Saturday, September 03, 2005

Journey starts

August 27, 2005
5:30 a.m., NAIA

My journey has begun. I have no sleep for 22 hours and 30 minutes already. I had to prepare for this trip. I am not ready for this. I just took it for granted. I did not prepare. Why should I? I have nothing to prepare.

I left as the rain poured over Metro Manila. There’s nothing exciting about leaving one’s country while the rain is pouring or while the country’s president is being impeached.

I’m inside Northwest Airlines’ WorldPerks lounge where there’s free food and drinks. I don’t know how I got invited to be a “Gold Elite” member. I received a promotional letter a few months back. One of those we throw away without opening.

It was one of those boring days at the office. I opened the letter and accomplished an online membership form. I did not know then that I would be traveling.

Months later, I received a letter with a “membership number,” which I wrote on a piece of paper I hid in my wallet.

I forgot about that piece of paper until I saw the sign in the airport corridor just after the last security check before one boards the plane. I pushed the door open and someone said “good morning” at 4:30 a.m.

The aroma of brewed coffee and freshly-baked bread seduced me. There was no backing out anymore. I pretended that I’m just as the man thinks I am. I spoke English, told him to register my name and when he asked me where my membership card is, I said it did not arrive yet.

“Welcome, sir,” the man said. “We have some food. Please enjoy.”

“I will,” I told him as I proceeded to the buffet table.

I took a seat and enjoyed the coffee, the bread, another cup of coffee, a glass of mango juice and more bread. “So this is the privileged life,” I thought.

I sent an SMS message to my travel companion, social activist Yasmin Busran-Lao of Marawi, and told her to follow me inside the lounge. The receptionist did not allow her. It’s an exclusive club for members, she was told. She can pay US$45 to be allowed inside, the girl told my friend.

Yasmin remembered that she was looking for me. She told the receptionist.

Of course, Mr. Torres can have a guest, the receptionist said. “Welcome,” Yasmin was told. My friend laughed. What has this Mindanaoan done to merit a seat in this exclusive club, Yasmin might have thought. “You’re really a citizen of the Federal Republic of Mindanao,” she said laughing when she saw me.

Now it’s 6:20 in the morning and it’s time to board the plane that would take me to America.

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