Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Longest Journey Home

8.30 pm, November 28; “Mrs. Rowena? This is an emergency call from Qatar, I am so sorry to inform you that your husband passed away this afternoon, Mrs. Rowena? Are you still there? Hello??? Hello???".

12.30 pm, November 29; "I'll be leaving Doha now and will be in Manila tomorrow afternoon. November 30th I'll be arriving in Tacloban Airport".

2002, less than month before Christmas, the 9 ½ hours flight from Doha to Manila which covers approximately 4,500 miles seemed to be an endless journey of my life. I am a frequent flyer of Qatar Airways but now I am restless and in tears, I wish I am not coming home, I wish it is not Christmas, my head is heavy, I am going into a deep slumber...

Nov. 14, 2002, “Manong Bay, is your January flight schedule confirmed already? I will miss you Bay, at least you’re going home for good to be with your family and start a new life with them.”

Manong Bay is my roommate; we share the same room since we arrived in Doha in 1992. I used to call him “Manong” out of respect because he is 10 years senior to me. I have enjoyed his company, he is like a father to me, we are both “Waray” and we both came from Civil Aviation industry that’s why we have a lot of common things to share.

After 11 years of working as Aircraft Mechanic, Manong Bay decided not to renew his contract which ends on January 21, 2003 to be reunited with his family in Leyte and start a fresh life with the copra and coffee plantation he recently bought in preparation for his retirement.

28th November, it was one of Manong Bay’s casual windows shopping in the mall checking his lists for the pasalubong while I decided to take my usual siesta lazing in the bed.

It was 6:00 pm when I was awaken by the incessant ringing of our telephone, I grabbed the handset and I recognize the voice on the other line, it was my boss, my ear seems to refuse every word he says as tears start running down my face.

“I am sorry to inform you about the loss of your friend, now I am assigning you to accompany the remains of Mr. Sarino to his hometown and you have to leave tomorrow.”

As I stood beside him, the Catholic priest gives his final rites, I cannot remember if I was able to sleep last night or if what time I woke up that morning. I cannot feel anything as the priest shakes my hand as a sign of condolences. I was staring at the cold body of Manong Bay as he was being shifted into the aluminum casket, and I was in pain losing a father-figure like him, we shared joyful moments and difficult days and at that moment for 11 years as OFWs and I was consumed by grief as the casket was finally sealed and was put into a wooden crate. I was viewing death as if it is some kind of ending, when in actuality it is merely a new experience in the life of one’s soul.

I signed the last documents from the Phil. Embassy officials as they bid their final words to a “kababayan” – a departed OFW. I feel tired but my body is numb, I do not know if I still have tears to cry.

As Qatar Airways lift-off from Doha, I ask myself why would a man of great faith who has devoted half of his life chasing his vision in the foreign land to fulfill his promise for a better life to his family was cut short of his dream? We arrived in NAIA and I was met by PAL personnel for other documentation requirements.

I was met by my family in the airport's arrival area. My wife was in tears as she tries to console me on the passing of my friend.

The following morning, I was bound to Tacloban Airport, I have only an hour of sleep and my body is aching as if I was a wounded soldier duty bound to escort a fallen hero, my mentor and a Gladiator to bring him home to his homeland, to his final resting place.

As I step out of the airport, a young girl carried a piece of cardboard with inscriptions "Kuya George", then as I come near her I realized that its her 9 year old daughter, tears starts to blind my eyes. And I cannot remember the words that followed; all I knew was that we're all in tears as I was embracing Manong Bay's family.

Manong Bay has departed from this world with a good name and in peace. Perhaps he was done, fulfilled his purpose, and was called Home.

"The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death." (Isaiah 57:1-2)

May the Lord bless Manong Bay on his walk with Him.


  1. i had goosebumps all over while reading...kung asan man si Manong Bay ngayon for sure he's happy...

    life is indeed short and we must LIVE each breath...

    I remember in your story that line from The Last Samurai movie when Algren was asked by the emperor how the great Samurai died, Algren said "I'm not going to tell you how he died...I'm going to tell you how he lived..."

    I guess people should learn how to pursue on living in such a way that we will be remembered by those whom we've left as a person who have lived our lives in PURPOSE:D

    Nice post Pope, now it keeps me motivated I've been feeling really depressed and down lately...makes me realize something...


  2. naiyak na naman ako.....touched me so deeply...
    Manong Bay is my kababayan pala, i live in Tacloban City also....i miss my hometown very much, it's my 2 years here in Dubai already but haven't got a chance to come home yet due to financial problem that helds me tied up in so depressed but still holding unto the Lord's plan for me and my family...

    don't want to go home that way...

  3. It is hard to see our love friend pass away without enjoying their remaining life with their family.

    I Remember one of our Indian colleague after decades of working in Saudi. When he decided to go home for good. He is happy to share with me his business.

    After a month he died due to cardiac arrest. I really feel sorry for him. I also lost a good friend.

  4. Hindi talaga natin alam kung kailan babawiin sa atin ang hiram nating buhay, ang maganda lang dito nagawa ni Manong Bay ang lahat para sa kanyang pamilya...

    Kung nasan man sya ngayon, sigurado masaya sya...

  5. @ DEATH

    You are right, life is so short and we have to savor each day and live to its fullest.

    Thank you for sharing that inspiring quotation from the last Samurai, one of my favorite film.

    @ iya_khin

    Taga Tacloban ka rin pala, actually taga Tacloban ang father ko (Babiano clan) and my mother is from Ormoc. 2002 pa ang huli kong punta duon when I accompany Manong Bay sa Palompon sa Southern Samar.

    @ Life Moto

    Losing a good friend is synonymous to losing a family member, and separation is a painful process that we undergo, a process wherein we are taught to deeply understand the value of life and the greatness of God; wherein we should look into death as a passing stage of the soul from life to eternity.

    @ Lord CM

    Sa mahabang panahon ng pagtatrabaho ni Manong Bay ay maayos nyang naitaguyod ang kanyang pamilya, bagama't hindi nagkaruon ng katuparan ang kanyang pangarap na muling makasama ang kanyang pamilya sa pagbabalik sa Pilipinas, nakapagiwan naman sya ng isang magandang ala-ala para sa kanilang kinabukasan.

  6. sad :(

    at this point in time, i hope tanggap na ng lahat kung anong nangyari kay Manong Bay. It's painful. pero they should let the pain go... they have to live. they have to prove one thing for Manong Bay, that all his hardships overseas worth it. kahit nawala sya... nawa'y patuloy na mabuhay na may karangalan at pangarap ang kanyang pamilya. May he serve as their inspiration. He will always be safe and happy. i hope his family too...

  7. @ A-Z-E-L

    After 7 years, I have lost contact with his family, umaasa ako na ang bawa't isa sa kanila ay nakausad na sa kanilang buhay kung saan ito ang ninanais mangyari ni Manong Bay saan man sya naruruon ngaun.

    Ito nawa'y magpa-alala sa bawa't OFW na ang buhay natin sa daigdig ay sadyang napaka-ikli, kaya't pagsumikapan ng husto na mabigyan ng magandang kinabukasan ang ating mga pamilya sa pinakamaikling panahon upang sila'y muling makasama sa pagharap sa bagong pag-asa, at sa mga pamilyang naiwan sa Pipilinas, nawa'y matutunan na pahalagahan ang bawat sentimos na ipinadadala ng kanilanng kapamilyang OFW.

  8. Kumusta naman po kaya ang naiwang pamilya ni Manong Bay ngayon? Inulit kong binasa pero parang hindi ko nakuha ang cause of death. (Parang pwedeng isagot dito ang quote na nakuha ni Deth sa The Last Samurai.)

    Nakakalungkot ang kwentong ito.

    (Maganda ang pagkasulat, parang screenplay.)

  9. waaa kakaiyak naman :-'( oo nga ano bang ikinamatay ni Manong Bay? yun din ang itatanong ko like RJ....ang pinaka tatakutan ko talaga ang kamatayan, parang ang hirap pag iisipin kaya dapat lagi tayong handa, kaya ngayon palang dapat nakaplano na ang lahat sa akin hehehe; by the way you are really such a good friend to him, I'm proud of you Pope.

  10. @ RJ & Sardonyx

    Thank you for asking, he was having his merienda in a Filipino restaurant when he suffered a massive cardiac arrest. It was so sudden, and some of the customers gave him a CPR but it was not enough to keep him alive, he did not reach the hospital alive. Just 6 weeks short of his retirement and subsequent plans to start a fresh life with the family.

    He left behind a widowed wife and five children (2 girls and 3 boys), it was very difficult for all of them to move on with their lives dahil masyado silang umasa sa kanyang buwanang remittance without savings, and nobody in the family was interested in managing the copra and coffee farm. Kahit na nasa abroad si bay, siya pa rin ang nagde-decide on everything sa kanilang buhay.

    The last thing I heard from them was his eldest son has already joined the our OFW ranks as Seaman.

  11. This is so heartbreaking. Nangilid ang luha sa mga mata ko sa pagbasa ko nito. Minsan ay hindi natin maintindihan ang mga pangyayai sa ating buhay. Pero ganayan siguro tlaga ang mabuhay.
    This post is one of the best, though sad, write-ups I've read so far about friendship. Thank you Pope for your kind heart.

  12. @ Dennis Villegas

    Thank you so much for your compliment, actually i should post this on his coming death anniversary, but the truth is I dreamed of him last week prompting me to make a write up about him.

  13. I'm welling up with emotions. Napaka-eloquent ng pagkakasulat mo, George. Like a novel.

    At damdam ko ang dalamhati mo, ng pamilya ni Manong Bay, ng pamilya mo. Such is the mystery of life; not knowing how the next episode will turn out.

    Your bible quote is so heartwarming: "Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death." Amen to that.

  14. Worst scenario na ayukong makita or maexperience..

    Yung magdala ng masamang balita sa ibang tao...
    Lalu pa at yung taong involved eh malapit din sa puso ko...

    People we love (who passed away)may be gone physically...
    pero they definitely impose their values and beliefs on us....
    Na magagamit natin as we go along with our lives...

    My condolences for Manong Bay's family...
    may his soul rest in peace...

  15. @ isladenebz

    It took me almost 2 long years to be able to move on after his "passing". It took 2 years before we were able to collect all the monetary benefits that was due to him.

    @ EǝʞsuǝJ

    Death will always be an unacceptable fact in life and an unbearable thing to the living.

    When I was tasked to inform the family of Manong Bay about his death and deliver his remains to his family, my body starts to shake and my mind to refuse to accept the job... I felt I am a Messenger of Death at that moment.

    It was the most agonizing moment in my life.

  16. It's my first visit to your blog and incidentally it's also the first instance I read a post like this. Looking back at this experience would probably feel like it happened just yesterday, the agony, etc.

    By the way, thanks for visiting my blog.

  17. @ witsandnuts

    Thank you for droppin' by too, I hope you'll find your way back here again, God bless you.

  18. Life is unpredictable...this is the reason why we have to treasure what we have. Enjoy life! Everyone has problems to carry on a daily basis but God gives us a precious life to enjoy and be an inspiration to others. Alam natin na mahirap ang may pamilya na umaasa sa atin, subalit hindi ito hadlang para mabigyan ng kahulugan at kaligayan ang ating mga sarili. Madalas nagtitiis kahit alam natin na may naramdaman tayo sa ating katawan... Ang kalusugan natin ay dapat bigyan ng halaga... Sa ating mga pamilya sa Pinas, dapat palalahanin palagi sila na "hirap at pagod" ang puhunan para kumita ng malaki!



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