Two days ago marked my 12th year as an OFW had I not left Bahrain 3 years ago. Just so you know, my first travel abroad was not made for pleasure. It was one of the biggest decisions I had to make, following my father’s path who had also been an OFW for over 25 years.

My first travel
First stamp on my passport

Rewind. The day had come for me to leave. It was on October 1, 1999. We didn’t have money to rent a van. We didn’t even have something to spend for our snacks while traveling from Olongapo to Manila. I only had one small traveling bag with me. I didn’t have anything with me. The money that we spent that day was the last money that I had received from my last pay. We commuted. Victory Liner. My parents dropped me at the airport. But before that, I paid respect and said goodbye to my relatives just next street. Four of them sent their packages. Small ones but made me weep. There were notes in front of the envelope “Ate, buksan mo ito pag nakasakay ka na”. They were all sealed… Fast forward to the Airport scenes…..

The last words that my mom said “O yang katarayan mo iwan mo muna dito, at baka mapano ka dun…. Mag-iingat ka, wala ka ng mommy dun”.

As usual my dad, a man of few words said “Ingat ka, tumawag ka kaagad pagdating mo dun”.

I don’t remember saying anything to them. I was weeping, literally just weeping…. But… I had to pause for a while… the drama and all. I had to check my baggage in. First time alone, you know… but I managed anyhow.

At the gate, while waiting to board. I opened the envelopes one by one.

I opened the big one. It was from my lola. It was a big tube of Colgate.

Next was the one from Jamie, my cousin. A small note with David Pomeranz’s cassette tape, Born For You. The small note reads, “Ate thank you po sa pagtulong sa pag-organize ng 7th bday ko. Sayang wala ka na dito nun”. She’s now on her 2nd yr in College taking up HRM.

The third was one from Jamie’s sister Jowee. She’s my goddaughter. She was only 6 then. She wrote Pangako song by Regine Velasquez, with a personalized note, “Ninang, wag ka pong iiyak habang binabasa mo ito kasi tutulo sipon mo”. She really wrote those words.

Last one was from my niece, she’s my cousin’s daughter, Kaycee. As always, she’s serious. She simply said “Ingat ka po, tinang.” That’s a combi of tita and ninang. “Wag mo po pabayaan sarili mo.

Who wouldn’t cry? I have a confession to make “A tear dropped as I write this blogpost.”

Mitch Carvalho