The last few weeks have been pretty hectic. Actually, the last few months, or maybe year, but who’s counting? Whatever it is, it’s these last few weeks and the next couple of months that were and will truly be in the “running-around-like-a-headless-chicken” category.
But I’m not complaining. Being on the campaign trail is like having an express tour of the Philippines. Every couple of days, I wake up in a different town or region. Admittedly, it can get a little confusing at times. Sometimes, you wake up and it takes you a couple of seconds to figure out where you are.
In one instance, I thought I woke up to a different time all together. I was out of town last weekend when I woke up in the middle of the night. I can’t see anything without my lenses, and I looked at the figure of the sleeping woman beside me and got the shock of my life to see Adriana all grown up!
The first thought that entered my still sleeping mind was, “How old am I now if Adriana is all grown up already?!” And then I realized my mom was with me, and with great relief, I went back to sleep, happy not to have woken up in Rip Van Winkle’s life.
An express tour means my exposure to the towns I visit is usually limited to the public markets and the plaza or whatever venue the convention, rally or fiesta I am attending will be held. Sometimes, I get lucky and find myself with a little extra time on my hands, and I’m close enough to the historical or tourist sites.
That is one of my favorite parts of going around. It’s the unplanned things that are usually the most fun! Especially if you end up making friends along the way with the people you are with.
Then there’s the food. I’m not a gourmand or a professional foodie, but boy do I love to eat! Laing and Bicol express when in Legazpi; the sweetest mangosteen, durian and lanzones fruits in North Cotabato; and of course, papaitang kambing in my hometown, San Juan, La Union.
Once, while I was in Ilocos Norte, I even got to try bagnet pizza and pinakbet pizza. No need for hot sauce, though I did ask for more bagoong sauce! However, when there is no time to spare, then it’s our good ol’ friend, Mang Inasal, for our rumbling tummies. Nothing beats rice when you’re tired and hungry.
Most people expect to see Migs (understandably) when they see me, but usually, we go to different places. After all, it’s quite a challenge to visit the whole country on your own within the 90 allotted days. Personally, I also find it easier to understand what my husband is going through when I’m going through it as well. But the kids are a different story all together.
When we are both away, the grandmothers are happy because it means they take over. But my kids definitely don’t quite understand things yet. When I call home, I get different reactions. Usually, it’s a completely normal conversation, with Adriana asking if she can skip her afternoon nap and go to the park instead with a matching promise to sleep early that night.
Once, it was a rebellious refusal to talk. Other times it’s an all-out campaign from both kids to make me come home that minute. And yes, during those times, when possible, they win.
In the past, when we had no kids, being away from home for long stretches of time was not a problem. All I had to worry about was making sure I paid the electric bills on time so we would have lights when we came back home. This time around, many adjustments have naturally been made to keep our little family happy and humming.
For instance, in the past, not even Migs’ birthday was on the calendar. But now, we have untouchable days like Adriana’s yearend school program and Juanmi’s birthday. Time has always been precious, but never more than now, when every free minute is squeezed out of schedules in order to spend it with the kids, even if it means bringing them to the office and having dinosaur drawings side by side with important notes on the white board.
Not the ideal place
How I wish the kids could just tag along with me on the trail but I’m not very comfortable with that thought. It works for some families and perhaps it would work for us if they were bigger and older, but at the moment, I feel the campaign trail is not the ideal place for them.
I worry enough about Migs and whenever I fly and take long road trips. Knowing they are safe and sound with their lola at home means one less thing for me to worry about.
I have to admit though, I feel pangs of regret whenever I find myself in places or events that I am sure they would have loved to see, such as street-dancing and float parades, or I see kids they could have played with while I went about my activities. But since I can’t do anything anymore, I just take it as a reason to return to that town with the kiddos in tow.
Sometimes, I find little things to bring home to them, whether it be fruits, the welcome necklaces they hang on guests in fiestas (Adriana loves them!) or during one particular trip to the north, clay cooking pots, or what we call banga. As a child, I spent many happy days “cooking” everything from sinigang and pinakbet to gumamelas on my little banga-banga set.
‘Imagine my delight when I saw them for sale on the side of the road! I immediately bought a set and that night, excitedly brought it out for the kids.
It’s funny how your mind can really cloud up your memories. In my excitement, I forgot how long it takes for the uling (coal) to heat up. To make a long story short, the oatmeal we set out to cook was still a watery soup, long after the hour had come and gone.
Regardless, Migs was the lucky(?) customer of Adriana’s “restaurant” that night, with Juanmi serving as his waiter, and who looked like he had taken a bath in the uling we used.
But it’s not all fun and games. It’s also a reality check on where our country stands and what else needs to be done, which personally, I would recommend everyone to do regularly. And no, not just during certain periods, but all year round, both for public officials and private citizens.
Going around our country, or even just the city, will show you two faces. One is the beautiful and bountiful side, which would make any Filipino proud of his homeland, and the other side, the one that would stir you to immediate action.
Newspapers and daily news programs are great for keeping abreast of the latest developments and current events, but it’s in going around that you get real images behind the figures and words in the papers.
Not even video clips on TV can capture the real emotions on the ground, whether it be of joy, sorrow or discontent. Standing in the home of someone who lives on less than a dollar a day is different from reading about the percentage of the population living that way.
The urgency becomes real and personal when you hear about the lack of dialysis machines in a local hospital from someone in need of a weekly session, or what the teachers need for their schools when you see their classrooms, rather than reading what is simply reported.
And until there’s nothing left to read and report in the news, it’s up to all of us to go out there and do something about what’s happening in our country so that our children can grow up in a better world.