I always look forward returning to Illinois. The travel time provides plenty of time for reflection. I recently left my job as a supervisor for a big IT company in Taguig. I was growing tired of all the phony non-sense. I decided to take a long furlough—and, yeah, get fat and travel with the little money I have in my pocket.
We almost missed the connecting flight in Hong Kong because we had to go out (we took two different planes) and clear immigration, get our bags, then go back in. The immigration officer warned us that we might not make it. And just when you needed to hurry things up, the bags came out late! After having it tagged and checked in we started running. We had less than an hour to check back in for our Chicago bound plane. And just when I thought I cleared the most difficult hurdles I was greeted by these snob check in staffs who chatted with each other while I was drenched in sweat from running and the doors of our Chicago bound plane about to shut its doors on us. We had to plead them to hurry up and ask the ground crew to wait for us. The whole thing felt like we were in that show called Amazing Race. I had connecting flights in Hong Kong before but only when you’re pressed for time that you appreciate the distance that you have to walk (in my case run!) and how big the airport is, well, at least there’s an interesting story to share aside from the usual complaints like getting stuck in your seat watching movies for more than half a day.
These long haul flights would be easy if only I could get good sleeping hours. The closest I get are these short naps which makes my head hurt—bumps, even the slightest, wakes me up easy. So the in flight entertainment menu is my best friend. We were flying over the great pacific northwest around 2400 Manila time. My brother lived in Washington state in the 90’s. He would tell stories of his nature adventures and the X-Files scenes shot near where he lives. The Pacific Northwest area is so unbelievably vast. Some believes that some early type of humans still roams it freely. My brother’s now in Florida where I plan to see him next month.
I was told that cold weather has arrived earlier than expected. My jackets, all hand-me-downs, was, well, handed down to others. I have to endure the little layers I have in me but I’ll most likely buy new ones or ask for some hand-me-downs to save money. My relatives here takes me to the local outlet stores for cheap buys. It’s almost thanksgiving, I’m sure there would be some good bargains around.
We arrived in O’hare around 16oo local time. Temperature was below freezing, around -3 C. No surprise there and it’s getting colder as winter gets closer. We have to wait for three hours for our pick up ride which gave us some ample time to eat a Bigmac. They are gradually getting smaller each year—must be cost cutting I dunno. McDonald’s omnipresence in Illinois is because they started their innovative business ideas here, one of their first concept stores is in Oak Brook. I saw this restored diner styled restaurant two years ago. All the neon lights are on but there’s nothing there but memorabilia—it’s a classic Americana relic. I was told that the Oak Brook offices is also the headquarter’s for the fast food chain operations and where they train their employees to complete “Bachelor of Hamburgerology”. I’m not kidding—they really have that. I would be reminded of this place whenever I would see its address on the sachets of iodized salts I would get from McDonald’s in Singapore and other places.
We would later dine in Royal Buffet. This resto is very popular among Filipinos and Asians in general. They serve lobsters and king crabs which is what I look forward to because they’re expensive back home— strange because you would think that because we’re surrounded by water seafood would be cheaper. Here you pay $20-30 for everything—eat until you tap out. One thing you’ll notice in this kind of places is that people are on the large side, which is cool because they all make me alright. I don’t stand out around here, I blend in well!
November 21-22, 2014
We were invited to watch boxing tonight. Guess who’s on? Who else. Manny Pacquiao.
This is the first time I attended a pay-per-view house party. Filipinos here has been organizing these simple get-together since Pacquiao started dismantling the opposition. It’ a phenomenon that would continue until this boxer retires. No Filipino, even the president, could equal his charisma and popularity. Hollywood actors and millionaire athletes lines up to have a picture with Pacquiao. I can’t believe that this is the same kid I saw fight in a boxing event in Mandaluyong. Who knows how little he got paid then—that American guy he played around tonight is a millionaire now.
The house we visited is somewhere in Bartlett, owned by a newly wed couple. They’re working as Physical Therapists. There’s a lot of Filipinos in this profession here. If I followed my brother’s wishes, who sent me to college, I would be one of them here. I was on my 3rd year in Physical Therapy before I was kicked out. I didn’t took it seriously.
The fight was a snoozer. It was the food that I enjoyed. We brought lechon kawali, which we bought from a Filipino deli not far from where we stay. Others contributed: lumpia, binagoongan, empanada, mechado, palabok and some soft cakes.
These simple gatherings and food brings Filipinos closer in this part of the world. These things makes up for those days they long for home. We are 8000 miles away—the only connection to home and country are these simple get-together and Manny’s pay-per-view boxing.
November 22, 2014