As the eldest daughter in a Filipino family, being free and independent is a luxury. But, about four months ago, I found myself at Dublin Airport, having spent my birthday money and my last job’s salary on a plane ticket to the Philippines. I was amused by my own bravery in booking a flight without telling my parents. I told them two days before my flight that I would be travelling to the Philippines for Christmas.
For weeks, I kept my parents in the dark about my plans to visit the Philippines. I even searched Quora and Reddit to see if I was doing the right thing. One Quora question said, “I’m a 24-year-old male, and my parents won’t let me travel internationally alone. What should I do?” Turns out, I was not the only 20-something to do this. Because I was so secretive, it felt like I was Perry the Platypus working as a secret agent. It actually took a series of hyperventilations and exclamations of “you can do it!” before I told my parents that their firstborn would be travelling across the world for the first time — alone.
Planning the process
I spent weeks researching what to do when travelling; What should I wear? What to do during the immigration process? How do I pack my luggage perfectly? I think I Googled every single question before setting my foot in the airport. My mother was upset when I told her that I would be leaving Ireland after nearly five years to spend Christmas in the Philippines. She was furious, telling me how arrogant I am for thinking I can travel alone. “You’re only 22; you don’t know the world,” she was correct, but how would I know if I didn’t try?
She lectured me on how I’m too naive about the world. “The airport is big; you might get lost” or “Don’t talk to strangers because they might trick you,” she warned. I listened to her because I didn’t want to appear as a disrespectful daughter, but, honestly, everything she said went straight out of my ear.
While I was strutting my way to my boarding gate, I could already feel the sense of freedom. My hands were trembling, and my heart was racing so fast from excitement. It felt like I was a five-year-old getting her favourite cotton candy, or maybe getting the golden ticket from Willy Wonka. In my hand, I was hugging my boarding pass like a newborn.
“So, this is how it feels to be independent,” I told myself. It was as if I had been reborn as an adult. I say this because I’ve always been told that even though I’m in my twenties, I’m not yet ready to travel on my own. But since I had the opportunity to overcome the fears they had instilled in me, I gladly took it. And I believe I needed some alone time during that month.
I was able to select a window seat with a good view of the flight because I made sure that everything was properly planned. To be honest, the view was breath-taking. I never expected to be awake during the flight. With the loud, whizzing sound of the engine, I was afraid I’d have a panic attack as the plane took off. Instead, seeing the fluffy clouds made me more excited. I could see Ireland below me. I couldn’t believe I was hours away from the Philippines.
As the flight attendants gave out the plane instructions, I noticed that my seatmate looked familiar. I know it’s a little intrusive to look through someone else’s phone, but I read her text in Tagalog by accident (Filipino language). I predicted she, too, was Filipina. Remember how my mother warned me not to strike up conversations? So, I ended up asking her, “Are you Filipino po?” (Using po in a sentence is a sign of respect to elders in Tagalog). My intrusive thoughts won. Fortunately, she nodded, and I spoke to her as if I’d known her for years throughout the flight. “Tita,” I called her (which means auntie in English, we call females older than us auntie even if we are not related).
It took a few moments for me to feel at ease with her. During our flight conversation, she mentioned that she wanted to be a broadcast reporter when she was younger. I felt a connection with her because I am also a journalism student. She also said that if she could travel back in time, she would pursue her dream. However, she clarified that she is now content with where she is. I asked her for advice for a young adult like myself. “Huwag ka muna mag-asawa nang maaga,” (do not marry when you are young). “Finish your studies first, then travel the world, and settle when you’re ready,” she added.
It has long been a dream of mine to be independent and to meet new people. Some parents in my culture gate keep their children from experiencing the outside world. It’s their way of protecting their children from harm, similar to how my mother treats me regardless of the fact that I’m already 22. But, even if they have good intentions, it is always better to let their children explore the world on their own. Unfortunately, this also applies to my mother. To be honest, telling her that I wanted to travel on my own felt like I was playing Pati Banga or Pukpok Palayok, a traditional Filipino game (meaning hit the pot). It’s a game in which people are blindfolded and twisted ten times without knowing whether they hit or miss, but I knew I’d hit it (reveal my plan) and the pot (the truth) would break anyway.
My main goal for booking the tickets and flying alone for the first time was to see what I was capable of. I wanted to discover more about myself. During that time, I also wanted to give myself a chance to breathe. And the Tita I met on my flight — was just one of the reasons I wanted to challenge myself; I want to meet more people like her. As a budding journalist, I want to give myself the opportunity to learn and listen to new stories from around the world.
Would I do it again?
So, when I had the chance to go, I grabbed that. I didn’t want to wait for another five years. As someone who has been working on healing their inner child, I’ve grown accustomed to healing myself and realising that I can do things on my own. It took me 22 years to gather the courage to show up for myself, and booking that flight was the first step. Four months later, I realised that the money I spent gave me a purpose to keep going. Thinking about it, if I didn’t book that ticket I would’ve missed the chance. Well, I could do it in the future, but I don’t think the feeling would be the same. Anyway, let’s get right to the point. Travelling alone was not as bad as I thought it would be. But, was that ticket really worth it? — Yes. I realised, it wasn’t just a simple Christmas holiday; it turned out to be the most euphoric time of my young adult life. I’m glad I did it, and I hope to do it again.
By Hannah Giron Daygo