Nasa airport na 'ko! Malapit na ‘ko makauwi! It is his first time coming home as an OFW. The hum of the airport is loud with the Christmas rush of passengers and ground personnel. Naku, sana Pinoy yung nasa counter para pagbigyan ako kung may excess baggage. He wishes he could take home more goodies for his family, his nieces and nephews, his brothers. He has a large family and he cannot wait to see them all. His check-in baggage allowance is not enough but he takes home as much as he can, utilizing every kilogram allowed. The chatter of balikbayans running through the airport is in his ears and he cannot help but smile at the thought that all these people are going home for the holidays to be with the people who matter most.
After his 6 hour flight, the plane lands and all the balikbayan OFWs on board let go a round of applause; a uniquely Filipino practice that puzzles the other foreign passengers in the plane. The happiness and excitement is thick in the air. It is so good to be home.
Sapat na nga ba yung mga pasalubong ko? As he departs the plane, he quickly runs through the many pasalubong items he will take home to his family in his head.
Nagbibinata na si Junior. His son is in his awkward teens and needs new clothes for when he attends his parties and impresses the girls. And a new cellphone to call his friends or tell his mom that he might be home late.
Lumalaki na si bunso. His young daughter is just turning four. She likes pink frilly dresses and dancing. She will love the new ballet shoes and tutu skirt. And, of course, all the chocolates!
Miss ko na rin si mahal. The love of his life, whom he calls every other night to ask how her day was, to make sure their home is bright and happy, that the children are doing well, she gets a lovingly-wrapped watch, the one he was saving up for because it is the one she’s always wanted. He wishes though that more than the watch, he could give her the gift of time - the gift he wishes he could give unsparingly to the people he loves, but cannot.
While waiting for the flight attendants to open the cabin doors, he notices something strange. His carry-on bag seems a bit lighter than it should. He goes through his bag and realizes that bunso’s bag of chocolates is missing! He left them back in his apartment now 1,000KM away to where he was.
Sarado na lahat! It is 1:30AM. He cannot go home without his daughter's favorite chocolates! He walks around the airport hoping to find an open store with the chocolates.
Mag-Duty Free ka. He hears the voice from behind him. Another OFW notices his frantic searching and offers him his advice. Ganyan din ako dati noong unang beses ko umuwi. Extended shopping hours ngayon ang Duty Free, sakto kahit alanganing oras yung dating natin. Dalian mo!
He is saved. He rushes to Duty Free, happy to see its glowing sign still shining bright in the night, and roams through the aisles enjoying the festive atmosphere and the many Christmas promos in store. He sees a few passengers from his flight also there shopping for their loved ones. He could still feel the same air of happiness and excitement he noticed during his flight.
Seeing the family again
Malapit na ako. He quietly enters his house and brings in his bags. His plan of surprising his children of his return is still going as planned! He tries his best not to wake his sleeping children. He looks for his wife, who is in on his plan, but suddenly, the lights turn on. The jig is up.
“Daddy!!!” his kids shout happily. He sees his family who has been waiting to surprise him! His heart is so full he thinks it will burst. They run to each other, hugs, kisses, happy words, tears, smiles, nothing compares to this.
Not quite fully recovered from the tearful reunion, he brings out all the pasalubongs he has brought for them.
“Daddy, para kang si Santa Claus!” answers his young daughter.
All the anticipation from packing his luggage, to boarding the plane, arriving in the Philippines, finally holding his family in his arms, all the happiness is palpable. All his hard work is worth the happiness of giving his family a good life.
Ang Saya Magpasaya
Duty Free Philippines Fiestamall is open from 9am to 12am from December 9 to 22, and up to 2am on December 23 and 29.
Regular international travelers can shop up to 48 hours upon arrival. Balikbayans and OFWs who arrive from November 15 to January 15 have 30 days, balikbayan senior citizens have up to one year.