As Northwest 71 prepared to land at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, a wave of quiet fear crept over me.

I’ve travelled many times before, and have landed in many airports before (including NAI twice in 2001 and 2005), but for some reason I thought of the port’s namesake and the fate he met. When I realized this, I paused and thought back to my days in a Thai monastery, and calmed myself.

I thought back over the flight I had just had. For one thing it was exhausting, mentally and physically. I didn’t sleep well, that’s par for the course for me though. I’ve never been able to sleep on planes (well there was one time, I was flying from Thailand, and I had –ahem—a sleeping aid).

I was sitting near the back, at first I thought it was a good seat as it was near an exit and had space to stand around in, but soon I realized that for this same reason it was a gathering place for people who wanted to talk. Traffic was constant, and so was the jabbering.

The one American guy nearby kept talking in that loud, brash, American manner to his half-Filipino kids and to the flight attendant. He claimed to be a former Special Ops, and a current commercial pilot. He was an “expert” in everything but from what I heard, most ended up quite wrong. Ahh well, Americans.

I met a Filipino-American man in the smoking lounge of Detroit Int’l, he was in real estate but he talked to me for a long time about the problems of the Filipino people and how he wanted to help. Unfortunately, his means were a little suspect, he wanted to open a mine to help provide jobs.

There was also the Filipino-American man I was talking to on the plane, he was in jewelry in the States, but in the Fils he was in “porn.” At least, that’s what I thought he was saying for a long time. What he was saying of course was that he owned a “pawn” shop. Basically he was “helping” students by giving them loans for their education. I tried hard to find out what he did if they defaulted, he just kept telling me that that didn’t happen.

“I am a proud Filipino. I hate Americans!” proclaimed one OFW (overseas Filipino worker) to no one in particular in a smoking lounge full of Americans in Nagoya. He was working in the States and talked loudly about how much he had to work and how little he was able to save (“and I don’t even have a girlfriend!”).

And then there were the Americans on board:
– I already told you about Mr. Special Ops who kept talking about how everyone he worked with was an idiot (“they’re so stupid”—though I think that would be more accurate if he replaced pronouns).
– There was the fat, socially awkward Southerner that was going to visit his “girlfriend.”
– There were the businessmen that kept talking about the best places to meet “chicks.”
– There was the Floridian going to visit his family.
– And there was the Brampton pastor on his way to Mindanao to check to see where his church’s donations were going. He feared that too little was making it to the kids that needed it. He was very visibly nervous, he had never been to the Philippines and he had heard the worse. He seemed like a good man.

I arrived in the airport at 1040p. And despite my fears, it went smoothly. Getting my bags however, took forever. I didn’t get out of the airport until midnight, luckily my extended family were waiting patiently.

On the ride to my grandmother’s place I was told to watch the sides of the car. Apparently it was common for kids to climb up on cars coming out from the airport to grab at the boxes piled up above.

The new mayor was apparently trying to clean up the sin in the city, but I saw no evidence of it. Manila seems dingier since my last visit. Many streetlights had gone out and haven’t been replaced. The popular Baywalk area next to Manila Bay, which was filled with upscale bars and restaurants had been closed down (apparently because of “sin”—though the brothels all seemed to be still open.

Finally I made it to my grandmother’s place in Blumentritt at 1am, the dog that guarded their door was gone. It was good to be finished travelling. I looked forward to rest. I was in Manila, the place of my birth, soon I would begin my travels and work. The fear I felt before had subsided, but some foreboding remained.

Oh, and the old dog? I asked my Lola (‘grandma’ in Tagalog), and she told me that a while ago he disappeared. They found out later that neighbours had killed and eaten it.

Welcome home Alex.

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