At least that’s what the website of FlyScoot informed me as I was booking our flights from Bangkok to Manila with a short lay over in Singapore. In Singapore, Lia would have to get off at Changi to meet her other father to spend eight days with him this summer as part of our agreement that he gets to spend a minimum of 30 days per year with her, depending of course, on his availability, travel plans, business meetings, and over-all career. After this short lay over, I then proceed to Manila alone. I imagine the same thing would happen on the plane as when we did the flight from Sydney to Manila, where we had a lay over in Singapore and Lia got off. The flight attendants would ask me where the other passenger is, which is my daughter, since in the flight manifest there should be two of us instead of just me, and I would say she got off in Singapore, after which they would ask me if I have checked in baggage, if I said yes, they would tell me they would have to offload it, have it double checked by security, then only after it has been cleared can it be brought back onto the plane of the next flight, and I had the option of being offloaded with it and fly with it at a later time or date, or I could stay on the original flight but without my baggage. We were flying with Singapore Airlines last time and I said, “offload it then without me,” but this time, I would be traveling without checked in baggage and hopefully they’d let me fly and leave me in peace.
Lia would then be flown in to Manila after eight or so days by her father, where she would be reunited with me. From Manila, she and I together will take the return flight to Torino then to Sardegna via Turkish Airlines and Meridiana. This saves her father the money, time, and energy of bringing her back to Europe himself and flying her back to Sardegna himself at a later date. Such is the complex life of an eight-year old child with Filipino parents whose marriage has been annulled and are living in different parts of the world.
To be honest, Lia does not want to take this trip. Of course she she doesn’t mind because years ago, I have made it clear that it is important for her to spend time with her father even if she doesn’t find it fun, or she spends all her time watching TV or being on the internet on a tablet while her father worked from home the entire time. I used to even bribe her on to taking these trips with toys or things she liked in exchange for taking the time and effort. Now after all these years, she has learned to console herself by telling herself that her mother needs to do things without her or her mother needs time to be alone, more than she needs to be with her father or her father wants to see her. Such are the things I claim to being a good mother at. That, in addition to not talking bad things about her father to her, even though she knows I don’t really like him or get along well with him. (More on that some other time I guess, if I ever get around to it.)
Although it may seem to others that what I do is fun and exciting, being able to travel the way I do, I came to a point last year when I was so exhausted I slept for nearly two months, leaving my fiance’s mother to do all the meals for me and waking me up just to eat. Needless to say, it was a nervous breakdown, but then again, more on that some other time I guess, if I ever get around to it.
Lia was the same. On our flight from Dubrovnik to Rome, where we had a layover on our way back to Torino, Lia was sleepy and exhausted that while whining as she has never done before on the walkway from the plane to the baggage belt, she had exclaimed, “I do not want to travel anymore. I quit!”
My daughter, always a flair for the dramatic.
So after nearly a year without any international flight, here we are again.
This is not going to be an easy trip.
In 2015, when I had flown from Manila to Singapore to Kuala Lumpur to Malaysia to Rome to Olbia, then on to Milano, Copenhagen, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Boston, New York, Taipei, and back to Manila in order to see friends and my brother who lives in Florida and I have not seen since 2011, I was alone. My brother and I had decided that every year there must a special time for me where I get to go wherever I want to go and do whatever I want to do just so I can have that much-needed break. I was supposed to do that this year. I had booked a flight to the United States for August to see my brother again, with lay overs in Virginia and New York to see some of my dearest friends, before flying to Manila. I have some important businesses to attend to in Manila in addition to trying to bring to Italy Lia and I’s beloved book collection.
After rethinking this trip around the world again, I decided to forego the trip to the US this year and go another time with my husband instead as he has never met my brother, and fly straight to Manila. I then rebooked my flight with Norwegian, a low-cost airline, from Sardinia to Bangkok, doing a completely different route. I have no qualms about taking low-cost airlines when traveling alone. I flew with them from Milan to Fort Lauderdale before and it was okay. Being on the Low-Fare means no free travel kits, blankets, in-flight entertainment, or even food, and a little space to share with screaming kids and squirming seat mates, but that I can deal with, if I am alone.
Lia’s father, always putting his convenience first and foremost, had decided that Lia has to travel with me to Singapore on this trip if she is to spend some time with him. I spent the past days studying flight options for the two of us and trying my best to make this trip as comfortable for her as possible to the point of upgrading my own seat to Premium, giving it to her, and then I take a Low-Fare one for myself. I highly doubted she would agree to an 11.5 hour flight without me by her side though, as well as doubt the likelihood of having her seat mate give up his/her seat for me in the Premium cabin in exchange for one in Economy just so we could sit together. In all likelihood, I will have to ask my own seat mate in Economy to give up his/her seat for Lia’s in Premium and Lia and I would end up together in Economy just the same, wasting more than 200GBP in the process.
Ever the optimist that I am, with all these flights lined up for us to take in a matter of 10 days or so, I have these things to look forward to:
A lay over in Stockholm. A city we’ve never been to. A chance to go around and see something. Anything.
A lay over in Bangkok to have lunch with a friend I’ve been friends with since I was in thirteen.
A lay over in Singapore for a chance to have quick dinner or drinks or even just coffee with my “Singapore Lay Over Gang”.
I have a group of friends in Singapore I always make it a point to meet when I am there to bring or fetch my daughter from her father. I have secretly nicknamed them my lay over gang.
I don’t mention the lay over in Oslo anymore in between Stockholm and Bangkok because it is only 5 hours and maybe we just spend it at the airport. Although I hope to meet up with a Norwegian friend we met in El Nido who lives in Oslo, even if only for a quick bite or coffee at the airport.
In any case, I am on my way to Manila in August. I would like to eat as much Filipino food as I can, in the streets, on the sidewalks, in the carenderias. I would like to eat isaw, kwek-kwek, dinuguan, papaitan, kare-kare, binagoongan, lechon kawali, lechon paksiw, and plain lechon. I will help myself to Jollibee’s Chicken Joy, Spaghetti, Burger Steak, and Jolly Hotdog. I will help myself to buchi and halo-halo at Chow King. I would like to have my usual coffee at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and browse the shelves of Fully Booked in Bonifacio High Street. I would like to take back to Italy as much Sinigang Mix, dried mangoes, Choc Nut, bottled tinapa flakes, and VCO soaps as I can. I would like to drop in for at least one yoga class at my old yoga studio, Urban Ashram Manila. I would like to see any of my friends who can make it through the hell that is Manila traffic and see me for an hour or two. Amidst the paperwork of driver’s license renewal at the LTO Main in East Avenue in Quezon City, and red-ribbon authentication of PSA documents at the DFA in Pasay. In between the processing of my bank accounts, investments, and the cancellation of my ownership of my condo property that I have spent the past two years paying for. Because according to my husband, we have no need of them, either now nor in the future.
Everyday I think about the future. Everyday I still think about coming back to live in the Philippines full time. I have never imagined myself leaving the country that’s why it took me four years and many difficulties to take the leap of marrying my Italian boyfriend of three years and settling in Italy as his wife.
I grew up in the province with a simple life. And sometimes, late at night when I lay in bed, my thoughts drift to memories of me riding the motorbike of my father to the beach two hours away from where we lived, every summer, past rice fields. I think about the rice fields all the time. The way their green leaves swayed in the wind, or the full golden stalks when it is nearly harvest season. I think about the wind on my face. And that’s how I fall asleep.
I am on my way to Manila in less than two months. Not fame and fortune. I am on my way to the crazed frenzy that is Manila, where I and everyone I know hate the heat and the traffic. I am on my way to rekindle old ties and friendships while slowly putting an end to the life I had there.