Sunday mornings are my favorite. It is always silent and calm, and even a noisy and chaotic place like Metro Manila share a few moments of such stillness. Too bad, I couldn’t wake up early on Sundays anymore. My body clock keeps me asleep until noon that when I am ready to get up, the reality that the weekend is about to end starts sinking in. I will then go back to bed in total surrender of the fact that the dreaded Monday is coming.
That Sunday was different. I was at home and I woke up to the pleasant noises associated to the provinces – dogs, chickens, old songs playing from a neighbor’s transistor radio, and the occasional shouting of kids running around the neighboorhood. I reached for my phone to check the time – it was 30 minutes past 10AM. My mom’s text message popped up on my screen. I can’t help but smile while reading it, it’s in Ilocano:
It was lovey and bittersweet. I spent the next ten minutes staring at the ceiling, trying not to feel disappointed of myself for oversleeping. I missed joining my parents at the breakfast table. I was returning back to Manila that afternoon, and thinking that I only have a few hours left made me feel bad.
It was a sudden change of emotion in contrast to what I was feeling before I left Manila. That week, I didn’t really wanna take the long, eight-hour journey home. I use to enjoy it during the first five years, but over a decade later, the thought of it alone is already exhausting.
But my father would ask me the same thing when he calls: when are you coming home? I would often make excuses, and I must have ran out of alibis one day that I answered “this weekend”. He got excited and quickly requested me to buy a new stove (of all things) to bring home. I didn’t want to break his heart so I reluctantly packed my bag that Friday, bought a stove, and took the early morning bus bound for the North.
I went downstairs, and was greeted by the nostalgic smell of home-cooked food. My father was already busy preparing our ulam for lunch. I made my coffee, and munched on the fried fish and egg that he served for breakfast.
A moment that’s so simple but so precious.
It was over ten years ago when I moved to Manila. I would go home at least once every two months, or during especial occasions. And some things never change. My parents still cook for me. When I arrive, I’d leave my shoes and socks outside by the door. My mom would later pick them up and neatly place them on a shoe rack, then bring them out under the sun the next day. In my room, my bed is always carefully made. That distinct smell of freshly laundered, dried in the sun sheets, still gets me.
They would ask me what I want for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They make sure that I get enough sleep and rest knowing how long I have travelled.
That day, something dawned at me that I made the decision to visit them more often.
My parents are old, and now that their children have lives of their own and are oceans apart, their joy every time they see us is overflowing. They still look forward to our gathering together in the living room for our customary long talks. They still ask me the same questions – how’s my job, my health, do I experience flooding in my area, is my commute to work safe, when is my next holiday. My answers are always, I’m fine and I’m safe, and I’ll be home when I can. But they never get tired listening to my rather short stories.
That day, I was suddenly consciously present. I treasured every moment with them knowing that those simple times would make great memories. Indeed, we are too busy growing up that sometimes, we forget that our parents are getting old too. Looking back, life hasn’t also been very easy for us, but we’ve had countless memorable experiences together which are all priceless.
Leaving is always the saddest part. They still wave and say their goodbyes as they did long time ago when I first left home for high school, when I moved even farther for college, and when I eventually decided to make Manila my second home. They still even ask me if I have enough money for my fare, believe it or not. They still give me the same last minute advices that they’ve been giving me ever since – stay safe, be careful when crossing the streets!
I see it now. In their eyes, I am still their child, and they will never get tired looking after me, guiding and helping me along the way in every way they can.
I see it now.
I see that unconditional love from parents that I am so blessed to experience. I am really glad that I get to recognize that today and not when it’s already too late. It’s true, life’s most beautiful moments could happen even in the most mundane situations. For someone who tends to overthink and over analyze, God sent me home that day and made me perceive above my thinking mind. He made me recognize, understand, and appreciate the simplicity of that which we often find too deep to define: unconditional love.