Filipino Homeland

WHEN LIGAYA CAME HOME

Everyone was waiting at the airport when Ligaya came home. Kuya Fred and Tata, Belle-au and Vicky, Pa and Ma, Inday, and her one year old son Jimboy. Ligaya cried upon seeing her son; the last time she saw him was six months ago. Inday took care of him from the time Ligaya left to return to her nursing post at a hospital in Sheffield, England.  Inday is her youngest sister, who, like the rest of her siblings is jobless. Only Tata is earning an income from driving the jeepney Ligaya bought two years ago, and now they were riding that Jeepney as they went home to Bacolod.


"Baya..." there were hugs and kisses and more hugs and kisses, but Ligaya wanted most to hug her son. Jimboy only stared at her but cried when she attempted to get him from Inday. The toddler sat restlessly at Inday's lap on their way home. Ligaya was thinking how she could take her son back with her to London, where he was born. Who would take care of him there as she worked? She was thinking of his privilege: at least seventy pounds every month from the British government. The boy might lose his privilege if he remined in the Philippines.

She was thinking about how lonely she was without Roy and Jimboy on her side. Roy, her husband used to work in the same hospital she worked in but just recently found greener pasture in a US cruise ship. He was always complaining about the huge taxes they pay in London, and looked for new employment. The uncertainties loomed in her head. What would happen to her family? Ligaya herself was going to be a British citizen in another year. Could she give up her job in London and follow her husband in the US?

Meanwhile, she needed to buy back their house in Bacolod which was amortized when her father was hospitalized because of a stroke. She would talk to a former classmate who was given a multiple-entry visa, when the latter applied for a tourist visa and passed the interview at the British embassy. Maybe that classmate would want to stay with Ligaya for six months in London, take care of her son, while she worked in the hospital. Ligaya also wanted to pay the unpaid debts of her sister Vicky, and help Belle-Au, apply as domestic helper, also in London.

Ligaya was also waiting to get reunited with her husband who was now a ship nurse. She secured this unpaid leave because Roy was also coming home to his parents and siblings in Batangas. The two planned to get together, once more as a family. But until Roy came, she would stay first with her family in Bacolod.

The day after her arrival, her siblings suggested that they go out and take the little boy to an outing. Ligaya was excited about this. After six months of cold weather, she wanted to see the beach, eat rice and adobo with her hands, and savor the sweet mangoes. Ligaya provided gasoline money, all the budget for grocery, every accessory from sun-shades to bathing suits, and of course, the fees for entrance and accomodation at the resort. The family exchanged stories on the beach, ate plenty, sang songs together, swam and made sand castles, and Ligaya played with her son, who could now walk with only a little help.

After that happy day on the beach, the next days were full of domestic arrangements. Ligaya bought six thousand pesos worth of groceries for a week. Every sibling was still living with Pa and Ma. Ligaya reasoned to herself that maybe, it was ok for Tata, even if he's already married, to stay home with her parents. She was glad that Tata's child Bing was just a year older than Jimboy and at that early age, the two were already playmates. The twenty-thousand pesos she sends her parents every month would be enough to help even Tata's family, considering his meager earnings as a jeepney driver. Ligaya was thinking of how to remunerate Inday's taking care of her son, at least send her to school, so Inday could later on take the board exam as midwife, and who knows, maybe also be able to go abroad. She had hoped that Vicky would pass the nursing board exam and help her, but Vicky failed and was now earning forgettable commissions in her telemarketing job. This was so far Vicky's third so-so job "which did not pay well."

Even as Ligaya began again to establish rapport with her son, her head swam in the one hundred and one things that she needed to settle within her three-week unpaid vacation leave. Their family's debts, the new arrangement with her husband, her son's future.

Before she slept that night at the beach, she stared at the stars and marveled at the huge space in the sky. How she wished she had the same wide space. How she wished to make every aspect of her life sparkle. But until everything had been settled, she felt trapped in a very small corner.


Only in the Philippines! (Share your Pinoy encounters)

Mabuhay! Pinoy, Pilipinas. Balikbayan. OFW. Fil-AM. Foreigner or a carefree travel bug -- have you been to the Philippine Islands lately? (including all 7101 of them low tide) We'd like to hear about your anecdotes: you can call it "My Pinoy Experience." Funny, irreverent, bland, cute, different, interesting, religious, smorgasboard - we welcome your stories here. Or if you have an interesting photograph, you may want to share the story behind it.

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