with a confused look. “Comfort Room?” I asked “Say what kid?” the Denis Franz character asked. The Larry Bird guy saw my I need to pee stance. “Ooh, Restroom. Down that hall son.” I graciously thanked them ran to the RestRoom 😄 There was my first lesson on US soil. Noted. By the time I got back with my folks, they said we have to transfer terminals. We headed outside to catch the airport shuttle bus. I was a little cranky and still nauseous. As I was about to speak a huge cloud of smoke came out from my mouth. Whoa! 12 years living in a humid climate exhaled. I was so amused. Breathing in and out with that 45/50 degree cold air. A couple of minutes passed, my cranky disposition returned. “Can Uncle Alex pick us up from here? I don’t want to ride the plane anymore.” I groaned. “No, it’s too far” my mom said.
I pulled out the map I was given by the Northwest Airlines, “Where are we?” My mom then pointed New Jersey and drew her fingers across to Michigan. “I don’t think it looks that far.” She rolled her eyes and had an expression that today translates to “Bitch Please” 😄
We got to the 2nd terminal and departure gate, I looked at our plane (picture ⬆️), my mind drifted to mini clips of what had transpired within two days. Wow, I’m finally getting here. I then pulled out my walkman & started listening to my Filipino shows. I was convinced at the time, I should listen to my recordings often so I don’t forget how to understand and speak Tagalog.
Shortly. We boarded our plane, en route to our final destination, Newark Airport New Jersey. I find myself burying my forehead on my mom’s shoulders (nauseous 🤢). I ended up falling asleep from exhaustion.
Before I knew it we landed. I was relieved and vowed never to set foot on a plane ever again. We were greeted by my Aunt & Uncle at the gate, right when we exited the tarmac. Hugs and cheers exchanged. Since we had so much stuff, we needed a second vehicle. My cousin Jojo from the Bronx came to meet all of us. Everything was packed and smushed onto my cousin’s car and my Uncle’s Jeep Cherokee. It was tough to see in the rear view mirror.
I rode with my Uncle and Aunt, we squished on the front seat, reminding me of my ride to the airport back in Manila.
As we drove through route 1 from Newark Airport, I started making observations. The houses were different. No gates. Just doors. (Imagine a fade out) 😉
- To be continued on my new chapter series. “Fords, NJ”
https://www.instagram.com/p/BdVCHN5Bnlg/ via instagram
Part 3a⚡(3b 3c 3d on comments ⤵️)⚡
This was the first time stepping inside the plane. The new smell hit my nostrils, as the air were blowing from the overhead seats. We found our seats. My father seated in front of us, my mom and I together. It was a 2 4 2 configuration. As a child, I suffered from car motion sickness. My father, who always press the breaks without gradually easing into the stop. So I’ve always laid down during car rides. The pickup truck was spacious in the back, I’d spread a blanket & laid down.
When the plane started to back up, instead of feeling excited, my head started to feel iffy. Noooooo!
I’ve been waiting for this, now it’s about to get ruined. The air was turning on and off, alternating with the engines. We accelerated & flew up, my back pressed onto the seat and head back. It was a steep climb. I closed my eyes and kept swallowing saliva. It was on overdrive, producing so much than usual. An indication that I was about to throw up. I fought it. My mom on the other hand, “Timmy, look! We’re so high up. I think I can spot the Quezon Memorial.”
I squinted & peeked for a quick second, as I was too distracted with being so dizzy. After reaching altitude the plane moved steadily. Pretty Korean stewardess came out with their cart, offering water, juice, and coffee.
Me, I wanted the ride to be over. My mom took out her rosary, and prayed by herself. The stewardess saw my discomfort. She came back with two white tablets. With my mom’s approval, I took it. I sheepishly thanked her as I heavily pressed my head on the side of the wall & chair. They came back around and my mom selected an omelet sausage breakfast meal for me. I ate only half. I went to the bathroom afterwards and thought I was going to throw up. I didn’t. I saw several seats were empty. Especially the four seaters. I laid down and slept. I woke abruptly as the plane was having turbulence. I realized I had a blanket draped over me. The stewardess. I thought. I smiled. I closed my eyes and tried to doze off again, but my mom told me to go back to our seats, we were about to descend.
I went on another round of discomfort. Thankfully it was quick.
We hit the ground in a thud & the wind blasted against the wings.
3b⚡Seoul, Korea 🇰🇷
I was so relieved we were off the plane. I took my father’s camera and started taking pictures. We headed to some coffee shop where my parents found other Filipinos and started chatting with them. As always, I never stayed at one place. I always roamed & explored. There were many pictures of Ginseng Root. I stopped a stranger to have my picture taken with one giant ginseng. After 10 minutes, I went back to my parents, they were still chatting and laughing. I took my mom’s cup of mocha and down it. Moments later, she lifted the cup, “O, sakin ba ito?” She saw I was back and I flashed her a grin. Timmy finished it, of course.
It was time to head to our new gate. They said their farewell to the other couple, and wished them luck.
We boarded, and the plane looks bigger. It was a 3 4 3 configuration. This time we were almost to the back and on the 4 seater. I sighed. This was going to be the long haul.
I noticed the stewardess race were different. They weren’t Korean. It was a mix of Caucasian & African American ladies. Shortly after take off, which oddly I didn’t feel nauseous, probably because it was a larger jet? We were served late lunch. I had Beef with the mash potatoes, with bread, and couple pieces of fruit. “Where’s the rice?” I asked my mom.
“You’ll have to get used to not having rice with every meal. In America, they don’t have rice with everything.”
Great. After eating, I pulled out my Walkman, well its actually my father’s tape recorder. I took ownership of it eventually. I listened to a mix of music and Palibhasa Lalake episodes. With commercials! I pulled back down my tray table and slept. It was a full flight. So my hope for another lie flat sleep were dashed.
It felt like eternity. Sleeping was next to impossible. Exhaustion. Restlessness. I decided to take out my drawing pad and doodle. I started sketching the stewardess on board. They were such sweet ladies. As a thank you, I decided to give them my drawing. The plane started its descent & the turbulence was a lot. I of course started to get dizzy. I pull back down the tray table, folded my arms and pressed my head down. I was doing some deep breathing to prevent me from yacking. I felt a tap on my arms. I looked up and saw one of the stewardess. She laid out this 11 by 17 map on my table. It was the flight route from Seoul to Detroit. There was a pen mark that drew across the path the plane took, and a yellow highlight over the ink. As a thank you from the crew, I was give the pilot’s map. I was half elated and still half nauseous. I sheepishly thanked her and laid my head back down.
“Migrating to America” Part 2
October 18, 1992
Around 4:05 am, my mom woke me up.
“It’s time to get dressed.”
I didn’t pop up from bed energetically as I thought I would. I laid out my travel outfit two weeks ahead of time. A blue long sleeve, light brown curderoys, my favorite brown shoes, and a red light jacket.
A small handbag filled with 10 cassette tapes, a large walkman, and a mini photo album.
Believe it or not, I actually have all these items together in one of 5 boxes of my personal memorabilia.
10 cassette tapes of music? Nah.
At that time, I thought it would be cool to record my TV shows on tape. We actually did not own a beta max set. The only beta tape I own was my 10th Birthday party at #Jollibee.
Among the cassettes were memoir recordings. A month’s worth of personal narration of my daily Shenanigans. I’ve always been known to keep documentation all my life. Pictures and written diaries weren’t enough.
I had late night talks with my grandmother. She lived here in America for a couple of years.
Summer of 1988, she came with my cousin Charisma. My Uncle & Aunt lived in Fords New Jersey. My mom escorted them during the trip.
I peppered my grandmother with inane questions, what was America like. Was it like anything we’ve seen on television and the movies?
Growing up, we only had 7 channels. On that wooden box with a thick glass screen, two knobs, one to pull & push, turning it on and off, which also served for volume, and the flat key like thing, that clicks loudly as you rotate it to change the channel.
Sesame Street and Wonder Woman were the only American shows I’ve ever watched growing up.
Ok, ok. Let me get back to October 18th….. My Uncle (from Confirmation) and long time friend of the family came to drive us to the airport. I gave my Aunt, My mom’s cousin Jojit, and my Grandmother a hug good bye.
We pack in seated in our burgundy pick-up truck. A vehicle that was older than I was. One big foam rectangular cushion that fit 3 people. Today, all 4 of us squeezed in. As we backed out of the house slowly, that wee early morning, all three of my relatives were in front of the house waving, I stare at the house one last time, the gate wide open, I can see all lights were on, my Uncle beeped the horn twice and we waved one last time.
Bye, 12 Sicaba Street, Retiro – Santa Mesa Heights, Quezon City.
My mom reached into her purse and took out her rosary. I thought, oh wow. She’s really nervous.
“First Joyful mystery, The Annunciation…” From there I mumbled on auto-pilot.
I peer out of the window to memorize one last time the roads. Turned left towards Retiro – Right on Banawe Street, & Left on Quezon Avenue. There were no traffic at 4:35 am. We breezed through up to the Quezon Memorial Circle within 10 minutes. A ride that usually take 25 minutes. Everything came fuzzy after that.
We finished praying the rosary & sat in silence. I looked at the rear view mirror and saw our cross hanging on a string, I took it off and tucked it away in my carry-on bag. It was a gift that was given to us by Charito Planas.
The cross is now in my parent’s car.
Before I know it, the sun was rising as we pulled in the rotunda of Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Upper level.
It was the first time I’ve been to the upper level. All my life during that time I’ve been at the Lower level for arrivals. I’ve watched with excitement as my relatives come down from the ramp (Google it, Ninoy Aquino Airport – Terminal 1 Arrival, Greeters Area). “Wow, they just came from America.” They always looked so refreshed & glowing. Plus, Filipinos know this one fact. They smell different. Umm what smell? It’s a sweet aroma. Their clothes and the Balikbayan Box, all smell the same.
The sun was already up, it’s golden colors were shining behind us, the coconut trees were rustling from the wind, and the Philippine flag on the pole. “Timmy, get a cart.” My father told me.
We had 6 pieces of luggage & 5 Boxes. My dad was a memorabilia collector too. Almost all of his books and art supplies, he packed.
I got two carts. We stacked all of our belongings to those two flimsy carts, said our thanks to my God Uncle, I looked at our pick-up truck one last time and headed in the airport lobby. I was so giddy inside. The marble green floor was newly polished that morning, it smelled of Johnson or Star Wax. I remember using them in school to clean our classroom floor.
Um, excuse me? Kids were asked to clean school property? It was part of our routine in school. After recess, we would sweep the floors and wax the floor with half of a coconut, what we call “bunot”. This was the time I stared to feel sleepy and tired. I slept on my mom’s lap while we waited at the gate.
Shortly. We started to board.