At around 7:00 a.m., Noemi who slept with her daughter, Aimee, son TJ and Benjo at adjoining cabin, knocked early in our cabin and roused us up from sleep to tell us that we have to jog on the sundeck while the sun was not up yet. Despite yesterday’s early afternoon cruise back home, the ship was still at the open sea at 9:00 a.m. the following day, June 29. The leisure sailing was intended so that the passenger guests can savor the full view of the ocean the whole day.
We never got the chance to jog at the deck. We ate our breakfast of “tapsilog” , specially requested by Aimee from the Filipino waiter, Bernice. Benjo has a slight fever which her mom had diagnosed as sheer fatigue for yesterday’s grueling heat at the beach and could not join us at the table. His food has to be brought to his cabin.
I am still on my feet, while my son has to eat his breakfast in bed. I felt some kind of invulnerability, but somehow I was sad because my son was sick. I have to bring two full-plates of oranges, apples and bananas to at his cabin and felt his forehead warm with fever. I took my vicks vaporub from my pouch and rubbed his back and breast and told him that he would feel better soon.
My son will be 29 years old this August. But when he was a toddler, I always rub his back and chest with vicks vaporub everytime he has a fever, cuddle him on my chest and let him sleep on my chest face down. The heat generated by my body and his and the balm of the vicks ointment and a payer chant would juice him up to help his anti-bodies excrete the virus-causing infection from his system. I always find him bouncing back and playing the next morning. I did the same routine to my two daughters whenever they are sick. I am always amazed of how easily they recover from their fever. From that that time on, I always have a canister of vicks in my pocket and my prayer chant ready whenever I have a sick child in the house. I have my vicks in my pouch though we have no more babies in the house, Loren, a bustling 19 years old now, because I found it effective in deswelling a sinus, a malady which I have not quite outgrown from childhood.
Benjo, while still sluggish was able to join us at lunch on a roofed deck. TJ and I have already played ping-pong and another game where you have to push six circular plastic pucks to a distance of about 15 feet and situate them in rectangular and triangular boxes to score points. My sweat still drips at the launch table, but I felt rejuvenated by this physical encounter.
Looking at my revived son at the lunchtime, I felt that my amulet was working again.
We ate dinner at the pre-assigned table later in the day. Bernice, a Filipino and Anthony, a Jamaican, were there untiringly serving our food with unrestrained glee on the side. When the dinner was over, my wife asked to be photographed with Bernice and Anthony. She gave them extra tips though the regular tips were already embedded in the bills. She also hugged them as a token of saying thank you for the splendid job.
After dinner, we watched the live shows at 8 p.m. and played poker at 10 p.m. while others were shopping at the galleria for more souvenirs. The activities inside the ship as well as its atmosphere weld in perfect symmetry to make your vacation totally recreational and fun. It was all right to splurge.
Bernice regularly sends money to his wife and young son in Valenzuela, Metro Manila. He was hardworking, friendly and dedicated to his job. So were the other Filipino crew members in this ship. Think of your spending binge inside the ship as your miniscule contribution towards job creation, it will unburden your conscience.
On this trip, I have found thousand of reasons why I should have taken this vacation rather than botched it up because it was a waste of money, unacceptable and obscene in the light of the fact that most Filipinos have nothing in their food baskets.
In this travel I saw the microcosm of true Filipino character of frugality, hard work, strength and honesty. You can always see this character in every overseas worker. The Pinoy OFW’s that I know would not ask for any special favor or advantage from their employers, only an opportunity to prove their worth. They worked long hours and they worked hard because in their own land opportunities were lacking and if there is one, you are not given a fair playing field. Juicy government positions as well as contracts are reserved to the cronies and friends of the powerful, if you were an outsider, you have to bribe your way around to get a decent job, or if you were an entrepreneur, you have to share your margin to government officials to get the contract.
I found the validation of the true Filipino character in Bernice and other Filipino crew members of the ship who tried hard to make their guests happy and comfortable so the ship will become profitable and assure them of long-term employment. Most of them are married and have to leave their families so they can give them convenience and the comforts in life, something which they cannot provide had they stayed back home.
In the country we see our leaders engaged in destructive partisan politics, corruption is endemic in high places and justice is for sale.
It is very ironic that you have to leave the Philippines to find your own identity and true character. Yes, we are a country of whiners, fault finders and corrupt individuals, but in some strange place, Filipinos are hardworking, honest and fair.
In this trip also, I was able to peep through the character of my children once again and still find the moral compass you have instilled in them while they were still young; they have grown and have quite developed certain personalities, but your reservation of their capacity to mature has exceeded your expectation. With misty eyes you ponder how they come to care for each other .
I found the long lost Filipino character from the Filipino crew in this ship and I found my children’s soul. These are enough to soothe a bruised social conscience.